Accept the Invitation

Three questions to ask yourself this morning:  1. Do you put first things first?  2. Are you fighting your spiritual battles?  3. Have you realized yet that God has a better plan for your life than the one you may be living?

           I can easily say “no” to the first two.  Like everyone, I struggle to prioritize and to always fight the battles against the flesh, but I can honestly say that my life is so much better than I ever thought it would be.  That’s why, as I said a few weeks ago, I’m so grateful.  God took a punk kid and turned him into one of His priests.

           I know others may not feel that way – even some priests – who feel that life is just not what that had hoped it would be.  If I could guess why – and, of course, not all situations will be the same – I would just say it probably has to do with question #1:  Do you put first things first?  Are you listening for God’s guidance, looking for God’s way, feeling God’s presence even in the most mundane things you are doing?  For example, some people find it almost painful to have to work in the yard, cutting the grass or trimming bushes.  Others may hate washing dishes or clothes.  Still others may look at the liturgy we just celebrated and say, “How many times can you hear the same thing and not be completely bored by it?”  You see, it’s all in the mind.  Even some priests struggle with apathy, boredom and a lack of vision.  I recently calculated that I’ve celebrated liturgy as a priest close to 2,500 times and yet, every single time I raise the gospel, it’s new and yet comfortably familiar, just as it is for many of you.

           Today’s gospel speaks exactly to that point:  liturgy and worship – celebrating a feast with Christ.  Like you, I’ve heard this parable dozens of times, but it never really struck me until just a few years ago that this is THE parable par excellence that speaks of the importance of what we do here.  It is, exactly, as you would think:  a formal banquet in the presence of the most important person you could ever imagine – Jesus Christ – and it addresses how you respond not only to His invitation but also to His wise words.  After all, He’s called us together to speak to us, to offer Himself to us and to give us our marching orders once we leave the banquet.  Is there anything more important?  Anything?  I think not.

           Now, what do we see in the gospel?  Rejection!  It was common then just as it is now.  Christ is rejected apparently for the most ridiculous reasons:  looking at a field, looking at some oxen, and being married.  What you may not know is that these very reasons are mentioned in the OT as valid reasons to avoid military service.  If you were a farmer of crops or animals or newly married, you didn’t have to serve the king.  But here, Jesus is saying, “Those reasons are no longer valid when you serve the King of kings.  That relationship between Him and us is the priority in all of life.  It’s not your restaurant, your hobby, your family, or anything else.  It is that relationship between God and each of us that will define your soul, that will determine your salvation and, ultimately, probably define your life on this earth as well.

           St. Paul’s epistle speaks to us today as it did to the Colossians 2000 years ago, telling us that the disobedient children will be rejected because they have willfully rejected innumerable times the salvation that God had prepared for them.  On the other hand, those who truly experience a new life, who become a new creation, and leave behind the selfish, self-gratuitous, evil ways that once defined them will be like a mirror image of God Himself.  Here we have, once again, another veiled example of theosis, becoming like God by simply following and emulating Him.

           So, in the end, we can become like St. Dionysios of Zakynthos, whose feast day is today.  We could become known for accepting the invitation of Christ as often as He calls us or we could find ridiculous excuses to lead ourselves to destruction.  We could be loving, forgiving, compassionate Christ-lovers or we could follow the way that the world leads us:  to isolation, jealousy, and greed, which St. Paul says, is idolatry.  So, answer the call, receive the King, listen to the Master and accept His invitation.

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