Invitation as a Threat

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October 15, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

October 15, 2017
Matthew 22:1-14
Fr. George Smiga

The difficulty of understanding today’s parable of the wedding feast is the strange response of those who were invited. Some simply said, “No,” and went about their own business. But the parable tells us that the rest mistreated the messengers and killed them. So why would you kill someone who is inviting you to a wedding feast? The response seems absurd. In fact the only way I can make sense out of it is to imagine that those who responded in that way did not see the king’s offer as an invitation but somehow as an attack. They did not perceive the request to come as a gift but something that would do them harm.

How can we explain such a mistaken conclusion? To answer that question we need go no further than our own experience. As you and I make decisions and choices in our lives, denial, hurt, and pre-judgments can skew our perception so that what is a positive opportunity can appear as a threat.

There might be something wrong in your family, one of your children failing in school, or a deteriorating financial situation. But you are in denial. You don’t want to hear anything about it. Your spouse comes to you and says, “We have to talk about Billy. Let’s discuss our budget.” You explode. The response to the invitation to discuss is not simply a refusal, but a rejection with violence. “Don’t bother me. I don’t want to talk about it!” An opportunity to make progress in a difficult situation is rejected in anger because of denial.

A friend or family member may have hurt or slighted you, and you have been nurturing that pain for months. Then one day you receive an invitation in the mail to that person’s birthday party. You crumple up the invitation and throw it in the trash, muttering, “Over my dead body!” An invitation to a celebration turns violent because of hurt.

Pre-judgment also spoils the feast. Once we have made up our minds about something, once we have closed our hearts, the invitation to rethink our opinions can come across as an attack. This is particularly true in our polarized political climate. All of us have opinions and our positions are often hardened. When someone suggests that we might think a new thought, we can respond with resentment. Someone asks you, “What do you think about Congress’ approach to health care?” or “What is your opinion on the Church’s teaching on the right to immigration?” Complaints and frustrations spew out as your temperature rises. The invitation to think a new thought can appear as a threat because of pre-judgment.

Now the good news of today’s parable is that what appears to us as an attack can in fact be something very different. We believe that our God, our King, is preparing a great wedding celebration for Jesus, and we are all invited. Despite our denial, hurt, and pre-judgment, God keeps inviting us to a celebration that is hopeful and filled with joy. And even if we refuse them, God keeps sending invitations. So the next time that you feel angry because of an opportunity to talk, to heal, or to re-think something, remember this parable. That which appears to us a threat might, in fact, be a gift from someone who loves us. That which makes us angry today can, in truth, be an invitation to the wedding feast of God.

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