28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Reflection: Invitation vs. a calling


What’s the difference between an invitation and a call?

We might be invited to the game on Sunday, to a party, or even to be godparent to the child of a friend. When does an invitation (“Will you marry me?”) become a call? How do we know our “calling in life”?

These are some of the questions that spring from Jesus’ story of the king who got stood up when he threw a wedding party for his son.

First of all, the setting. Matthew makes the king the protagonist in this story. Think about this: While you might wiggle out of a neighbor’s invitation to a baby shower or potluck, in Jesus’ day, an invitation from the king required acceptance — to do otherwise implied insurrection. 

So, here we have this king ready to show off his wealth and generosity by throwing an impressive feast for his son, probably the crown prince. 

This is no small affair. When the menu includes calves and fattened cattle, we’re talking about 750-pound calves and cattle that weigh about twice that much — not counting vegetables and wine! It’s hard to calculate the insult resulting from making such preparations only to have the people you want to impress decide that they’ve got something better to do. 

You can bet that they weren’t thinking that the king was going to rule for long — nor that his heir would become a person of great power. Dissing him showed that they were counting on a change of regime.

The king was not to be deterred. If the “right people” weren’t going to be with him, he would find others and make them right. 

That’s a description of salvation and a retake on Isaiah 25’s mountaintop banquet for “all peoples.” These stories portray God’s future as a blowout feast for everyone humble enough to accept the fact that they can never deserve the invitation and who, at the same time, know that the invitation itself makes them worthy.

What if we thought about the images of these feasts as call stories? Most of the vocation stories we hear stress the leaving everything to follow. The fishers left their nets and boats, the women who followed Jesus left their reputations and gave from their own wealth to follow. Jesus himself warned that each would need to take up their own cross.

Nevertheless, the Gospels never present the reign of God as an experience of fast and abstinence. Jesus himself admitted that others called him a glutton and a drunkard (Matthew 11:19). Jesus was never accused of being too strict or ascetic!

What if we thought of our calling, our vocation, as an invitation to “the good life” in the sense of a life of fulfillment, joy, celebration, commitment, laughter and love? Isn’t that what the folks who filled the king’s banquet hall found? 

We might think of this party as a mirror of the sacraments of initiation. Baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, symbolized by the acceptance of the invitation, the wedding gown and participating in the feast. Here, “the bad and good alike” can enjoy everything the king has prepared for them. You can imagine them dancing and singing, going back for seconds (or thirds) and popping petit fours into their mouths each time they glide past the dessert table.

This is our invitation, our vocation. All it costs, as in Isaiah 55, is the willingness to participate fully: to accept the invitation, put on the attitudes symbolized by the wedding dress, and then fully enjoy what is offered. 

Let’s go for it.

First Reading 

(Isaiah 25: 6-10A)

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face;
the reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.
On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

Responsorial Psalm  

(Psalm 23)

Second Reading

(Philippians 4: 12-14, 19-20)

Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need. 
I can do all things in him who strengthens me. 
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.


(Matthew 22: 1-14)

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people 
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. 
The king 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.”