No need to R.S.V.P.
I remember that during the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops, as a member of the Conference’s staff I was invited, together with all Bishops and other specials guests to attend a Tea Party with Queen Elizabeth II at St. James’ Palace in London. It was so special, that I still keep together with my memories, the personal invitation that I received from the Lord Chamberlain.
What kind of excuse would have I to invent to refuse such invitation? It was a lifetime’s event! And even if I and my friends had tons of work to complete before the next day, how could we refuse going? Later, after returning to the Conference, many of us had to pull an all-nighter to have the work done. But never mind – Have tea with the Queen we did!
In St. Matthew’s Gospel (22:1-14) we are told the parable of a wedding party.
The parable showcases the host’s disappointment over the lame excuses that the prospective guests offered in refusing to go to the party. Trying new oxen? Really? Isn't it the King’s invitation to his son’s wedding? Even if for self-interest, wouldn’t be worth going? What a shame!
At first glance, it appears that the parable was meant to the people of our Lord’s time in their refusal to heed the call to come to have fellowship with the King’s Son. And so, it may appear to be far removed from our experience.
As the darker days of the Passion approached, Jesus made an extraordinary, even outlandish statement. St Matthew (23:37) recalls our Lord’s lament over the unwillingness to heed God’s call to return to a waiting and loving Father – “How often I have longed to gather your children together (…) and you were not willing!” And, naturally, we would say, “Jesus was speaking to the people of Jerusalem.”
Later, as what in truth would become His Last Supper, Jesus said, “How much have I longed to eat this Passover with you.” (Luke 22:15). And again, we may conclude, it was our Lord’s desire to be together with his personal friends.
In one of his teaching letters, Pope Francis makes a powerful observation. He writes, “These words of Jesus, with which the account of the Last Supper opens, are the crevice through which we are given the surprising possibility of intuiting the depth of the love of the persons of the Most Holy Trinity for us.”
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ,” writes St. Paul, (Ephesians 1:4).
The invitation to the wedding party, the call to return home to be under the loving wings of God, and our Lord’s earnest desire to seat at table were not only meant for people living two thousand years ago. They were and they still are meant for you. And for me.
The Lord wants to seat at table with you – next Sunday.
When the King of kings invites, He’s not looking for “friends and family and rich neighbors, or the kind of people who will return the favor.” He’s looking “for people who never get invited out or the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks.” In other words, for people like you and me.
So, that’s it – next Sunday. Pick your time. Jesus is going to be there, waiting for you to show up. There is no need to R.S.V.P. Come as you are. And the tab is on Him.