So often we hear heaven referred to as the "heavenly banquet." In today's Gospel, Jesus is responding to a fellow guest who remarked about those who will dine in the Kingdom of God; he replies by telling the parable of the invited guests who make excuses as to why they cannot come to the dinner. Although it may be difficult for us to imagine ourselves making excuses, at the last minute, about why we are unable to attend a formal event we might consider the metaphor on its deeper level. If it is the Kingdom of God to which we are invited, how often do we make excuses?
We are invited to a foretaste of heaven, here on earth, when we live in accord with God's will -- in union with His heart. How often are we presented with opportunities to taste heaven and how often do we mistake them for something else? Perhaps we are assigned to work with someone who is very skilled at trying our patience. Do we see it as an irritation and try to get out of the assignment or do we see it as an invitation from the Lord to make his Kingdom present by the way in which we cheerfully overlook the shortcomings of our neighbor. Perhaps the only available seat in the lunchroom today is next to someone whom we do not like. Do we see that as an invitation to the heavenly banquet -- to be polite and cordial to one whom we would prefer to avoid or do we think of a reason why we need to have lunch in our office -- or at a later time?
The Kingdom of God is at hand -- at our hands -- we have only to respond generously and lovingly.
"Let us walk joyously among the difficulties of this passing life; let us embrace with open arms all the mortifications and afflictions that we will meet on our way, since we are sure that these pains will have an end when our mortal life ends."
St. Francis de Sales