God’s Invitation Is Universal
Our Lord Jesus illuminates our hearts and minds again with another parable so that we can understand how intensely God the Father desires the salvation of all men. Using the imagery of a wedding feast to symbolize the Kingdom of heaven and the mysterious malice that lies in willingly rejecting the invitation to attend. It is so serious that rejecting the invitation merits eternal punishment.
In the ancient Jewish custom, when an invitation to an important feast like a wedding ceremony was sent out, the time was not stated. When everything was ready the servants were sent out with final summons to tell the guests to come. Jesus deliberately makes a point that the king sent out a second reminder to the first invitation and both were insultingly declined.
The invited guests who refused to come to the wedding feast represents those who had the privilege of sharing in the friendship of a benevolent king. This alludes to the chosen people who ages ago had been invited by God to be his chosen people but now are unable to accept Jesus as God’s son coming into the world. They made excuses not to share in this joyful banquet. They excluded themselves from the joy that God brings to his people.
The result of rejecting the invitation of God led to sinners and Gentiles who were not included in the original invitation to now have the opportunity of sharing in the wedding feast. Jesus expands our understanding that God’s invitation is universal and everyone is welcome. He teaches us that God’s invitation is liken to a joyous wedding feast. It is an honor to be invited and an even greater honor to accept. It remains a great loss to refusing the invitation.
I often wonder why such an invitation is declined. Why people turn a deaf ear to the invitation of Christ. To be honest, some of the reasons given in this parable by those who turned down the wedding invitation were not necessarily bad in themselves: “One man went to his estate; the other to his business. They did not go off on a wild carousal or an immoral adventure. They went off on, in itself, an excellent task of efficiently administrating their business life. It is very easy for a man to be so busy with the things of time that he forgets the things of eternity, to be so preoccupied with the things which are seen that he forgets the things which are unseen, to hear so insistently the claim of the world that he cannot hear the soft invitation of the voice of Christ.”
The main point for the parable is to remind us that God’s invitation is the invitation of grace. Those who were gathered from the highways and the byways had no claim on the king at all. They never expected, imagined or merited it. “It came to them from nothing other than the wide-armed, open-hearted, generous hospitality of the king. It was grace which offered the invitation and grace which gathered men in.”
Indifference and hostility caused the religious leaders at time of Jesus to reject God’s loving call and therefore to suffer condemnation. We too must respond faithfully to the call we have received; otherwise we will suffer fate of being cast “into outer darkness”. The Psalmist cried out; “if today you hear his voice harden not your hearts.” God wants everyone to share in his joy; for he made us to know him, love him, serve him, and be with him forever. This is our vocation and purpose of our existence.
I remain sincerely yours in his joy,
Fr. Vitalis Anyanike, pastor