This Sunday’s gospel made me think of Homer Simpson. Picture this paunchy, self-satisfied ignoramus sitting in his man cave watching football, and his wife comes in and says “Ned Flanders invited us over for a get together with some friends and neighbors.” “D’Oh!,” says Homer, “I want to watch this game! Besides, I hate that goody-goody Flanders. … Who else will be there?”
I’m ashamed to say, I sometimes relate to Homer. I enjoy the comforts of home. “I’ve earned them,” I tell myself. “I worked hard for them. Now all I want is to be left alone to enjoy them.”
In Sunday’s gospel (mt 22:1-14), Jesus tells a parable for people like me. A King sends his servants out to personally invite everybody he knows to a wedding feast for his son. First invitation goes out…nothing. Nobody wants to come. Second invite, the king tells his servants:
“Tell those invited: ‘Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.’”
“Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.”
These people must have had much better things to do to resort to such a severe RSVP. They didn’t even ask who else was invited. I wonder if they even knew who was doing the inviting—that he had the power to fill their empty lives.
These people may have started out differently—like the people Isaiah tells us about in our first reading (is25:6-10a). They had none of the comforts of home. In fact they could only dream of the rich food and choice wines this prophet said God would give them. Isaiah’s description of what that banquet would be like must have seemed more attractive to these people than to those in the gospel reading who “had theirs.”
“’Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us,” Isaiah quotes these have-nots. ‘This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!’ For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.”
In our second reading (phil 4:12-14, 19-20), Paul tells us what it’s like to be both a have and a have-not:
“I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.”
Paul’s letter is actually a thank you note to his friends in Philippi, who offered him sustenance during times of need. And that is the key to true happiness: an attitude of gratitude. When we fall into the trap of self-satisfaction, of looking back at our career track and seeing one set of footprints, it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking those footprints are ours. It’s just as easy to think we’re alone when walking through troublesome times. Like the person in that poem “Footprints in the Sand,” when looking back at that single set of prints we might ask God, “Why, when I needed you most have you not been there with me?” The answer: “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints is when I carried you.”
God carries us through life using many sets of arms. These are the arms of people he’s invited to his banquet. We are all invited. Let’s show up wearing the best version of ourselves. Maybe we’ll get in.