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Fr Billy Swan

Dear friends. There is a perception among many and even among many believers that our faith and religion is one big ‘NO’ to things that are enjoyable, fun and life-giving. Many think that religion and faith are about limiting our desires, taming our passions and putting a lid on our wants. The reality is the opposite. It is rather about owning our deepest desires, passions and wants, believing that the Gospel hones them, purifies them, directs them and turns them into forces for good.

Take a look at the Scriptures, beginning with the Garden of Eden. God created a garden that was bursting with life and good things. He then made human beings and placed them in the middle of the garden to flourish, to be blessed and be happy. Then there is today’s image of a banquet in both the first reading and the Gospel. To this banquet we are invited where there is no shortage of food, wine, joy and companionship. What both images of the garden and the banquet speak of is the happiness and joy for which we are made. God is interested in human flourishing and for this he gives us a share in his life and Spirit. Far from being an imposition or a restriction, our faith is an invitation to a truly good life.

But look what happens. Adam and Eve begin to lust after what they can’t have as they turn their back on God’s friendship. In the Gospel, the people who were invited to the wedding of the king’s son don’t want to come. Their minds are on other things. They don’t see the value of their invitation and are too busy with other distractions.

It has been said that the problem with consumerism is not that it makes us want too much but makes us want too little. It distracts us to chase after lesser things and consumes our attention, leaving us with no time and no energy to consider the things of greatest importance. The people in the Gospel who didn’t want to come to the banquet were busy with their farms and businesses. Others even turned violent. It is not difficult to see parallels today. Things like sports, entertainment and other social events now take priority in the lives of many over faith commitments. When you work in the schools as I do, the excuses you get for not being able to come to Mass on Sundays is not that people don’t believe anymore or that they are hostile. They just have other things to do.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that things like sports and entertainment are bad in themselves. But when they take priority over the practice of our faith and our participation in the Eucharist then trouble ensues. We begin to lose focus, lose our peace and then get angry which leads to violence as it does among the people in today’s Gospel.

Friends, God has made us for joy and wants us to do well. Never forget that. We might have to suffer and struggle for a while but this is part of life. Entering into God’s joy means making choices. It means saying ‘NO’ to some things in order to say ‘YES’ to our deepest desires and wants being met. We are not made for comfort but for greatness.

I conclude with a famous prayer of a saint whose feast day falls on 15th October, St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). It urges us to have our lives centered on God and his kingdom and to go to the banquet to which our God invites us.

‘Let nothing disturb you,

Let nothing frighten you.

All things are passing away:

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things.

Whoever has God lacks nothing;

God alone suffices'.


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