The Important and the Urgent

Gospel Commentary for 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

ROME, OCT. 10, 2008 (Zenit.org).- It is instructive to consider the reasons why those who were invited to the feast described in the parable refused to come. Matthew says that they “ignored” the invitation and “went away, one to his farm, another to his business.” Luke’s Gospel is more detailed on this point and presents the reasons for the refusal of the invitation thus: “I have purchased a field and I must go look at it … “I have purchased five yoke of oxen and am on my way to see them” … “I have just married a woman, and therefore I cannot come” (Luke 14:18-20).

What do these different people have in common? All have something urgent to do, something that cannot wait, that demands their immediate attention. And what does the wedding feast represent? It indicates the messianic goods, participation in the salvation brought by Christ, and, therefore, the possibility of eternal life. The feast represents something important in life, indeed, the only important thing in life. The mistake of those who rejected the invitation is clear, then: They have left the important for the urgent, the essential for the contingent! This is a widespread and insidious danger, not only in the sphere of religion but also in the purely human sphere. It is something worth reflecting on.

First of all let us consider the religious sphere. Neglecting the important for the urgent in our spiritual life means continually putting off our religious duties because there is always something urgent calling for our attention. It is Sunday and it is time to go to Mass, but there is that visit, that work in the garden, that lunch to prepare. Mass can wait, lunch cannot; so you put Mass off and go to your stove.

I said that the danger of neglecting the important for the urgent is also present in the human sphere, in everyday life, and I would also like to reflect on this. It is of the utmost importance that a man dedicate time to his family, be with his children, talk to them if they are grown, play with them if they are little. But then at the last moment there are always urgent things to deal with at the office, extra things to do at work, and he puts it off till another time, returning home too late and too tired to think about anything else.

It is a very important thing for a man or a woman to go every so often to visit their aging mother of father who is living alone at home or some care facility. For everyone it is important to visit a sick friend to show your concern and perhaps offer them some practical help. But it is not urgent and if you put it off, it does not appear that the world will end and perhaps no one will notice. And you put it off.

The same is true in regard to your health, which is also something important. The doctor sees that you need to take care of yourself, take some time to rest, avoid stress. … You answer, “Yes, yes, I’ll definitely do it just as soon as I’m done with that project, when I’ve finished working on the house, when I’ve paid off all my debts. … Until you see that it is too late. Here is where the problem lies: You go through life chasing after the thousand little things and never find time for the things that truly impact human relationships and can give joy (or deep sadness when neglected) in life. Thus, we see how the Gospel is, indirectly, a school of life; it teaches us to establish priorities, to attend to what is essential. In a word, to not lose the important for the sake of the urgent as happened with those who were invited to the wedding feast in our parable.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Father Raniero Cantalamessa is the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 25:6-10a; Philippians 4:12-14.19-20; Matthew 22:1-14.

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