God First

Antonio P. Pueyo
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
October 9, 2005
Reproduced with Permission

A banquet is more than a meal. It is a social occasion. It is a time to meet friends and relatives, and renew relationships. In some settings, it is a time to strengthen alliances, and to show one’s loyalty, respect and regard for the host. What I have observed in our culture is perhaps closer to the situation described by the parable of Jesus. When a chieftain, a politician, or a landlord holds a banquet, it is a time for his people to show their loyalty in many ways. Some would volunteer their time and efforts in the preparations such as cleaning or cooking. Those with some means may offer to bring drinks or some special food for the occasion. Others will come with money or lavish gifts to show their respect. However, what is most important is that one is present. Absence may be construed as a lack of regard for the host.

It is within this context that we can understand better the anger of the ruler when those who were invited refused to come to the wedding banquet for his son. They had other priorities. They did not give due importance to the king who invited them. They made light of it (Mt. 22:5). When those who were invited did not come, the king invited everyone else “from the highways and the by-ways”. When one did not come with the proper wedding garment, the king punished him. He was guilty of the same offense as those who did not come. He made light of the occasion. He did not treat the king’s invitation with the proper respect.

To show respect is to give somebody reverence, to show esteem, and to have high opinion for somebody. It is expressed through signs of consideration, and appreciation or more deeply through complying with and abiding by somebody’s wishes. Thus we show respect to our parents and to those in positions of authority such as judges, policemen, teachers, and religious leaders. For example, one has to act appropriately in a courtroom, otherwise he gets cited for contempt of court.

If we give due respect to people in authority, much more so to God. God takes precedence over anybody and anything else. Peter and the apostles acclaimed, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) In the same vein, St. Thomas More affirmed that although he was the king’s servant and friend, he was God’s servant first. He died because of his conviction. Jesus clearly states, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” (Mt. 6:33)

Action starter: Over what moral issue do you categorically say, “I would rather obey God.”?

To be able to prioritize God and His affairs in our life, one has to have faith. One has to have the experience of the living God. How indeed can one give importance to somebody he does not believe in or somebody whose existence he is not fully convinced of? How can God’s criteria for decision-making be accepted into one’s life if one does not believe?

There are different kinds of believers and non-believers. There are those who profess belief in God and act morally and religiously in a way consistent with their belief. Such for example is a Christian who acts justly and participates actively in the life of his religious community.. There are those who profess belief and act righteously but do not regularly participate in the religious celebrations. There are those who profess faith in God but do not follow God’s commands (they may attend the rituals). On the other hand there are those who do not profess faith in God but act righteously for humanist or utilitarian reasons (of course they do not practice the religious rituals). There are those who are doubtful about God’s existence (skeptics) and those who grant that God may exist but we cannot really know it (agnostics). They may act righteously on the ground that it is most beneficial to humanity if everyone does so. They may even practice the rituals occasionally (just in case Go d exists).

A believer may have some periods of doubt and go through some stage of darkness but the running theme of his life, despite his weaknesses, is to please God always (Jn. 8:29). Not only does he profess his faith but he lives it. Not only does he answer the invitation to the wedding banquet but he wears the wedding garment as well.