Father Cantalamessa on Gospel Priorities

A Commentary by Pontifical Household Preacher

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ROME, OCT. 7, 2005 (Zenit.org).- In his commentary on this Sunday’s readings, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, warns of the danger of losing out on the important things in life.

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Matthew 22:1-14

What is important?

It is instructive to note the motives that made the guests of the parable refuse to attend the banquet. The evangelist Matthew says that they «made light» of the invitation, «and went off, one to his farm, another to his business.» On this point, Luke’s Gospel is more detailed and gives these reasons for the refusal: «I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it … I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them … I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come» (Luke 14:18-20).

What do these persons have in common? All three have something urgent to do, something that cannot wait, that requires their immediate presence. And what does the nuptial banquet represent? It indicates the messianic goods, participation in the salvation brought by Christ, therefore, the possibility to live eternally. The banquet represents, therefore, what is important in life, more than that, the only thing that is essential. It is clear therefore what the error was that was committed by those who were invited. They neglected the important for the urgent, the essential for the contingent!

This is such a widespread and insidious risk, not only on the religious but also on the purely human plane, that it is worthwhile to reflect on it a bit, above all on the religious plane. To neglect the important for the urgent means to put off the fulfillment of religious duties because there is always something urgent to do. It is Sunday and it is time to go to Mass, but there is a visit to be made, work to be done in the garden, and dinner to be prepared. The Sunday liturgy can wait, not dinner; then Mass is postponed and one gathers around the cooking pot.

I have said that the danger of omitting the important for the urgent is also present in the human realm, in everyday life, and I would like to refer to this also. It is certainly important for a man to dedicate time to his family, to be with his children, to talk with them if they are older, to play with them if they are small. But at the last moment urgent things always appear that need to be taken care of in the office, extras to do at work, and time with the family is put off for another occasion, ending up by returning home late, too tired to think of anything else.

It is a moral obligation for a man or a woman to visit their elderly parent who lives alone or in a residence. At times it is important to visit a sick acquaintance, to show one’s support and perhaps offer some practical service. But it is not urgent; if postponed, the world won’t collapse and perhaps no one will even realize — so it is postponed.

The same happens when it comes to taking care of one’s health, which is also among important things. The doctor, or simply one’s body, warns that one must take care of oneself, take a period of rest, avoid that stress … One answers: yes, yes, I will do this without fail, as soon as I have finished this job, when I have cleaned the house, when I have paid all my debts … until one realizes that it is too late.

Herein lies the snare: one spends one’s life attending to one thousand little things that must be taken care of and having no time for things that really matter in human relations and that can give real joy (or if neglected, real sadness) in life. Thus, we see how the Gospel, indirectly, is also a school of life. It teaches us to set priorities and to attend to the essential. In a word, it teaches us not to lose the important for the urgent, as happened to those who were invited in our parable.

[Italian original published in Famiglia Cristiana; translation by ZENIT]

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