Sermon on the Sunday's Gospel reading about those called to the Wedding Feast.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
Imagine you are invited to the most magnificent event of your life, but you are not told the time or date, only that it will happen, and that you have to be ready to come when called. Pretty inconvenient, right?
In the Gospel accounts we sometimes hear Christ calling someone to follow Him, and the person leaves everything and goes with Him. But we also hear of people who cannot, or rather do not want to, and they come up with excuses: I need to bury my father, I have a family, I have a job, and so on and so forth.
We just heard how those who were previously invited to a Wedding Feast were finally called to attend it. They were not just invited. They knew that the wedding would happen one day, but they no longer cared about the Wedding, they had more important things on their mind, so one went to his farm and another to his business.
The call was ignored, even though the invitation was received some time ago.
There are many ways of looking at what this Wedding Feast might be. It could be the description of the Kingdom of Heaven – not everyone will make the cut, some will care more about themselves and prefer to take their own path. And there are only two roads for us – Kingdom of God or hell. Or this Wedding Feast could be about Christ’s Church here on earth, where, similarly, some choose to avoid God or take Him lightly, the so-called spiritual but not religious. Or it might be the depiction of the Liturgy – the Feast is prepared and all things are ready, but the call is ignored because there are always other things to do. The Feast in this instance would be the Holy Communion.
Or this Wedding Feast that Christ is describing to us today is all three of these things together – our participation in the Liturgy within Christ’s Church that has a very concrete and specific end goal – the Heavenly Kingdom. Divine Liturgy is the manifestation of the Church here on earth, but it is also already a foretaste of the Heavenly Kingdom. And to this Feast we all have been invited. We received the invitation during our baptism. We have even received the wedding garment, which will be required at the time of the calling to the Feast. In baptism we put on Christ, He gave us the garment – that is Himself.
Today we are warned not to lose it. And lose it we can in many ways. Most of us don’t work on a farm or a field, like the person from today’s lesson, right? Wrong! Each of us has a field and a farm that we tend to every day. It’s our body. When everything else is taken away from us, the body is all we are left with, so it is only logical to take care of it. The problem arises when we forget why we do it. It’s not so that we can look better than others or be able to fit into the desired pair of jeans. No. We glorify the Lord in and through the body, so the attention we pay to it must reflect this reality. God gave it to us and He will require it back, if not in better shape, then in at least the same condition we received it.
The second person ignored the call for the Feast because he had business. There is a wonderful phrase: “Mind you own business, do not worry about what others are doing.” On the surface it seems to make sense, but today Jesus wants us to forget even our own business and fully focus on Him, on His words and His commandments. The time we waste attending to our body or to our own matters, might be the precious time when we miss the call to attend His Wedding Feast and lose the wedding garment.
We are also in danger of losing this garment if after the baptism, after rejecting and renouncing the world, we do not desire to accept (or even reject) some of the teachings of the Church, its Tradition. Becoming a member of the Church is similar to entering a corporation or a company, where one has to buy into the program, otherwise the time spent there will be miserable.
That’s why we hold so high the doctrines of the Church and its the Tradition. It’s madness to become a member of the Church and then try to pick and choose what I like here and what not so much, what should be observed and what can be avoided.
Sometimes it is tempting to say that the Church might not have a full grasp of our life today. We can see this in the confusion and misunderstanding, even among the faithful, in some of the hottest topics of debate in the world, be it abortion, so-called gay-marriage, or ways of procreation.
Any claims that the Church is out of touch with reality in these areas are baseless because the Church has always known what a murder of the innocent life is, what constitutes a marriage and what is a sin. Because of our human skepticism and lack of faith we sometimes lose track of things, especially Church’s teachings.
Our goal is to preserve the garment bestowed upon us and heed the call to attend the Feast, when it comes. Baptism by itself is not enough, even the Holy Communion by itself will not satisfy. The Church offers us ways of attaining this goal through prayer, fasting and the sacraments.
Prayer, both personal and corporate, and fasting, prepare our bodies for the glory of God. Christ fasted often, at one point for 40 days, and it did not lead Him into delusion, but to sober mind and soul. And He resisted the temptations of satan. He also prayed often, and received support from His Father.
In the end Jesus sacrificed Himself for us, so through Him, through putting Him on at baptism and receiving His Body and Blood at the Liturgy, we can constantly remind ourselves of the invitation to His Wedding Feast and remain vigilant for that call.
Unless otherwise specified, the articles here are posted by Father Aleksey, who has no sense of humor and is extremely straight forward.