Romans 12: 5-16ab
So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.
Luke 14: 15-24
One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”
Think about the last time you declined an invitation; what was the occasion, who made the invitation, and what was your reason to decline? Chances are, there was a conflict of some sort, or your week had been so full of activities that there was just no place for this extra invitation and you needed time to rest and recharge. In our busy and overscheduled society, it is culturally accepted that “everyone is busy,” and understood that it is a challenge to hold a gathering that many people can attend. The burden falls on the host to understand this and not to expect guests to make room in their schedules for the event, but to simply hope that the guests do not have anything else more important going on at the same time.
Now think about the last time an invitation of yours was declined. Chances are, your friends had a similar reason, and you answered that it was “fine,” “everyone is so busy,” “it’s so hard to get together,” etc. But how did you feel? Despite understanding how demanding others’ schedules are, outside of an emergency excuse, it is hard to deny feeling that one’s invitation was simply not valued the way you’d expected it to be. It can sting, as it also makes a statement about the relationship.
Now think about your relationship with God in this context. We may look at the characters in the Gospel story and wonder, “Who would reject this invitation to the banquet? Are they crazy?” But how many times does the Lord invite us closer to Him and we give a similar excuse? How many times have you told yourself you were too busy for prayer, for Mass, for Reconciliation? How many times have you justified indulging a sinful habit or attitude because your stress level was just too high? As Christians, we need to be careful to not make ourselves too important, as the guests in the Gospel did. While the Lord understands us and every circumstance of our lives, He does not hold us “excused” from His invitation to holiness and building the Kingdom on Earth. This is not because He is an unreasonable God; on the contrary, it is because His invitation is to blessing, a banquet of graces that He does not want us to miss out on. And when we reject His invitation, though we are the ones losing these graces, it also has to hurt the Lord’s heart, the way that any rejected invitation hurts.
So how do we recognize and accept God’s invitations in our daily lives? The first reading shows us some tangible ways the Lord could be calling us closer to Him. If we get in the habit of putting ourselves second, anticipating the needs of others and finding our peace and joy in the Lord no matter what we are going through or what seems to be demanded of us, our hearts will be in a place of readiness to listen and respond to the Lord more fully each day. Take some time to read over the first reading very slowly. Meditate on each directive, let the words sink in, and perhaps choose one phrase that speaks to you the most. Focus on that today, and let the Lord know that, through these directives, you are saying “yes” to His invitation to follow Him more closely and receive the grace He has in store for you.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for continually inviting me to draw closer to you and build your Kingdom on Earth. Thank you for loving me and being patient with me even when I have put off or rejected your invitations because I could not see past my own burdens or distractions. Help me to adjust my perspective today, to focus on you and open my heart to respond to your loving call. I love you, Lord, and place you above everything else this day. Amen.