3 Tuesday Saint Malachy, bishop (Memorial)
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
My vows I will pay before those who fear the Lord.
The poor shall eat and shall have their fill.
They shall praise the Lord, those who seek him.
May their hearts live for ever and ever! (R./)
All the earth shall remember and return to the Lord,
all families of the nations worship before him
for the kingdom is the Lord's; he is ruler of the nations.
They shall worship him, all the mighty of the earth. (R./)
And my soul shall live for him, my children serve him.
They shall tell of the Lord to generations yet to come,
declare his faithfulness to peoples yet unborn:
'These things the Lord has done.' (R./)
One of the dinner guests said to Jesus, "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 ben 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 lnes, 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.'"
In the wonderful chapter 2 of Philippians, Saint Paul quotes from an early Christian hymn to Jesus that summarises a vibrant spirituality within a couple of verse. Our attitude to life must be modelled on Christ himself. As eternal Son of God, Jesus did not cling to his divinity but "emptied himself" of all his former status, to be born as child and live a human life. Then he lived a life of total service, right up to the ultimate sacrifice of himself, "even death on a cross."
Paul's hope is that we learn to live such a life of loving service within the church that we are emptied of self-love and dedicated to serve the interest of our sisters and brothers in the faith. The Gospel reinforces this lesson. We must not set our own preferences ahead of what God wants us to do. Gladly accepting our invitation to the banquet of God, we try to do our bit in welcoming others to share community with us.
At a sociable dinner-table in Israel one of the guests shares his religious hopes for the future, "Happy will they be who sit at table in the kingdom of God." In reply Jesus offers a parable about how life should be lived here and now. He imagines a great banquet feast to which invitations have already gone out. The variety of responses are a reminder of what lame excuses we sometimes make, for not doing what we ought to do. "I'd really love to come, but unfortunately this other thing has cropped up...."
Guests who had initially accepted their invitation now made excuses and failed to show up, just as the meal was ready to be served. They let themselves be distracted by various hobbies and attachments, all good in themselves perhaps, but not enough to refuse God's invitation. Their refusal will later cause them severe regret.
As a result of those refusals, a surprising invitation goes out to the kinds of people who would hardly ever be invited to such a party. Because they have no cherished hobbies or prior commitments, they are delighted to respond. The parable calls us to be attuned to the grace of the present moment and not to let the good things of this world to so absorb us that we cannot respond to the Lord's invitation as it comes to us in the here and now of our daily lives.