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Response to an invitation

Originally Appeared in : 9817-8/16/18

A few weeks before leaving my assignment at St. Joseph Parish in Augusta, I organized a marriage preparation workshop in Spanish for several couples. I opened the hall at 6:30 p.m., turned on the air conditioning, and made sure everything was ready. The tables and chairs were set, the food was ready, my talks were finished, and the couple I invited to lead the workshop had arrived. Suddenly it was 7 p.m., the time to start, but none of the eight couples had arrived. A few minutes past 7:30, as I was about to close the building, a young couple I did not recognize entered the room. They were from a neighboring parish. The next morning two more couples joined the workshop; both came from out of town.

 

I felt like the king of the Parable of the Great Banquet. When none of the invited guests arrived to the wedding banquet after presenting all sorts of excuses, the king ordered his servants to invite whomever they found in the streets. All sorts of unexpected guests arrived, and none of them were the original invitees. The same occurred at the marriage workshop: Many were invited, but unexpected guests came, and they benefited tremendously from it. Just in the same way, many are invited to enter God’s Kingdom, but not all choose to come.

 

The chances that a king will invite the general population to the wedding of his son are nonexistent. What are the chances of any high-profile politician today inviting his whole electorate to a family function? Kings and politicians invite to their parties people who have somehow merited to be invited. In contrast, we are all invited to take part in the banquet of God’s Kingdom, not because we are good or have merited an invitation but because God chooses to invite us. His invitation is a gift. The guests are free to accept or reject the invitation.

 

So many throughout history have ignored God’s invitation to follow him more closely and have busied themselves with other things that do not fulfill. Israel responded to God’s invitation to leave slavery in Egypt but soon rose up against Moses in the desert. Prophets like Isaiah were sent by God throughout the centuries to preach a message of repentance and mercy, but they were often rejected. Some were killed like Jeremiah and John the Baptist because the people rejected God’s invitation to the banquet. So many saw and heard Jesus preach and teach, yet they still yelled “crucify him, crucify him!” So many have believed wholeheartedly throughout the centuries but, at the rise of the slightest hurt or struggle, have rejected God and his promise of salvation.

 

It is easy to ignore God’s invitation to act with charity, to stop an argument or gossip, to offer a sacrifice, to express kindness or mercy, or to show patience. Like the guests of the parable, it is easy to make excuses, reject the invitation, and act differently. The rejection of the king by his guests continues to happen today, but the king never ceases to invite more guests to the banquet. The food is ready, and the table is set. It is our choice whether or not we accept the invitation.

 

Father Pablo Migone is chancellor of the Diocese of Savannah and resides in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah.

 

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