Gospel Reflection for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A single party guest doesn't expect an ordinary invitation in the mail will end up in her scrapbook as a memory of the night she met her husband. An enamored girlfriend doesn't typically expect an ordinary walk to turn into an extraordinary proposal. I didn't expect an ordinary TV show to turn into an extraordinary community.
Ailing with a mysterious respiratory virus in February 2020, I didn't have a voice or energy for anything other than laying on the couch. I remembered seeing an ad on Facebook for a new streaming series about Jesus. I had bookmarked it in the case that I may find myself having nothing to do one day. That day had now come amidst an uneventful week of being sick. I felt lifeless and inactive just looking for anything to help pass the time. That was the extent of my expectations for "The Chosen."
Once I started watching, I could not turn it off. I binged the series over a few days because I was trying to savor it as much as possible. I did not want it to end. I encountered Jesus and His disciples in a new way.
In particular, I discovered an unimaginable companion in St. Matthew. He was portrayed as having Aspergers and I was still adjusting to life following my diagnosis a couple of months earlier. Since finding out I was on the Spectrum in my 30s, I felt like a minority like never before. When Jesus acknowledged and called Matthew to follow Him, I felt a call in my own heart as well. I was reminded that I was loved for who I was and that Jesus has a unique purpose for me. I was seen. I was noticed. I was called.
Soon after my fandom for The Chosen TV series started a nation-wide quarantine did, too. As a single young adult living alone, a quarantine invited me to face solitude head-on. Being laid off from my job and not being able to go to church impacted me spiritually and emotionally. During Holy Week, The Chosen held a global Livestream and I got to watch the series all over again. In an interview after the season finale, I noticed the image of Divine Mercy behind the head of the actor who played Jesus. That discovery led me to join him and 500 brothers and sisters across the world in praying every day on social media. Those holy hours supported me in inexplicable ways. In a time where everything seemed off course, I learned that this was no ordinary TV show. Boy, am I glad that I didn't let that Facebook ad pass me by.
When have you been invited to watch something, go somewhere, or try something new? How often have you almost missed an opportunity, simply because you expected it to be mediocre?
In the Gospel today, the king is throwing an elaborate wedding banquet for his son. His servants are told to invite anyone they encounter to come to the feast. Everything is prepared. The guests just need to accept the invitation and participate in the celebration. Yet, many declined and even ignored the call. Some even killed the servants who were excitedly inviting them to partake in the banquet!
If a servant met you on the street and invited you to this grand event, how would you respond?
I want to say that I would jump at the chance to eat free food, dance the night away, and make merry with new friends. I mean who doesn't love weddings?! When I look honestly at myself though, I know I have had my excuses for not going. Sometimes, I'm too busy, too anxious, too overwhelmed, or too distracted. Sometimes, I wish I could be the host when I'm not. Sometimes, I try to be God when I am most certainly not. There are all kinds of reasons that dig deep into my prideful "no." If I go, I sometimes try to do things my way instead of God's. I try to be the one in control. I try to go without my wedding garment, not only because I struggle with social cues, but because I am not humble enough to let God be God and ask for help.
When the king asks the guest about why he does not have a wedding garment, he is "reduced to silence." How often are we reduced to silence in our relational lives and in our prayer life?
"Reduce" has more than twelve meanings in the dictionary. The definition that caught my attention was about being lowered. If I was called out by the king for not doing what is best for me, I would feel humiliated or mortified. In other words, I would be humbled. Everything was prepared for me and I just didn't follow through. I didn't have everything together like I thought I did. I thought this was just going to be like every other party, so I didn't even open up the invitation to read the instructions. In the presence of the king, there is no valid excuse. There is no explanation worthy of consideration for why I showed up in vestments that were not fitting for who the King called me to be.
As I spread the word about The Chosen this weekend, I resonated with the servants who invite others to the banquet. They excitedly anticipate the gift that the guests are about to open. They share that it's free, reaches every country in the world, and will connect them with a community of people who knows and loves the King of Kings. Sound familiar? ;-) Like the servants, I can only invite and recommend. It's the job of the guest to open up the invitation, to respond to the gift that is offered, and to participate with an open mind and heart.
Jesus concludes the passage by saying, "Many are invited, but few are chosen."
According to the dictionary, "chosen" means to "be selected as the best or most appropriate." I'm not an event planner, but I am a marriage counselor. At a couple's wedding, I pray that they choose one another with a wholehearted "yes" and are surrounded by guests who truly care about being there and participate in the feast with good faith, joy, and love. As the Bridegroom at the wedding banquet, Jesus likely shares that desire for all of us as Our Father throws the party of a lifetime. He wants everyone there, but His standards deem some to be inappropriate -- those that don't open the invitation. Little did they know, abundant graces would spill out of the envelope.
Grace is a gift that keeps on giving. It does not end with The Chosen. It's just a really incredible TV show. I pray that The Chosen leads you to dust off your Bible and get into the living Word of God. I pray that you encounter Jesus in such a personal way that you want to spend time face-to-face with Him at the Holy Mass and during Eucharistic Adoration. The Chosen is just a decorative envelope for the invitation to have a personal encounter with our eternal Bridegroom, Our Lord Jesus Christ!
Grab your wedding garment. Let's go to the feast!
How are you inviting others to the banquet?
How are you responding to others' inviting you?
What excuses is the King of Kings inviting you to pray about this week?
The Chosen has been a gift that keeps on giving. Check out Season 1 at thechosen.tv. for FREE!
Also, please pray for the cast and crew as they film Season 2 amidst the craziness of a pandemic.