The fall semester started yesterday for undergraduate students
here at Creighton University, and as I prepare to teach my first
class session, I cannot help but place today’s readings in
an educational context.
Though it is difficult to look beyond the irony of Jephthah’s
vow, the first reading has something to say to us about commitment.
Jephthah was faced with the almost impossible task of defeating
the Ammonites. In the face of his enemy, he vowed that the first
person to greet him would be offered as a burnt offering to the
LORD. His daughter, upon hearing the vow that he had made, committed
herself to honoring it. Most of us are familiar with the common
phrase: “Ham and eggs: The chicken is involved, the pig is
committed.” In that same light, Jephthah was involved in the
making and the carrying out of the vow, his daughter was committed
to keeping the vow.
My students come to class with various levels of commitment to the
task of education. Some are involved (offering resources and time),
others are committed (offering their whole selves to the process).
St. Ignatius asked his brothers and sisters to commit themselves
to the educational process, both as teachers and as students. I
believe mere involvement did not cut it with St. Ignatius.
The first reading asks us all to reflect on our own vocations, whatever
they may be. Are we involved in our vocations, or are we committed
In the Gospel reading, the king is frustrated because he made elaborate
preparations for the celebration of his son’s wedding, only
to have little or no interest from the invited guests. When I attend
conferences, I hear time and time again about instructors who get
frustrated when they make elaborate preparations for class sessions,
and only half of the students show up, or when those that do show
up are not fully engaged in the classroom activity.
These instructors want to share the joy of knowledge, the things
that they have learned and that those who wrote the textbooks know
and would like to share. They have high hopes that the students
who come to the class session are ready to learn and are as excited
about the subject as they are. Many are. Some are not.
So no wonder the king gets a bit miffed. The wedding feast sounds
like the event of the year – perhaps the event of the decade.
Who would not want to sit down amidst all of that finery, to take
part in something so much bigger than any individual? Someone would
have to be not in his or her right mind to refuse an invitation
to such a lavish feast, or to wear anything but a wedding garment.
Perhaps that was Jesus’ point. Perhaps he was talking with
a group of people who were not “in their right minds.”
Apply this to the Kingdom of Heaven, and it’s more difficult
yet to understand how an invited guest could turn down the invitation.
And once there, how could anyone remain disengaged from the event
that is taking place? Who could not get excited about the Kingdom
of Heaven? I repeat: The Kingdom of Heaven! Life with Jesus! The
communication of Angels and Saints!
Unlike the classroom, where only the “accepted” students
in good standing are invited to partake in the “feast,”
in the Kingdom of Heaven everyone is invited, the rich or poor,
the accepted or rejected, the young and old . . .
All we are asked to do is to commit ourselves to accept the invitation,
to bring our “right minds,” and to engage ourselves
in each and every moment. It doesn’t seem to be too much to
ask, however . . .
“. . . many are invited, but few are chosen.”