14th Sunday after Pentecost.
Last Sunday we heard the parable of the vineyard owner who had prepared everything necessary for a fruitful harvest and the wicked and negligent tenants who were entrusted to care for the vineyard. We heard how the vineyard owner sent messengers to them and how they were ignored, abused, and killed – finally the owner sent his own son and his son was also killed. This parable was a warning and a prophecy to wake up the Pharisees who were the recipients of God’s many messengers (the prophets) and who beheld Christ, the Son, before them.
Today’s Gospel provides us with another parable, that of the wedding feast. A king arranged a marriage for his son. He prepared a great feast and sent his servants out to invite all of their friends and family. But what happened? Those invited were too busy and had endless excuses to not attend. When the king heard this, he struck out at these negligent people and instead went out into the highways to invite anyone who they came upon. He clothed them in wedding garments and brought them into the feast.
This parable was spoken by our Lord immediately after having given the parable of the vineyard – and in many ways it serves to further illustrate and illuminate the same point: our Lord was making it very clear to His chosen people and to the Scribes and Pharisees that were representing the Jewish nation, that they were being called by God to enter into His feast and that they had been and were continuing to be in danger of ignoring this call.
Christ forewarned His people of this in the early days of Holy Week… as a last call to repentance before the terrible deeds of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion took place.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ… Each week we are invited to the most glorious wedding feast in the world – the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Do we, like the guests invited to the wedding, make light of it – going our own way to our business, pursuing our pleasures, preoccupied by whatever distractions or excuses might keep us from the feast? If only we had our spiritual eyes open and would realize and see the miraculous events which take place at these divine services – where the saints, the Most Holy Mother of God, and God Himself are so very near to us – indeed at each liturgy the Lord Himself comes to us offering His Own Body and Blood for our sanctification and spiritual consolation and strength. What could be more important than such an invitation, such a Heavenly Feast? What distracts us, what gets in our way, what holds us back from attending God’s invitation and from showing up on time - with love and attention and devotion?
Indeed, in every moment of our lives God is calling us into the feast of loving communion with Him. He stands at the door of our heart and He patiently knocks… Are we too busy, too distracted with our self-importance to respond to Him? We need to examine ourselves and ask the question: ‘What will matter at the end of my life?’ So much of what we hold in such great importance are really nothing but distractions in the great scheme of things. If we truly love and value our Lord, there should be nothing so important that it overshadows and gets in the way of responding to His call.
Let us not fool ourselves by convincing ourselves that we are too busy to respond to the call of God. Prayer and attentiveness to the call of God are primarily matters of the disposition of our heart. You may indeed be busy from dawn to dusk… but you have the freedom to direct that disposition of your heart no matter what earthly tasks may be preoccupying you. You can attend to the duties life puts before you, but attend to them with love for God in your heart. And, if you train yourself to do so, you will discover that nothing can or should separate us from the love of God. If we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all things are added unto us!
Returning to the Gospel passage of those invited to the wedding feast, we see that there was a man who was not properly clothed in the wedding garment. The host called him on it and said “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” And the man was speechless... The king then had him ‘bound hand and foot, taken away, and cast into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen’.
This is a very sobering passage and one which should cause us to stop and think seriously about what it means to us. What is this wedding garment that we are to be wearing when we come to the feast of Christ?
The same God Who invites us to His feast also provides us with the appropriate garment. It is the white robe of purity, repentance, and selfless love. St. Paul speaks of this robe when he says, ‘For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ’ (Gal. 3:27). At baptism we are cleansed of sin. We are made pure. Yet it is not only at baptism that we put on Christ; if we are true and struggling Christians, we are to put Him on every day. Every day we are to clothe ourselves with His compassion, His kindness, His lowliness, His meekness, His patience, His forgiveness, and above all His love, which binds everything in perfect harmony (Col. 3:12-24).
Our great need today is to wrap ourselves up in the grace of God regularly through faith, prayer, reading the Holy Scriptures, the Sacraments and the total relinquishment of our life into God’s hands. The person who daily wraps himself up in the grace of God covers the nakedness of his soul, and is ‘clothed’ with a security that fears neither illness nor death. In the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us.’ (Romans 8:35-37).
May this be our prayer! May we be good stewards of the blessings given to us by God. May we hear and heed the generous invitation of God to come to His feast, taking care to wrap ourselves in the garment of salvation through heartfelt prayer, sincere repentance, and selfless love. And may the peace and joy that God gives so generously, dwell in our heart all the days of our lives!