The first reading never ceases to amaze me with regard to the simple-to-understand instructions for Christian discipleship. But let’s look at the Gospel.
Jesus probes the reasons why people make excuses to God’s great invitation to “eat bread” with him at his banquet table. The first excuse allows the claims of one’s personal business or work to take precedence over God’s claim. Do you allow any task or endeavor to absorb you so much that it keeps you from the thought of God? The second excuse allows our possessions to come before God. Do you allow the media and other diversions to crowd out time for God in daily prayer and worship? The third excuse puts home and family ahead of God. God never meant for our home and relationships to be used selfishly. We serve God best when we invite him into our work, our homes, and our personal lives and when we share our possessions with others.
The second part of the story focuses on those who had no claim on the king and who would never have considered getting such an invitation. The “poor, maimed, blind, and lame” represent the outcasts of society – those who can make no claim on the King. There is even ample room at the feast of God for outsiders from the highways and hedges – the Gentiles who were not members of the chosen people, the Jews. This is certainly an invitation of grace –undeserved, unmerited favor and kindness! But this invitation also contains a warning for those who refuse it or who approach the wedding feast unworthily. Grace is a free gift, but it is also an awesome responsibility.
Dieterich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who died for his faith by opposing the false Nazism, contrasted cheap grace and costly grace: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves… the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance… grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate… Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”
(Adapted from Don Schwager)