Pope at Mass: The Lord waits for everyone, good or bad

Wikimedia Commons: Brunswick Monogrammist, "Parable of the Great Banquet" circa 1525

VATICAN CITY—In his homily at the morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reflects on the Gospel of the day, and invites us to ask whether we accept the Lord’s invitation to His feast, or remain closed up in ourselves.

In St. Luke’s Gospel on Nov. 5, Jesus tells the parable of a man who wants to give a great feast. But his guests offer various excuses and refuse his invitation. Instead, the man sends his servants to call the poor and the lame to fill his house and enjoy his hospitality.

Commenting on this Gospel, Pope Francis said this story both summarizes the history of salvation and describes the behavior of many Christians.

“The dinner, the feast, represents Heaven, eternity with the Lord”, he said.

You never know whom you might meet at a dinner — you meet new people; you also encounter people you may not want to see; but the atmosphere of the feast is joy and lavishness. Because a true feast must be freely given, continued Pope Francis.

“Our God always invites us this way, He doesn’t make us pay an entrance fee. At real celebrations, you don’t pay to get in: the host pays, the one who invites you pays”, but there are those who put their own interests first before that freely-given invitation:

“Faced with that lavishness, that universality of the feast, there is an attitude that blocks the heart: ‘I’m not going. I prefer to be alone, with the people I like, closed up’. And this is sin; the sin of the people of Israel, the sin of all of us. Closure.”

This refusal, continued Pope Francis, is also a sign of contempt toward the one inviting us. It is like saying to the Lord: “Don’t disturb me with your celebration”. It is closing ourselves off “to what the Lord offers us: the joy of encountering Him”.

“And we will be faced with this choice, this option, many times along the journey of life: either the lavishness of the Lord, going to visit the Lord, encountering the Lord, or closing myself in my own affairs, my own interests,” he said. “That is why the Lord, speaking of one way of being closed, said it is very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. But there are good rich people, saints, who are not attached to wealth. But most of them are attached to wealth, they are closed. And that’s why they can’t understand what celebration is. But they have the security of things they can touch.”

The Lord’s reaction to our refusal is firm: he wants all sorts of people called to the feast, brought there, even forced to come, good people and bad. “Everyone is invited. Everyone. No one can say, ‘I am bad, I can’t …’. No. The Lord is waiting for you in a special way because you are bad,” he said.

Pope Francis recalled the response of the father to the prodigal son who returns home: the son starts a speech, but the father stops him and embraces him. “That’s the way the Lord is”, said the pope, “He is lavishness.”

Turning to the First Reading where the Apostle Paul warns against hypocrisy, Pope Francis quoted Jesus’ response to the Jews who rejected Him because they believed themselves to be just: “I tell you that prostitutes and tax collectors will enter the kingdom of heaven before you.” The Lord loves those who are most disregarded, said the pope, but He calls us. Faced with our closure, however, He keeps His distance and becomes angry, as we heard in the Gospel.

“Let us think about this parable the Lord tells us today. How is our life going? What do I prefer? Do I always accept the invitation of the Lord or close myself off in my interests, in my smallness? And let us ask the Lord for the grace always to accept to go to His feast, which is free,” Pope Francis said.

By Adriana Masotti/Vatican News