The story in today's Gospel is familiar to anyone who has ever given a party. When the invitations are issued everyone is enthusiastic -- what great fun it will be to get together with old friends. But a few hours before the actual time of the party the phone begins to ring off the hook with the excuses of those who cannot come: "I have bought a yoke of oxen," "I have married a new wife," "I have bought a farm," "please hold me excused. It is a pretty awful feeling after going through all the time, trouble, and expense that a party often entails.
Our Lord gives us this parable today in order to help us understand that God feels the same sort of distress with His people when we find excuses to ignore Him. After all, we are the only material creatures that He made able to be His friends -- "capable of God," as Saint Augustine says. Of all the earthly species, we are the only ones that can lift our minds to communicate with Him in prayer.
He has reached out to us, sending His invitation through His only Son, who gave us even easier means of communicating with the Father in the Mass and the Sacraments. Even if we lack the words to express our love for God, they are spoken for us in His liturgy, and His graces are infallibly received.
But, our relationship with God ought to be more than just an occasional communication. We are baptized but once; confirmed but once; only occasionally do we confess our sins; rarely (if ever) do we receive our Lord more than once a day in Holy Communion. There are many other hours left in the day. How do we spend those hours? And how can we spend them most profitably?
The answer, of course, is that we should spend a considerable amount of our time in prayer. And I would suggest, not just because of the name of our parish, and not just because it is October, that the most efficacious prayer that most of us can engage in is to pray our Lady's holy Rosary.
Why, you might ask, would I make such a claim? Why would I claim that the Rosary is the most effective prayer after the Sacraments themselves?
The answer is rather simple. It relates to the nature of prayer as our means of drawing close to God. God is somewhat abstract for us, even though we have been created for Him, and "capable" of Him. It helps somewhat that He chose to intervene in our history; to take human matter and form, and to be born of a woman; but that was two thousand years ago, and even more thousands of miles away. The Rosary helps us to overcome those limitations of time and space by meditating on the lives of Jesus and Mary, and considering the magnitude of what they did for us.
Those meditations are the most important aspect of the Rosary. It is not adequate -- and it would be rather boring -- to simply recite so many "Our Fathers" and Hail "Marys." That would reduce the Rosary to a sort of "Catholic prayer wheel," that prays almost without the attention of its owner. Instead, we pray most fruitfully by placing ourselves "in the scene," as though we were there for the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Agony in the Garden, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and even the Crowning of our Lady as Queen of Heaven.
If we pray the Rosary proper devotion, it is almost as though "we are there" with our Lord and Lady for the most important events of our redemption.
If I might give some practical advice, it would be two-fold. First, in order to properly meditate on the mysteries, it is imperative to be familiar with the events they are intended to call to mind. The Gospels (and the first chapter of The Acts of the Apostles) are the best source of this information. One needs to do more than just announce that the "third Joyful Mystery is the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem" -- it is so much more beneficial to be able to call to mind the details of that birth as they are narrated by Matthew and Luke.
The second piece of advice is to pray the Rosary with devotion. Again, it is not a prayer wheel -- not something to race through at top speed just in order to be able to say that we finished it. Better to say one decade every day with devotion than to say all fifteen as a mechanical process.
But, on the other hand, most of us can probably find time for at least five decades each day. If you will but a lot a few minutes in the morning for a decade, and then again in the evening, you will probably find a number of opportunities during the rest of the day to recite five decades or more.
But, whatever your time schedule, don't leave our Lord waiting -- ignored like the man who threw the party for his Son. Spend some time every day, meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary -- rejoicing with Jesus and Mary over the joyful events of our redemption!
Our Lady of the Rosary,
144 North Federal Highway (US#1), Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441