This is very, very different to the God Jesus Christ came to proclaim, and to the kind of life he came to announce. Speaking about his mission on earth, he once said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. He also said that whatever he told us was “so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete”. These, and other quotes from the gospels clearly show us that Jesus’ message is all about love, joy and life. Also, we’ve seen these last couple of weeks how God never gives up on us. Even though we sometimes refuse to receive his message, he keeps sending us messengers, prophets, and people to help us to accept his invitation for a new and better life.
In today’s gospel Jesus resorts to the image of a banquet. This was a very powerful image for people who often found themselves in difficult situations, having to go hungry or struggling to make a living. In a banquet there is food for everyone - in abundance - it’s free, and there is joy. No wonder that, in our first reading for today, the prophet Isaiah uses the same image for the new world promised by God. The prophet speaks of the salvation people have been longing for for many years. He imagines this new world as being a city on a mountain, where God will host a banquet “for all peoples”. It’s interesting to note that no one is excluded. The beautiful song-like description Isaiah gives of this banquet is enough to make one’s mouth water!
In the parable of Jesus it is a king who gives a banquet. For some reason, however, those who are invited decline the invitation. Not understanding the beauty of such an invitation, they prefer to tend their own interests, whether it’s farming or business. Seeing this the king sends out his invitation to everybody who would come, “good and bad”. People are not invited because they are good or worthy, but simply because the king wanted them there!
This is, indeed, good news for everybody. The chief priests and pharisees, to whom Jesus was speaking, would have immediately understood what Jesus was saying. They were the ones to whom the good news was initially proclaimed. For different reasons, they refused to accept it. So now, Jesus is saying, the good news is being offered to everybody. It does not matter what my life has been in the past. What matters now is that I accept Jesus’ invitation to listen to his words and live the kind of life he proposes. This is the new dress that we are expected to put on upon entering this banquet. St Paul would call it “putting on Christ”. As Jesus has been trying to tell us these last Sundays, being a Christian means following him and walking on his footsteps. “Love one another as I have loved you” is the basis of this lifestyle. Jesus’ life of unconditional live, forgiveness and self-giving is now the life of the disciple. This is what’s on the menu of his banquet, and what guarantees peace and complete joy.
Comprehending the beauty and greatness of all this makes our thanksgiving much more meaningful!