August 21, 2022 at Saint Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Naples, FL
Isaiah 66, 18-21 + Psalm 117 + Hebrews 12, 5-7, 11-13+ Luke 13, 22-30
There is an undeniable and an unmistakable image of the Kingdom of God being put before us by Saint Luke today as Jesus speaks to us in a very direct way. The whole idea of locking people out of the heavenly banquet is strange and ought to make us uncomfortable because we will have to begin to think about whether or not we are in or we are out.
For you and me, there is a special danger that comes with thinking that we’re in, or we should be in, or deserve to be in because we’re here right now, because we go to Mass, listen to the Gospel, and do this and that because that’s what we ought to do. That’s risky thinking.
Jesus, who knows well the teaching of the prophets like Isaiah whose words we heard moments ago makes it very clear that those who find a place at the heavenly banquet will not necessarily be those we expect or even want to find there. Getting that point puts us in a questionable spot. Are we in or are we out will always be the question. It’s not are they in or out, but am I in or out.
You see, it is not going to be a matter of coming to Mass and all that this implies. For in the Gospel there are plenty of stories told about those who ate and drank with Jesus and never made his values their own. They just wanted to be seen with someone famous. There was that guy who invited Jesus to dinner and never washed the feet of his divine guest. In contrast, to make the point more clear, remember how Jesus invited himself to the home of Matthew the Tax Collector and to Nicodemus? In those moments, there came about a powerful and personal conversion and acceptance of what Jesus stood for. So, who’s in? The first guy who just wanted to be seen with the famous man from Nazareth, or the unlikely and unwanted people looked down upon by the synagogue elite?
What become clear is that God loves diversity. It is impossible to glimpse the glory of God without embracing and appreciating the variety of people, cultures and creatures that fill the universe of God’s creation. Which, by way of an aside, is what is so very wrong about causing or allowing an entire species of God’s creation to go extinct because of our greed or carelessness with God’s creation on this precious and fragile earth. If we don’t get our act together and pay attention to the consequences of many things, there will be no divine diversity, and that may not sit well with the Creator of it all.
To anyone who might even think of limiting the guest list at the heavenly banquet and to anyone who might be concerned about whether or not they are on the list, Jesus speaks with unusual clarity, and Luke passes that on to us with the grammar and sentence structure of this story. Jesus says: “YOU”. “I do not know where YOU are from.” He goes on in the same way of speaking when he says: “You yourselves will be cast out.” He is speaking to you and me.
Who is that “you”? It is those who want to limit the guest list. It is those who claim some privilege and think that they “deserve” something from the master. The real ones privileged are those who are today the least privileged. Ultimately, the guest list is restricted to those who do not want it limited – those who welcome everyone – those who are anxious and ready to be surprised and delighted by who they may sitting next to – someone totally unexpected and maybe undeserving by our poor judgement.
It might be just as well that those who want access limited to the right people would be just as unhappy inside when they find out who else is there as they would be on the outside. In that case, why would God let them ruin the party? Go ahead and lock the doors!