I was reading some of the Gospel passages from the past couple of days, and I noticed that yesterday's Gospel reading was especially meaningful introduces an important parable that highlights an essential aspect of the Catholic faith. However, this aspect is explained through a parable that uses the analogy of an important banquet to describe the Kingdom of God. In Jesus's time, ritual banquets were held to honor someone who was going through a personal transformation. As a part of the ritual, a stranger would become a guest and or enemies would become covenant partners.
It is important to understand the background and what came before this passage to truly grasp the meaning of what Jesus is trying to explain. This Gospel passage takes place while Jesus is sitting in the home of one of the leaders of the Pharisee's on the Sabbath. Many of the guests were vying for the most honorable seat in the house, but Jesus teaches them that it is more important to be humble. He also advises them to invite the poor and crippled into their homes, even though they may not be able to repay the host, because, instead, the host will be repaid through resurrection. And this is the point at which the passage begins.
One of the Jewish guests exclaims that he will dine in the Kingdom of Heaven, which leads Jesus to tell one of His many famous parables. He starts out telling how a man was throwing a huge banquet. During ancient time, it was rude to back out of an invitation to a banquet at the last minute because the number of people that responded to their invitation determined what type of meat would be served. Therefore, if people did not show up, the extra food would spoil. It was also rude to attend a banquet without being invited because the meal was prepared for a specific number of people.
The man sends out his slave to tell the guests that the meal is ready. The first invitee makes that excuse that he must go examine a field that he had recently purchased. This is obviously a lie because, in the Middle East, people knew every single factor about a piece of land before buying it, so no one ever went back to examine a field because everything about it was already known. He is basically saying that his field is more important than the host, which is pretty mean if you ask me.
The next invitee explains that he has to try out oxen that he had bought recently. This excuse is exactly like the last invitee's excuse; most people discussed prices and tried out oxen before buying them, so there is no need to try them out retroactively. Imagine a husband saying that he cannot make it to a dinner that his wife had been planning for a long time because he has to try out cars. However he had already bought the cars without even looking at them.
Finally, the third invitee exclaims that he has just married his wife and cannot make it to the banquet. This is very silly because everyone in the village would have known that the wedding was occurring and the banquet would not have been scheduled around the same time. Also, it is quite strange as to why he accepted the invitation in the first place if he knew he could not attend.
The next section of the passage is amazing. Instead of becoming angry for having been insulted three times, which a natural expectation, the host knows that he needs guests so he tells the servant to go out and invite the poor, crippled, blind, and lame to his banquet. This is a genuine act of selflessness and generosity. The host knows that he will not be repaid, but he still wants all of these undesirable people to eat at his table. And surprisingly it is never written that the order is accomplished because redemption is still going on today.
I really enjoyed this passage, it has a lot of meaning and shows that those who invite the undesirables into their home will be rewarded in the Kingdom of Heaven. At the same time, it also teaches that we must accept the invitation into the Kingdom of Heaven or else it will pass us by, much like the invitees in the passage refused to accept the invitation to the banquet. Letting God into your life is the first step towards accepting that invitation.