Excuses for All Occasions

Jesus told a parable about a certain man who prepared a huge banquet and invited a great many people to come and enjoy it. But right away, the excuses began to come in. Two of those excuses were immortalized in the old song, “I Cannot Come.” (Medical Missionary Sisters, 1965). Those two excuses were, “I have married a wife” and “I have bought me a cow.” (As very young sisters we used to sing, “I have bought me a wife… I have married a cow!” We thought we were clever!)

The man is understandably upset. He orders his servants to go and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. They do so, but there are still empty chairs in the banquet hall. So the man sends his servants out again to the “highways and hedgerows” for more people, and soon the banquet room is filled to capacity.

What about us? We readily receive invitations from Jesus under the umbrella invitation, “Come, follow me.” Often that means doing a “Jesus-like-thing” in some specific way. Some sample invitations are the following:

* be more patient with her

* speak more gently to him

* spend more time with your loved ones

* call your mother (or father, grandmother, grandfather, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, friend)

* forgive

* tell the truth

* send that donation to your struggling alma mater

* write that email to your congressman/woman

* give a hand with that parish project

* smile more

* slow down

* drive more graciously

* be kind to cashiers, store clerks, maintenance personnel

* let that person go ahead of you in line

* complain less

* thank a stranger

* get more involved in that vital issue of our day

* look at those flowers… that lake… those wispy clouds… those birds

* talk to me.

What excuses do we come up with to avoid these invitations, these urgings, these promptings of the Spirit? In case you can’t think of any, I have come up with a short list of 20 excuses to use for a wide variety of occasions. No need to fumble for an excuse any more. Just post these excuses on your desk, near your phone, or on your bathroom mirror. The next time you feel the Spirit inviting you to do something you don’t want to do, just say one of these:

  1. I’m too busy.
  2. I’m too tired.
  3. I’m too old (too young, too middle-aged)
  4. I’m no expert. Leave that to the professionals.
  5. Later. Not now.
  6. Ask someone else to do it.
  7. I’m not feeling very well.
  8. I have enough on my plate already.
  9. I’m too shy.
  10. It’s none of my business.
  11. I’m not good at that kind of thing. That’s not where my talents lie.
  12. I’ve never done anything like that before.
  13. I’m afraid.
  14. I’m learning to say “no.”
  15. I can’t hear you.
  16. Why me?
  17. Wait until I get my life in order first.
  18. That’s not my style of spirituality.
  19. How do I know this urging is even coming from Jesus?
  20. I don’t want to.

For reflection:

What excuses do you use the most to get out of doing certain things? How valid are they?

What excuse is the flimsiest. Why?

What excuse(s) would you add to this list?

PS: These past two weeks I’ve given two talks. On March 13 I spoke to some parishioners from Holy Spirit Church in Avon, OH. They came out to see our new Notre Dame Village on our provincial center property in Chardon. I enjoyed them very much! I want to thank Cynthia and Sr. Connie for taking care of the details. Then on March 21 I led a morning retreat for a group of women at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Chagrin Falls, OH. They too were an attentive and fun group to be with. Special thanks to Sr. Ann Marie and her committee for making the retreat run so smoothly! My next talk is April 10 at a luncheon for the Breath of Life group at St. Noel Parish in Willoughby Hills, OH. Then I’ll be flying to Florida to give a retreat in the St. Petersburg’s diocese on Saturday, April 27. Thank you for your prayers for these talks and retreats!

Below are two versions of the song I referred to earlier: “I Cannot Come.” The first uses visuals… the second shows the lyrics:


Here is the song with lyrics:

I’d like to invite you to respond to this reflection below… No excuses! (hee! hee!)



No Comments

  1. Ed Johnson on March 25, 2019 at 5:28 am

    In the interest of self-disclosure (an especially good Lenten practice) I offer the following: Personal Excuse #1: Jesus said to sell all you have and follow me. Can’t I just keep the stuff and follow you, also, Jesus?…..Personal Excuse #2 (my favorite): Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day…….? Oh, I just violated excuse #2 by not putting off my response to your wonderful post. Thank you, Sister Melannie!
    Ed J.

  2. John E Hopkins on March 25, 2019 at 5:36 am

    Well, Sister Melannie, I’d say I’m guilty as charged for at least 18 of those 20 excuses. In fact, number 18, “That’s not my style of spirituality,” is one I’ve been wrestling with lately.

    This morning’s blog leads us into the desert of deep reflection.

    Difficult but necessary.

  3. Thomas DeFreitas on March 25, 2019 at 5:38 am

    Just claiming my seat at the table, & listening to everyone else. Thank you, Sr Melannie, for a profound and challenging reflection.

    Peace and light.

  4. Mary M Nausadis on March 25, 2019 at 7:52 am

    O-o-o-oh this is not somewhere I want to go which Of course makes it absolutely necessary! Being a 9 on the enneagram, this is definitely outside of my comfort zone. But I am going to work on the challenge of deep reflection on this. I am going on a silent directed retreat this weekend…..this may be the perfect time to work through some of these excuses.

    But really, isn’t being too old a genuine reason??????

    Thank you sister

  5. Kathleen Magiera on March 25, 2019 at 7:53 am

    Good Morning Sr. Melannie!

    My latest excuse is I’m too tired. So sad.

    Thanks for the Lenten challenge.


  6. Susan on March 25, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Good Morning. I’m a 1,2 & 11. Something to reflect on during Lent.

  7. Ann on March 25, 2019 at 8:33 am

    As always today’s reflection provokes much more reflection. We make excuses for all kinds of things! Amazing how we clear the list when there is a trip we want to take, etc.!
    My time during Lent 2019 has been filled with doing extra things for people such as the neighbor next door who is alone, The person who cannot get to the grocery store anymore, friend dealing with cancer, etc.
    The list of tasks we CAN do is endless.
    THANK YOU, Sr Melannie .
    Many Blessings,
    Ann in Germamtown WI

  8. Chris Keil on March 25, 2019 at 8:50 am

    WOW! That song sure takes me back! I remember hearing those records in school!!! Tee Hee!
    I’m sure I’ve used almost all of those at least once. How about……”it just doesn’t DO anything for me?”. “I don’t get anything out of it”, just to add a few more to the list.
    Good Luck at your talks. Wish I was closer so I could come.

  9. Barbara on March 25, 2019 at 9:18 am

    While all of those excuses have come up now and again, I am trying (very) to live as Jesus is asking me to live and I am so thankful for you, and others (Fr. Richard Rohr, Joyce Rupp, Henry Nouwen) are helping me and all those who are reading what you are saying. It is absolutely amazing that you are a part of my life. Thank you, thank you.

  10. Jean on March 25, 2019 at 9:47 am

    Good Morning Sister Melannie,
    What a cute little clip and with it so much food for thought.
    Thank you!!!

  11. Jim on March 25, 2019 at 9:49 am

    I am guilty of not accepting invitations “it is best to wait” is my poor excuse. Earlier today I was reminded of Mary’s yes and how it was not an easy yes but as the Spirit of our Lord gave Mary the strength so will our God give us the strength “to do the hard thing”. Happy Annunciation

  12. Carol on March 25, 2019 at 10:14 am

    I’m 2, 8, & 14….I’m ashamed to admit. However, it’s a real struggle to be available to others yet not feel guilty for not trying to do everything when life becomes so overwhelming. Thank the Lord, He knows my heart & can tell or give me a nudge when I’m truly making an excuse. This is a great exercise in examining our motives & conscience.

    Loved the song! What a cute, catchy song!

  13. Nancy Burlage on March 25, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Thank you! What a great way to start the day. The video is perfect, as usual. As a Seminary Sister withe the Daughters of Charity, I also sang that crazy lyric.

    This is one of the most practical Lenten reflections offered by anyone this season.

  14. Josita on March 25, 2019 at 11:20 am

    Good morning Melannie , I was ready to say I have no time to respond….but you laid the guilt on me!
    This was a great reflection…I find myself in each of those categories one time or another….will think twice before making an excuse next time…at least I’ll try!
    May this Lenten season lead you to a glorious Easter!
    Love, Josita

  15. Vicki on March 25, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Thank you.
    What a great way to start Monday.
    I’m glad Jesus wasn’t too busy to die for us.

    • Shirley on March 25, 2019 at 12:47 pm

      Thank you Sister Melannie, I so enjoy your blog. Guilty of many of your excuses you listed. Keeping you in prayers for your upcoming retreats.

  16. Patti on March 25, 2019 at 11:56 am

    Guilty as charged! Shame, shame on me… Time to re-think my purpose in his plan… I am OLD, but still here… Thanks for the kick of reality for me! Patti

  17. Marilyn Woidat on March 25, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    The song and the Lego Kin brought a smile and joy my way today, thanks.
    My golden rule when I needed to get people to volunteer for feet washing
    on Holy Thursday or for hot dog day at grammar school, etc, was to
    ASK A BUSY PERSON like the mother of ten kids, or a full time nurse
    who is scout leader or PTA president too. They always made time.

  18. Marty on March 25, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    I pondered this for a time. It is not easy to FIAT. Song was fun. I was invited long ago and traveled far to get there. I had on my favorite banquet shirt(sewen with pride of being special ). Well I found the table was surrounded with the poor, blind, lame, mentally challenged, deaf, criminals of the worst crimes ect. Well I was better than that, so I left. The good news: I got a second chance another invite and I have a new garment sewen with humolity. The joy is far beyond all I searched for, I am home and one of the family. No more excuses. Happy Easter.

  19. Denise on March 25, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Dear Sister,
    I had a good ole belly laugh as I read through the list of excuses! Why do we think we are so clever that no one suspects it’s all #20, plain and simple? Oh what a goose I am!

  20. Sr. Sue on March 25, 2019 at 3:14 pm

    This reflection was just what I needed to hear today. This past weekend I was part of a discernment reateat for nominees for leadership in my congregation. Of course I thought of every reason why I should take my name out of the running but your reflection has made me stop and think. God has invited me and the election in June will be by discernment so right now all they are asking is whether I am willing to keep my name in. WOW God is inviting me to the banquet and all I did was think of excuses as to why I couldn’t come to the feast!

  21. Toni on March 25, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Mine all seem to be related 3, 4, 6, 11, 12, 13, 16, 20, with 8 & 9 close behind. But they all say “I’m not good enough” in different ways. Thanks for bringing up this very necessary “self-exam.” Peace to all! ✝️

  22. Tom on March 25, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    Your list of 20 excuses trumps any examination of conscience I have ever seen!
    My most flagrant excuse was (is) “Well, I HAVE TO go now,” which is just another way of saying, “I’ve done my good deed here by showing up, but now I have decided it’s time to go.” However, by using the phrase HAVE TO I imply that, despite my very hectic schedule, I still took time to show up. I have entitled this the sin of “tokenism.”

  23. Mary Robertson on March 25, 2019 at 11:14 pm

    Thank you, Sr Melannie! Your column is always a highlight of my Monday morning reflections, but today’s was exactly the message I needed to receive now!

    • carol on March 26, 2019 at 11:44 am

      I have been giving in to “I’m too tired” for a long while. Between you, Melannie, and Joan Chittister who says something like when you feel tired just get up and do something, I’m getting going. Thank you and blessings for Lenten journeys calling us to say, “Yes!”

  24. Mary on March 26, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    I have used every single excuse in the list at one time or another. 🙁

  25. Theresa Marie Mancuso on March 26, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    Dear Sister Melannie,
    This is a fabulous piece and I want to thank you. I CANNOT COME, never heard the song before but itis bouncy, peppy, and SPEAKS THE TRUTH.
    God bless you, Sister.

  26. Lori on March 26, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    My excuses are that i just do not have the words to express my sentiments
    nor the experience to validate anything that i could respond w

  27. Lori on March 26, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    just read two of the responses sent to you—Very Good!! Wish i had thought of it.

    I Really am going to try harder next weeks post.

  28. Jean Canatsey on March 29, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    Loved the song! Haven’t heard it in a long time.
    At 79, I’ve probably used all of those excuses at one time or another. My current one is most likely, “My plate is too full.” However, one of my dearest friends (who just happened to also be a priest) died last week. He was one of the busiest people I have ever met and yet never was too busy to answer (or promptly return) my phone call or to meet for breakfast when my husband and I happened to be in town. I hope God allows cell phones in heaven because I still will be dialing his number.
    I think I really need to pay more attention to the invitations than to the excuses at this point. We have a 61 year old disabled daughter who lives with us and I need to forgive her for the baggage she brought with her, be more patient with her and speak more gently to her. If I can accomplish those things, I will have had a good Lent.

  29. Amy Secrist on April 2, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    Hi sister, this is a lovely post. I especially like the part about following Jesus is doing a Jesus like thing. Two excuses that you list, I’m learning to say no and that’s not my type of spirituality I think could use some caveats. I do think it’s wise for some people to not say yes to everything. I think when we say yes we should use discernment. Just as when we say no we should use discernment for that decision as well. And as far as personal spirituality goes, I think we are all entitled to it! That being said it is nice to try something new because you might think you don’t like it but then you do. The worst thing that can happen is that you can realize you were correct in that you didn’t like it in the first place 🙂

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