The Gospel for today is part of a chapter which deals largely with banquets, guests, and eating. The setting was an actual banquet at the home of a ruler of the Pharisees, at which Jesus was the guest of honor.
Jesus surprised the assembly by healing a man afflicted with dropsy. He went on to admonish the guests for pushing into places of honor. He then exhorted them, when giving a dinner, not to invite their relatives or rich neighbors, but “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.” God's surprising grace, according to Jesus, is the pattern and model for all of life.
One of the other guests, possibly wishing to distract Jesus and change the subject, let fly with a lovely remark: “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.” A perfectly true saying, but Jesus would not allow this to remain an empty platitude. He responded by telling the parable which we read today. Two things emerge from this parable: first, what life in the kingdom is like, and secondly, the stubbornness of the man who provided the banquet.
There was an evangelical preacher who popularized the phrase, “It's fun being saved.” Contrary to those who think of grace and salvation as a dull ethereal existence, our dear Lord commonly described life under God's reign in terms of a banquet. Who does not enjoy fine food and drink? Just as the fall of Adam and Eve, our first parents, took place through eating, so our restoration is also symbolized by eating as well. We cannot begin to list all our Lord's references to eating. It is enough to mention our eucharistic eating of His flesh and blood as the ultimate example of the blessedness of eating bread in the kingdom of God. Our point here is that every delightful meal is, in a small way, a foretaste of heaven.
The banquet did not take place without surprising resistance from ungrateful guests. The reign of God does not come without resistance from obstinate sinners. Anyone other than God would have called off the affair. But the parable teaches us that the sovereign grace of our God cannot be frustrated by our resistance. Those who decline the offer are simply excluded and left to their own devices. The banquet goes on “and still there is room.”
God grant they we may find ourselves among “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind,” ushered into the eternal presence of the persistent and tenacious God who sends out to the streets and lanes, the highways and hedges, to seek and save that which is lost.