The labourers arrive at dawn so as to get their work done before the start of the morning traffic. Slowly they unroll the large tent, just a shelter really, a roof supported by poles and guy wires strung tightly. More volunteers arrive and a perimeter fence of coloured flags on a rope is set up around the gravel parking area giving it the ambience of a used car lot. What was once a dusty space for the vehicles of Sunday parishioners is slowly transformed into a fair ground with bubble blowing table over here, snow cone machine over there, on the grass over at the side is a place where stories will be read.
Then the children began to arrive, at first in ones and twos, some on bicycles others on foot. For a brief moment a street-wise wariness keeps them at a distance but then the natural curiosity of youth takes over. “What’s happening?” they ask. “It’s a party”, we say, “There’s going to be a clown.” They run off to tell their friends and their mothers, “Please mom, can we go!”
Every summer we host a parking lot party on our parish grounds. Ours is a poor neighbourhood and the entertainment budget is small. But looking at the faces of the kids as they eat hot-dogs, finger-paint, and make stuff out of clay you would think that they were at Disney Land. The highlight is the piñata, home-made out of papier-mâché and filled with hard candies from the bulk food store. Screams of delight fill the afternoon as the tissue frilled donkey spills its sweet contents on the young marauders while moms and dads dance to the tunes of the fiddle band playing on the makeshift stage.
We have been invited to an amazing party. Jesus tells a parable about a great banquet to which everyone has been invited. But, to the dismay of the host, when the call goes out people begin to make excuses. Some are too busy, some can’t be bothered others have more important things to do. They take the invitation for granted. They see just another thing to do, just one more thing. They miss the fact that this party is special.
What is our response? Will we miss the invitation because of the more important plans we have made for ourselves? Will we turn up our noses because we have discovered more sophisticated ways to be entertained? Will we be cynical or disparaging or bored with the offer? Will we look upon the invitation as just one more thing?
Will we allow ourselves to be able to respond with the heart of a child? Will we see through the illusion of the ordinary and discover the amazing gift that has been offered to us, the gift of each day, the gift of our life, the promise of eternal life with our God.
Today you have been invited to a banquet. What is your response?