We’ve all heard today’s Gospel story before and we think we know the message: It’s not a good idea to turn down an invitation. It’s even a worse idea to kill the guy who delivers it. But if you do show up, follow the dress code.
Okay. We probably know more than that. Indifference to God’s call is a bad thing. Rejecting God’s call is a worse thing. And if we don’t want to come to his wedding banquet, God will find others who do.
Those are important lessons, and it would be good to ask ourselves whether we’re the ones who laughed at the invitation, the ones who killed the messengers, or whether we are wearing the wedding robe of obedience to God’s commands or not. But just for today let’s take a very different look at the parable.
Let’s not focus on the king—we know that’s God our Father—or on his son—we know that’s the Lord Jesus. Instead let’s take a look at the slaves, the servants who obeyed the king’s command to deliver invitations to this important wedding banquet.
Those servants had a simple enough job at the beginning. They were first-century couriers. And yet the task turned dangerous and they ended up dead.
The next batch of slaves faced a far greater challenge. In the first place, the routine assignment was now perilous. There was no guarantee they wouldn’t end up like the first group, dead. But more than that, they now had to recruit guests for the banquet; that’s a much more demanding undertaking.
Can we put ourselves in the shoes—or sandals—of these servants? Before you answer that, another question: can we see the banquet of the son as much more than a wedding reception? Might we see it as the feast of rich food prepared by the Lord of Hosts for all peoples, the banquet that celebrates the destruction of death and the end of tears and sorrow?
Because if we believe that the Lord has prepared a table for us—a feast of fellowship here on earth and a wedding banquet in heaven—then the commission to invite others becomes crucial and urgent.
In earlier times, and today in other places, the brothers and sisters we call martyrs were willing to face a murderous response from those they invited to the wedding banquet of the Son of God. Are we now ready to be sent out to the main streets of North and West Vancouver to extend an invitation to both good and bad, so that the wedding hall will be filled with guests?
I’m not sure why it is quite so difficult to convince Catholics of the urgency of this duty. It’d be fair to say that the priests of fifty years ago were more successful convincing people they would go to Hell for eating meat on Friday than I am convincing you that sharing the Faith is not just for some but for all—a requirement for every serious Christian.
What I’m doing wrong, I’m not sure. But I can’t blame the choice of Sunday readings. Last week Jesus told us “the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom.” He gave this dire warning directly to the chief priests and elders to whom he was speaking, but I think he is giving it to us, to us Catholics, today.
Where do you find a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom? You can start by visiting an Evangelical Protestant church. Well, I’d rather you didn’t do that, to tell you the truth! But check out their websites and see their focus on evangelizing, on sharing the Gospel with the people they meet in every circumstance.
The website of one of these congregations has the bold statement “We exist to make Jesus known.” That’s a perfectly good summary of the thousands of words written about the Catholic Church in the documents of Vatican II. But can we honestly say this is how we feel about our parish?
Yet if we don’t exist to make Jesus known we don’t exist at all. And if you don’t want to make Jesus known then you don’t know Jesus. Sorry, but that’s the truth.
We used to have great excuses as Catholics. We had lots of children, they all came to church, and then they had lots of children, and they all came to church. What’s more, people thought Catholics were strange so nobody wanted to become a Catholic unless they married one.
Those excuses are all gone and the situation is clear. Once the current wave of immigrants from Catholic cultures has fully assimilated we will be forced to confront the truth: either we share the Gospel with the countless un-churched people we know, or we prepare for empty pews and—worse yet—live as half-hearted disciples barely worthy of the name.
But the best excuse of all was simply that Catholics didn’t know how to share our faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses stood on street corners, the Mormons knocked on doors, and the Evangelicals cornered you on a plane. We sure didn’t want to do that, so what could we do?
Really, that excuse was a good one. We didn’t know what evangelization meant or how it worked, so how could we do it?
Well, now you know. Those excuses just don’t fly now that at least three Popes and three Archbishops of Vancouver have called each of us to a missionary identity.
Those excuses don’t fly in a parish where there are three distinct opportunities to share your faith without standing on a single street corner or knocking on a single door. Three distinct opportunities that are non-threatening, enjoyable, and easy. Three opportunities in three weeks.
You heard about them last week and the silence was deafening. Just a handful of enquiries and signups.
I’m not scolding, just reporting because it’s not too late. There’s two days before the Alpha film series starts on Tuesday night, and the Discovery Faith Study has flexible startup dates beginning this week.
The Path to Life discipleship retreat will be held on Saturday November 4, so that’s a bit further down the road—however the speaker is so well known that people from outside the parish will snap up every ticket if you don’t purchase your tickets after Mass today. I say ‘tickets’—meaning one for yourself and one for the friend, family member, or neighbour you’ll invite to join you.
I realize some of us still struggle with the word evangelization. We really don’t know what it means or demands of us. Forget about your old ideas. Forget about knocking on doors. Forget about asking your golf partner “Are you saved?” And forget about people on television asking for money. Evangelization just means sharing the Gospel. And at Christ the Redeemer Parish on Sunday October 15, 2017 it concretely means inviting someone to one of these programs—or just coming yourself if you think you’re the one who needs evangelizing. Many Catholics do.
I certainly can’t force anyone to deliver these invitations—I’m not a king and you aren’t slaves! Although I do have to tell you that one of our young parishioners delivered several hundred invitations to homes in the neighbourhood. (I was very pleased when he texted me to say that no one had seized, stoned, or beaten him.)
But if you’d like to take the Gospel literally, there’s a box of these leaflets sitting on the information table in the foyer. You could put some in your apartment foyer or ask your kids to put them through mailboxes on your street, as long as you don’t live in the immediate area of the church, which we’ve covered.
It’s up to you. But, looking back to last Sunday’s Gospel, if we do nothing the Kingdom of God will be taken away and given to a people that produces the fruits God expects from true disciples.