Excuses - Priorities - the Kingdom of God
Excuses. We all make them. Excuses why we don’t work out and exercise more. Excuses why we don’t eat better and in a healthier way. Excuses why we don’t stop certain bad habits. Excuses why we don’t do what we know we should do. Excuses why we can’t fulfill that promise we made to ourselves, or to someone else.
Why do we make up excuses? Is it because of a fear of failure? Or absence of motivation? Maybe a lack of self-control? Or simply laziness. Possibly it’s just that our priorities are such that our excuses make clear what we prioritize in our lives!
There can be many reasons why we don’t accomplish certain goals, and it probably takes more than just the fear factor to motivate us. It probably takes a combination of a strong desire, discipline, a solid reason why we want to do something new, along with opening up ourselves to outside help and accountability, like opening up ourselves to God’s help, which can lead us to accomplish a certain goal. I’m sure we all use excuses for a variety of things in our lives, yet let’s think today how straightening out our priorities can help us overcome these excuses.
We can do this today by reflecting on the Gospel story in which we hear Jesus warn his followers about making excuses. Remember when Jesus told his disciples to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mt 6:33). He was telling them to make our pursuit for God’s reign to rule in our lives our greatest and first priority – our priority before our work, above our family, in front of our hobbies and entertainment. Seek FIRST the Kingdom of God above all else!
And yet, how many of us actually do this? How many of us wake up each morning turning our attention to God right away, and asking Him what He wants from us on this particular day? How many of us prioritize our schedule every day so that we create time to connect with our Lord through our prayers, in our thinking, with our actions? This doesn’t mean we have to go to Church every single day, and it doesn’t imply we can’t function doing other “worldly things.” No, what it does means is that in everything we do, we want to consecrate our words, our actions, our work, and our deeds to God. We want Him to be present “at all times and in all things” in our lives. We want to be conscious and deliberate in not leaving God outside of our plans, but to the contrary, we want to invite Him to be present, to come and abide with us in all we do throughout the day. This is the way in which we can seek first the kingdom of God.
Well, in order to get across this point of prioritizing our spiritual lives and not acting as unfaithful followers, Jesus shares a story about a king who was ready to celebrate his son’s marriage. Now, we all have been to weddings, and we know what special, joyous, exciting occasions these are. So much effort, plans and time are put into the preparations. Details are executed, much money is spent, and so much care is given to the invitation list. How would one feel if everyone you invited simply ignored the invitation? Or worse yet, what if they actually said they would come, and then at the last minute made excuses not to attend the wedding. Imagine all your guests giving excuses, often lame excuses, about why they couldn’t come? How would you feel? What would you feel towards these so-called friends and invited guests?
This is precisely the situation Jesus describes in today’s Gospel story. A king is all ready for the wedding of his son. A royal wedding. A very special, privileged event! The royal invitations have gone out. Everyone knows who’s invited. And then on the day of the marriage feast, when the wedding hall is supposed to be filled and everyone is supposed to enter into the joy of the wedding, one by one all the invited guests start making up excuses about why they can’t come.
Each one makes light of the day’s special event and dismisses their invitation because they prioritize other things over the wedding feast. The first one says “I am too busy with my work. I can’t get away from my business. You know how it is. I have important things to do with work, and here lies my priority. Sorry I can’t break away from my busy schedule and attend the wedding.”
Think about this excuse. How many of us place our work and our profession above all else, and we relegate God’s invitation to His mystical feast as secondary?
Another gives the excuse that he just bought some new properties, he has some new “toys” he must attend to. He has prioritized his material possessions, or his hobbies, or entertainment above God’s priorities. Doesn’t that well represent today’s spirit for many people?
And a third guest makes up the excuse that he just got married and has to attend to his own bride. Now this third excuse represents the priority of family. Of course, family is an extremely important part of our lives, and needs to be a priority, but in this instance, the king’s special event and invitation comes first.
Family. Work. Possessions. Hobbies and Entertainment. Each one of these things fight for our attention and want us to prioritize them first in our lives.
Jesus shares this story with His disciples right after last Sunday’s story about unfaithful followers, those to whom God has given much, and yet they were unfaithful stewards of all that God had given them. They became ungrateful and greedy servants who forgot that all they have is first a gift from God, given to them freely. This story is followed up by today’s example of unfaithful followers, people who prioritize everything before God, and seem uninterested in participating in the feast of God’s heavenly kingdom!
Our lives are often filled with many things pulling for our attention, trying to make us prioritize each one of them first in our lives. Jesus tries to use an illustration that would best exemplify for his listeners how offensive this mixing up of priorities is. If a king is celebrating a wedding feast, and we are invited, it is such an incredible honor and privilege. To dismiss this special event, and place our everyday cares before it, shows how mixed up our priorities actually are.
As Christians and followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to make God first in our lives. We are to allow Him to be a part of every aspect of our lives, and invite Him to sanctify everything we have, to seek His blessing in all that we do, and to be present in every aspect of our lives.
Let’s not be the unfaithful and ungrateful servants, but let’s strive to make God and His Kingdom our priority, entering into the joy of God’s heavenly celebration, and partaking of His invitation to seek first the kingdom of God!
Holy Father John the Righteous, disciple of St. Gregory of Decapolis; Euthemios the Enlightener of Karelia; Cosmas, Bishop of Calcydon; John the New Martyr of Epiros; Athanasia the Wonderworker of Aegina
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