The Urgency of Christ

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Thursday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church

Matthew 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to them in parables, saying, “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Opening Prayer: Lord, here I am. Show me your face; show me your love for me. I know that without you I am nothing, and yet you want to give me everything. I want to love you—teach me how. Whether you want to console me or challenge me, I’m here to listen. 

Encountering Christ:

  1. The Urgency of Christ: As Christ told this parable, he had less than a week to live. His thirty-three years among us were drawing to a close—he felt an urgency. This was his “last battle” with the Pharisees—his last-ditch effort to save them before they committed the unthinkable and put him to death. But their hearts were hardened. Three times the king in this parable extended invitations to the feast, and as many times people refused. The man who was improperly dressed, in a sense, also refused. Instead of showing the respect due to his host, he apparently couldn’t be bothered to dress appropriately. The Lord died to bring wandering souls, no matter how indifferent, to the heavenly banquet. Do I recognize the urgency of conversion in my own life, or do I let fear or indifference drive me further from him?
  2. …And the Mercy of Christ: With all the killing and burning and grinding of teeth in this parable, it’s easy to miss the positive side of this message—we are all invited to the banquet! On the one hand, all we have to do is “show up to the feast,” while on the other hand, we had better arrive “dressed for the occasion!” We accept the merciful invitation of God when we “show up for the feast,” while “being dressed for the occasion” means trying our best to find his will in our lives and follow it.
  3. Consequences, Consequences: In many places in the Gospels, Our Lord reminds us that a life of disobedience doesn’t end well. The wedding invitees in this parable refused, ignored, or killed the messengers extending the king’s invitation. Sadly, we know many in our culture who proudly refuse to believe in Jesus, ignore his overtures because they’re too busy or complacent, or even kill him in the form of abominations like abortion or murder. Let’s look first interiorly for any disobedience we are living and repent, and then also pray fervently for souls who seem far from the wedding banquet.

Conversing with Christ: Lord, thank you for this moment of prayer. Thank you for this day, for all the gifts you have given me and will give me through it. I trust you—help me to see your plan for me and follow it with my whole heart.

Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take a moment to ask for inspiration about where I might be growing complacent or living disobediently so that I can repent.

For Further Reflection: Often we become complacent because we do not take time to let Christ challenge us. Hans Urs von Balthasar speaks about this in his book The Grain of Wheat:

Holiness consists in enduring God’s glance. It may appear mere passivity to withstand the look of an eye; but everyone knows how much exertion is required when this occurs in an essential encounter. Our glances mostly brush by each other indirectly, or they turn quickly away, or they give themselves not personally but only socially. So too do we constantly flee from God into a distance that is theoretical, rhetorical, sentimental, aesthetic, or, most frequently, pious. Or we flee from him to external works. And yet, the best thing would be to surrender one’s naked heart to the fire of this all-penetrating glance. The heart would then itself have to catch fire, if it were not always artificially dispersing the rays that come to it as through a magnifying glass. Such enduring would be the opposite of a Stoic’s hardening his face: it would be yielding, declaring oneself beaten, capitulating, entrusting oneself, casting oneself into him. It would be childlike loving, since for children the glance of the father is not painful: with wide-open eyes they look into his. Little Thérèse—great, little Thérèse—could do it. Augustine’s magnificent formula on the essence of eternity: videntem videre—“to look at him who is looking at you.”

Written by Br. Riley Connors.

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