Back in the days of Jesus, if someone was going to give a big party, preparations needed to be made a very long time in advance. Invitations could not just be photocopied and mailed, or even emailed; no, they had to be hand written, and taken personally to each person’s home. Enough time had to be given for the invitees to respond so that a count of the guests could be made and refreshments prepared. Once one responded that they were coming, often the host would send out servants or family to collect the guests when the preparations were made and the festivities were to begin. This is the setting for the parable in today’s Gospel.
Everyone has been invited to the feast, and – this is the important part – they have all accepted the invitation. They have said they will come, but when the preparations have been made and they are called to the feast, they all have excuses about why they cannot come. And notice the kinds of things that are keeping them from the feast. One has bought land, another purchased a flock of oxen, another has been married. I am guessing that none of these things came up at the last minute. Plans have to be made for purchasing land, oxen, and certainly for getting married. So one wonders if they ever had any intention of coming to the feast in the first place.
The parable was addressed, of course, to the Jews. They were the chosen people and had been invited to the feast from the creation of the world, for heaven’s sake! Yet, now that Jesus is here, and the feast is ready, they have all kinds of excuses as to why they cannot come. Jesus is not the kind of Messiah they expected. So, they won’t be coming to the Kingdom.
What about us? We have certainly been invited, from the moment of our baptism. When the feast is prepared and we are called to come to the heavenly banquet, how will we respond? Will we find some excuse as to why we cannot come right now, or will we joyfully make haste to our Lord? God forbid that we should hear the ominous and deadly words that the host speaks at the end of today’s parable: “I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.”