Welcome to All
Opening Question: Where do people feel in danger? Why do people feel danger in those places?
First Reading: Isaiah 25:6-10a
Robert loved his stuffed teddy bear. Holding the bear made him feel safe. He even had a name for the bear "Baby." When Baby looked out over Robert's room, he knew he was safe.
One day, Robert walked home after school alone. Usually he walked with his friends, but this day they were no where to be found. As he walked closer to home, Robert began to think about Baby and how good it would feel to hold his stuffed bear.
When Robert got home, he didn't find his mother there to greet him. So, he ran back to his room where Baby would be sitting on the shelf. When Robert entered his room, he gasped. Robert did not see his prized bear! Robert became frantic. He even began to look in places that scared him. Underneath his bed. And, finally his closet. He hated that closet! Monsters lived in there.
Out of the corner of his eye, Robert saw his white, furry friend in the darkest corner of the closet. Robert ran into the closet with all his courage, grabbed his Baby, and held it tight. What a relief!
Suddenly, the door to his room opened. "Robert," his mother said, "I didn't hear you come in the door. Did you have a nice day?"
"It's nice, now!" Robert exclaimed. "I have my Baby!" Then, Robert told his mother the entire story. His mother picked up both Robert and Baby. She gave them both a big hug.
That night, Robert's family had a special meal to celebrate his courage finding Baby. But, this night there was one extra place set, one for Baby.
Today's reading, God tells us everyone will be safe with him. Like Robert, we will no longer have to fear dark places like closets or streets without lamps or evil strangers. He will help us. And he will even have a special meal for us, just like Robert's family. We call that meal Eucharist.
Bridging Question: Have you ever planned a surprise party? Who did you throw the party for? What happened?
Gospel: Matthew 22:1-14
When Jesus visited the Temple, the priests and leaders questioned his right to teach the people. After he answered the challenge of the Temple leaders, Jesus told them:
The Kingdom of heaven is like this story. A king planned a huge feast for his son's wedding. He sent his servants to visit all the guests on the invitation list. But, none of the guests wanted to come. So, he sent more servants with a message. 'Tell everyone who was invited, 'Listen! Everything is ready. Come to the feast!' the king said. The guests didn't care, however. Some went back to their farms. Others went to the business they owned. The rest grabbed the king's servants, beat them, and killed them. The king became very angry. He sent out his soldiers who killed those murderers and burnt down their city.
Then, the king told his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready! Go and visit every street corner. Invite as many people as you find to the wedding feast.' Those servants went out and brought together everyone they found, both bad people and good people. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
When the king entered to visit his guests, he saw a man who did not put on wedding clothes. 'Friend, how did you get in here without the right clothes?' The king asked. But the man remained silent. So, the king said to the waiters, "Tie him up and throw him out of here! Drop him off in the darkest part of town where people cry and grind their teeth.'
Jesus finished the story with its moral, "God invites many people into his kingdom. But only a few choose to answer 'Yes'."
Danielle planned the best surprise party for her best friend, Sheila. Danielle got her entire family involved. Her mother ordered the cake, her father ordered the games, her brothers and sisters bought the decorations. Danielle personally picked out the invitations, wrote each one by hand, and mailed them to all her friends. Danielle's mother called Sheila's mother to make arrangements. Both women laughed on the phone as they made up the story they would tell Sheila on the day of her party. Sheila's mother would drive her over to Danielle's house. There, everyone would spring the surprise.
The day before the party, Sheila's mother called Danielle's house with bad news. Sheila's grandmother suddenly died and her family would travel out of town for the funeral. Danielle was very sad. Sad for her friend and sad for her own family who put in so much time and effort for the party. "What are we going to do with all the food and the decorations?" Danielle asked. That was a good question.
After some discussion, Danielle came up with the answer. "Let's take it to the homeless shelter. Maybe someone needs a party!"
Danielle's mother called the shelter. Sure enough, a homeless teenager had a birthday that week. A surprise party would cheer up the teen and the entire shelter. "We'll take the food and the decorations down to the shelter tomorrow," Danielle's mother said. "The party will be tomorrow night."
The next day, Danielle's family went to the shelter, decorated, and set up the food. When the homeless teens began to arrive, they stopped at the door and looked in awe. "What's going on here?" one said. "Wow!" exclaimed another. "When can we have cake?" a third asked. Finally, the lucky teenager arrived and the sounds of "Happy Birthday" rang throughout the shelter. The smiles and laughter echoed through the halls of the shelter and down the street. No one had seen the teens so happy in a long time.
"This is the best surprise birthday party we could have ever thrown," Danielle whispered to her mother. No one could argue with that. No one.
Like Danielle, God invites us to a party. Some of us don't want to go. Many do. When we reject God's invitation, he invites others, even the poor and homeless. God gives us a choice. Do we way "Yes?" And, do we invite others to join us at God's party? Danielle did when she shared her party with the homeless teens.
Closing Question: How can we share what we have with others? How can we celebrate our sharing? How can you talk to God about your sharing?