ByziMom Considers: An Invitation to a Banquet
29th Sunday After Pentecost
From a Mom's Perspective
Luke 24:16-24. Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’
One of the best things my husband and I decided to do is to re-institute the practice of Sunday dinners at our house now that our children are grown. There’s no pressure to attend, just an open invitation and lots of home-cooked goodness to share. At first, everyone had excuses and plans, and sometimes nobody could come, so we ate dinner by ourselves, which was ok. We understood, but we were disappointed, of course, and all the plans we had were just put away for another day which may or may not come to pass. They were adults now with plans of their own and things to do. Oh well.
As time went on, my mother-in-law got very sick, so we couldn’t plan those dinners anymore since every Sunday was just another one of those days that we needed to check on her, attend to her needs, and sometimes alleviate my sister-in-law, who was her full-time caregiver. The children took turns sitting with her and keeping her company, even staying overnight to help get her to the bathroom as necessary. As these overnight shifts became regularly necessary, we adjusted our schedules and pitched in wherever and whenever we needed to, and all of our children did their best to be with her often because we never really knew when the end would come.
My poor younger girls would sometimes lament that they were tired from all the extra work, but they realized that they would only be able to truly rest when the Lord would take her, and that would make them so very sad. Our oldest boy, away at school, traveled in to see his Granny several times, even in the wee hours of the morning when she would look as though the end was near, believing each time would be his last visit with her. Our oldest girl was expecting her first child then and often burst into tears because she didn’t know if Granny would live to see her baby. Our younger son assumed the household maintenance jobs that my sister-in-law usually did while doing ours as well and holding his demanding full-time job, which often had mandatory overtime. He was so busy that he felt that he didn’t get to spend his share of time at Granny’s bedside, so he often spent the night at her house as well. Everyone was so physically and emotionally drained, yet we knew she needed us, and we needed her to know we were there for her. It was such a trying time.
Toward the end, when we knew what soon awaited us all, I began to prepare dinners for the extended family who would come and join us to say their goodbyes and console each other. It was a kindness I could offer, and it made me feel a kind of joy and comfort that comes from doing a necessary task for those who are suffering. They couldn’t think about cooking and cleaning up at such a difficult time and appreciated having a plate ready to sustain them and keep their strength up for the long night ahead. Ultimately, we were all there daily, all day, in shifts, coming and going as we could manage it, until the day when she finally passed over to eternal life. All the family was there, making her and us very comfortable and happy. There was much sorrow but also much joy. Soon afterward, we began to gather at our house every Sunday and share dinner with my sister in law who is now in the difficult position of living alone after that. We discussed plans for going forward at these dinners, consoled each other, and bonded over our loss. It just felt like the natural thing to do. Months later, we still gather, a bit more joyfully than before, but now there are no excuses; and everyone comes!
This week’s Gospel passage was always so one-dimensional and matter-of-fact for me until now. I understood that the Jews didn’t receive His invitation well, so God opened up the Kingdom to us all, but I never understood why those who came were the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, and those with nowhere else to go. But now, I do.
Those who come are those who have suffered.
Those who have endured suffering understand the need for community, for belonging, and how wonderful it is to be a part of something bigger from which they can garner the strength to go on. They appreciate a warm meal, a conversation with someone else who understands, and a place at the table just for them. They understand the family that is the Trinity and for having been invited to the banquet that is a union with such a family. Heaven is one big Sunday Supper!