Excuses. We all make them. Excuses why we don’t work out and exercise more. Excuses why we don’t eat better and healthier. Excuses why we don’t stop certain bad habits or overcome addictive behaviors. Excuses why we don’t do what we know we should do. Excuses why we can’t fulfill that promise we made to ourselves or to someone else or to God.
Our spiritual lives are filled with excuses as well – why we don’t pray every day; why we don’t read the Bible and other spiritual material to feel our souls daily; why we don’t fast or take the church’s teachings on spiritual discipline seriously; why we don’t truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves.
WHY do we make all these excuses? Is it because of laziness? Or lack of self-discipline? Is it because of a fear of failure? Or absence of motivation? Is it because we don’t understand why we should do something? Possibly it’s just that our priorities are such that our excuses make clear what we prioritize in our lives!
Well, Jesus highlights the danger of excuses in today’s Gospel story. A man is preparing a Great Banquet and invites many guests. Imagine how, during the time of our Lord, an invitation to a Great Banquet was a very special, privileged event! People lived in poverty and struggled to survive day to day. An invitation to partake in a Great Banquet was quite an honor! A special event! Yet each of the invited guests make excuses about why they couldn’t come.
Each one makes light of the day’s special event and dismisses their invitation because they prioritize other things over the Great Banquet. The first one says “I am too busy with my work. I can’t get away from my business. You know how it is. I have important things to do with work, and here lies my priority. Sorry I can’t break away from my busy schedule to attend the feast.”
Think about this excuse. How many of us place our work and our profession above all else, and relegate God’s invitation to His mystical feast as secondary?
Another offers the excuse that he just bought new properties; maybe he has some new “toys” he must attend to. He has prioritized his material possessions, or maybe his hobbies and certain entertainment take precedence over God’s invitation. Doesn’t that well represent today’s spirit for many people?
The third guest makes up the excuse that he just got married and has to attend to his own bride. Now this third excuse represents the priority of family. Many will find no problem with this excuse. Family is the most important thing in our lives, we say. We’ll do anything for family! And yet, this is why Christ warns us that if we love family more than Him, we are not worthy of Him! The King’s invitation to His Mystical Banquet comes before even family commitments!
Work. Possessions. Hobbies and Entertainment. Family. Each one of these things fight for our attention and demand that we prioritize them first in our lives.
This is why Jesus warned his followers with this story and related it to the Kingdom of Heaven. God invites each one of us to partake in His heavenly kingdom every week! He invites us as VIP guests! Imagine, we have a seat with the Eternal King in his Heavenly Banquet!
Yet, what do we do with this invitation? We don’t understand or value the incredible blessing God offers us. We don’t value the eternal significance of His Divine Invitation. Our Eucharistic heavenly banquet should be the highlight of our week! We can unite with Jesus Christ and be filled with His Presence! We can taste the ultimate and eternal joy and peace of His Heavenly Kingdom! And yet, we instead make excuses. We don’t prioritize or value Jesus Christ and His divine invitation and instead, focus on the temporal, material, often superficial aspects of our lives – our work, our possessions, our hobbies, our family, our earthly blessings.
Now, some of us may protest, “When have we ignored God’s invitation? We would never slight Him and not show up in His Heavenly Banquet.” Yet, every Sunday the Kingdom of God is offered to us. Every Sunday in the Divine Liturgy, the eternal feast of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is offered to us so that we may be united with Him. Yet, how many of us make excuses not to attend His Heavenly Banquet?
I’m too busy with work. I’m too tired from my work all week and need to sleep in. It’s my only day to rest. I want to go play golf, or go to the Patriots game, or attend my kids sporting and dancing events. We make plenty of excuses and ignore the Divine Invitation of our Lord!
Be careful, though, and listen to how the Gospel story ends today. The Lord of the Great Banquet becomes angry that his invited guests have slighted His invitation and basically rejected Him. So, he tells his servants, “Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, NONE of those who were INVITED shall taste my banquet. For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Let me repeat these words – “NONE of those who were INVITED shall taste my banquet. For many are called, but few are chosen.” How will we feel when Jesus looks at us and says, “I invited you to partake of my Eternal, Mystical Feast and you made excuses why you couldn’t come! You chose mundane, temporal, earthy priorities over Me! Depart from me. Yes, I called you, but you are no longer chosen! You have chosen something else over ME!”
What a serious, sober warning to all of us. We need to take a good look at ourselves and on what we prioritize in our lives. Take a moment to reflect on the many excuses we make when we don’t accept the Divine Invitation of our Lord. He is knocking at our hearts every day waiting for us to open the door and invite Him in. He is sending us an invitation to come and partake of His heavenly Kingdom every Sunday and every time we celebrate the Divine Liturgy, waiting for us to fill His Banquet Hall. He is a patient God, passionately in love with us and wanting for us to partake of His heavenly and eternal blessings here and now.
Yet, how do we respond? How do we treat our Lord and what do we do with His Divine Invitation?
Today, I ask each of us to take a good look at the excuses we make, at the reasons why we prioritize so many other things in our lives over Jesus Christ and His Divine Invitation. Look at your excuses and then ask yourself, “Why am I making excuses? How can I overcome my excuses? How can I learn to prioritize Jesus Christ and His Church, how can I prioritize my life in Christ above all else?!?
We overcome excuses by learning WHY something is important. We overcome excuses by cultivating an open heart which develops a strong desire for all that is “true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable?” (Philippians 4:8) We overcome excuses by slowly developing a serious spiritual discipline, that starts with each week accepting the Divine Invitation to the Mystical Banquet of the Holy Eucharist. We overcome our excuses by accepting every day the Divine Invitation to enter into the Presence of God through our prayers and silence and spiritual reading. We overcome our excuses by prioritizing God above all else in our lives and discovering His continual Divine Invitation each day to dwell in His Presence.
Excuses hinder us from entering into the Kingdom of God. Let us put aside all excuses and seek first the Kingdom of God above all else!