Today I want to talk about God’s free and open Invitation to each of us and our freedom (also a gift from God) to choose wither to accept his invitation or decline it.
I want you to keep in mind the parable about the king who threw a great feast and invited the usual cast of characters. He thought they all would accept his generous offer, but they did not. Each had something better to do, more pressing, more important or it was just to much effort to go. Disappointed at the lack of interest the king ordered that everyone and anyone was to be invited; worker, beggar, thief, leper and outcast all were invited, and of course they came, and were rewarded with an abundance of good things.
In the first reading we hear - In those days they (Israel) mocked the messengers of God (those that did the inviting to God’s feast)
Infidelity upon infidelity, we are told, poured forth from the nation.
The whole power structure of Israel turned its back on God and his invitation to relay on him, to trust him. They decided instead to trust their wealth, power and arms and not God.
In time they found themselves let down by earthly power and might. They were despoiled, walls were torn down, fields were destroyed, the temple left in ruins and their princes exiled.
By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept. The psalmist laments. Tears stream from those who learned too late what it means to be unfaithful to God.
But, the good news (proclaimed by the prophets and Jesus himself) is that God, in the face of our infidelity, beyond all human reason, is always the faithful, loving father.
He is infinitely merciful and forgiving when we ourselves are not deserving of it.
St Paul declares “God who is rich in mercy because of his great love he has for us, even when we are dead in our transgressions.”
We are loved as children, unruly and defiant children, by a father who knows us better than we know ourselves.
Even in the shadow of sin, sin that we create in our lives, Jesus reaches out to each of us to bring us into the light, back home to our rightful and appropriate place as good faithful children of God.
This is an invitation to the gift of faith.
We are not entitled to it, we cannot earn it or buy it, but, we can accept the invitation or we can turn our back to it.
God gives life. It pours forth as Spirit, light and truth.
But, he also gives us the freedom to choose to love him or not.
Choose him, not with empty Sunday promises and sweet platitudes but with a real human heart, full of Spirit and alive, lived out in thanksgiving, gratitude and charity.
John sums up this gift in 27 famous words
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life”
I could end here, perhaps I should, and give us 5 mins of silence to reflect on the fact that God, despite all the wrongs we do to each other and ourselves, despite all the pain and suffering we cause, despite our turning away from him, even denying him, God is always ready to forgive the repentant sinner for he is forever loving and faithful.
God is so in love with us that he sent his Son (not to condemn, which he had every right to do), but to save, to dwell among us, as one of us, to love us, to proclaim the Good News, and in the end, pour out his life for us.
We simply must believe. Believe Jesus is our only Way, our only Truth, and our only Life.
Because, St John tells us whoever believes in Jesus will not be condemned.
Through our belief, we live in faith, hope, and charity. We are driven by the same Spirit that drove Jesus, to be better people (better spouses and parents), we endeavor to be good without counting the cost or seeking the limelight.
We seek another kind of light.
Faith (in Jesus), hope (in eternal life with God) and charity (reaching out beyond the pews) driving us into the world to evangelize in the joy of the Gospel.
But, here is the rub – In St John’s words “whoever does not believe has already been condemned.”
Because many of us by choice already live estranged lives, dictated, not by love, but by self-centered desires, ever changing motives, driven not by the Spirit, but by; greed, envy, pride, anger, and fear.
We do not cling to God, but we cling desperately to what the world offers only to find it is an illusion and a lie and even this lie is not enough or good enough, we forever thirst for meaning in darkness when we could be satisfied in the light of truth.
last week we heard that only Jesus can satisfy us.
Jesus is the stream of living water, sustaining and refreshing, giving depth and meaning to our lives as nothing else can.
So we end up back at the beginning.
We are invited by God to his great wedding feast, but so often we rather not be bothered, at least not now.
St John says
“And this is the verdict, the light came into the world but the people preferred the darkness to light.”
This is the startling truth – We choose to condemn ourselves!
Judgment is now and it is ongoing.
We do it to ourselves with no one else to blame.
We choose - darkness or light.
God always invites. He invites us again and again. The Holy Spirit is determined that
we (clothed and in our right minds) can finally choose to accept the king’s invitation.