Thank you for flying the Gospel of Matthew…

There’s an airline that boards people by group instead of by seat. This is extraordinarily interesting — particularly in the age of online check-ins.  Human behavior at its most curious.  And I am reminded of this by the gospel this past weekend.

There’s a king, a son, and a wedding feast. And 3 groups of invited guests.  Plus one.

The first group gets invited and doesn’t bother to come.

The second group gets invited and not only do they not bother to come — but they also kill the messengers/servants.

The third group gets invited and come to the wedding feast.

Then there’s the one guy who’s not dressed appropriately.

I read a pretty good commentary last week that broke it down pretty well:

Group #1: People who claim outward loyalty to the King, but whose inward actions are disloyal.

Group #2: People who claim outward loyalty, but inward and outward actions are disloyal. They take it a step further and actually offend the King directly by their treatment of his servants.

Group #3: People who claim outward loyalty and their inward actions reflect this in their showing up properly disposed and prepared. Although we are told they are “bad and good alike,” they do not seem to take issue with being the “3rd string.”

And then there’s *That Guy* — who shows up for the party — to eat, drink, and dance — but brings nothing to the table to give.

This could be applied to something as simple as going to Mass (although sometimes even that is not so simple…) or could be a challenge to evaluate our whole faith life and journey to see if we need a “rerouting.” Which group am I today?

And then there’s that airplane seating thing.

So when I am lucky enough to remember to check in online for my flight 24 hours in advance — I get to get on the plane and stow my carry-on luggage first. And naturally I choose either a window or aisle seat.  Then the next group gets on board.  They choose the other window and/or aisle seats.  Then there’s group C.  Poor group C.  They forgot to check in until they got the airport.  BOOOOO.  Middle seats and snarkey comments from flight attendants (“you’re not choosing furniture…”) and long-distance relationships with their carry-ons.

And then there’s That Guy. The Last Guy.  Maybe That Guy is a jerk — or maybe That Guy needs someone to help him.   I had a rather astute parent once claim it was the rest of the community’s responsibility to get That Guy a wedding garment.  I want to believe that That Guy needs to take responsibility for himself — but I would be wrong.  I teach others to give — by giving everything I have away and holding nothing back.

Although I think the wedding feast does have some correlations with how we actually get on the plane, I think how we treat the people getting on after us — regardless of which group we’re in — is perhaps more poignant. And I think that has something to do with how long ago our last conversion was.  Because faith formation is supposed to be lifelong, right?  Conversion–Formation–Evangelization is a never-ending process…isn’t it?  I’m always supposed to be in some version of one of those 3 stages…aren’t I?  We don’t use those 3 words very often…do we?

I think most of us start out as Group A in terms of God and church. We are the first on the plane so there’s nobody there but the flight attendants — who are welcoming and encouraging.  This is a little like our faith community should be.  Ready to welcome us — but we need to get it together, get seated, and be ready to give the same welcome to the next group.  Which only sort of happens.  By the time Groups B and C join us — on a plane or in our faith community…we have become a little less than enthusiastic.  Less eye contact.  More looking somewhere else.  Anywhere else than into someone’s eyes.  And…I like my space…my world…my understanding of things…of Jesus…God…faith…religion…my traditions.  New people or more people means the jig is up for me and my world.  If I have to let you sit in my row — my reality changes.  Has to get bigger.  Broader.  My groove is thrown off.  My stuff is challenged.

And so I think I will give you a dirty look instead.

Especially if you’re trying to take the middle seat.

We are called to do better than this. On a plane…but especially in our Catholic Church.  We are called by our baptism to Go. Make Disciples.  That’s it.  That’s all.  2 things.  I haven’t stretched myself far enough or learned how to pray well enough or broken myself open and fully out of my self-seeking box in my service of Go. Make disciples — until I am hanging on a cross.  And nobody has asked me to do that.  Seriously.

Jesus would probably have been in all 3 groups:

Group A — Jesus is greeting flight attendants, taking a window seat, making eye contact and actually inviting others to sit in his row.

Group B — Jesus is probably taking the middle seat instead of the aisle — to make the third person to the row more comfortable as well as to get close to Window Seat Person and start an immediate conversation…Jesus is all about community.

Group C — Jesus is not only trying to make eye contact — but he is calling me by name, inviting me into the conversation. Challenging my unease and giving me the courage to see — to really see — the dignity of each person’s life, faith journey, and cross.  When I am willing to look back at Jesus — I am also changed forever by the lives, faith journeys, and crosses of others. When I am brave enough to *encuentro* — encounter God’s people with authenticity and intimacy —  I learn to desire the experience of accompaniment.  Of journey.  Of ushering another person and allowing another to usher, to travel with me.

And That Guy — Jesus is in That Guy too. Just to see how I’ll do.

We are called to challenge ourselves this week to take a closer look at:

Who are these groups in my life when it comes to my faith community?

Which group am I in?

How does this understanding affect how I treat others?

How am I doing with my 2 tasks:

1.) Go.

2.) Make disciples.

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