THE LORD TOLD THIS PARABLE, "A certain man gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is ready now.' But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it. Please accept my regrets.' Another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out. Please accept my regrets.' Another said, 'I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.' So the servant returned and reported this to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.' And the servant said, 'Master, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.' Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner, for many are called, but few are chosen.'"
The upcoming Sunday (two Sundays before the Nativity of the Lord) on the Julian calendar (aka the Old Calendar), we remember all the holy Forefathers - Abraham and his lineage, who are all earthly ancestors of Christ. Abraham was chosen for his righteousness to become the father of a God-chosen nation, whose singular purpose was to prepare the whole world for the coming Messiah. God also promised Abraham and his descendants that, if they obey God and follow Him, He will bless and multiply them more than the stars in the sky and sand on the beach. We see the fulfillment of this promise in Christ and those who become part of His Body, His Holy Church.
So where does the above Gospel lesson come in our commemoration of the holy Forefathers? As we read through the Old Testament, we see that God's chosen people did not, in fact, always obey and follow Him. They would obey and follow for some time, then fall away and worship idols, this would enrage God, for He is a Jealous God (He said so Himself, see Exodus 34:14), people would repent, only to fall away into idolatry again. And the cycle repeats, a lot. Not everyone who was chosen by God inherited all His promises in the end. All of God's promises were fulfilled in Christ, and as we read in the Gospel accounts, quite a few of God's chosen people rejected the promised Messiah.
Therefore, the parable that Christ tells above seems to reflect this. A certain master of a house threw a huge party and he sent out his servant to call those who were already invited. It wasn't a surprise party, all those people knew that it would eventually happen, they just didn't know when. Just like Israel, God's chosen nation, knew that eventually the Messiah will come, they just didn't know when. When He finally came and called them ("Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17), was His call), some made up excuses of why they couldn't answer His call, others rejected Him, while yet others decided to kill Him because He did not live up to what they imagined the Messiah should be like.
In the parable, in his rage, the master of the house told his servant to invite, basically, all and any off the streets, "so that [his] house may be filled." This is where the Gentiles (literally, all the non-Jews) come in, those who were not chosen by God for a special mission, yet to whom the promise of the Messiah was also given (for this promise we need to go all the way back to Genesis 3). God's Kingdom will be filled with those who love Him, those who obey Him, those who follow Him. Not everyone who was initially invited will answer the call; therefore, God extends the invitation to everyone.
In the Gospels we see Christ dining and talking and healing all sorts of social outcasts - from the prostitutes to the tax-collectors. And they answered His call, and they got a seat at the heavenly banquet because they were ready to repent, to change their life at the core.
Today, the invitation to this great heavenly party is also extended to all. We, if you will, acknowledge this invitation when we received the baptism. We don't know when the final call to join the party will come. All we know is that it will come. Hence, the reason why Christians emphasize vigilance so much. As the parable and the history of God's chosen nation show, those who acknowledged the invitation will not necessarily be ready to answer the call. Just because we are Christians, and show up to church on Sundays, and try to be decent people, does not mean that we will be ready when the call comes.
Christian life is not only vigilance, it is also growth in faith, growth in Jesus Christ. If we are able to do some small good acts today, or this week, or this month, or this year (you get the point), then we strive to do a bit more tomorrow, or next week, etc. In the same way, if I have some detrimental behaviors, I try to improve and become less bad, each day, each week, etc.
This vigilance and growth ensure that we will not miss the call. God will not call twice. "Many are called, but few are chosen." Let us work on being the chosen ones.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest