The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (14:16-24)
Today’s gospel reading is given to us traditionally two Sundays before Christmas (the feast of Nativity). This Sunday is called the Sunday of the Forefathers or Ancestors of Christ. On this Sunday we hear this parable about the man who gave a great banquet. This reading is specifically appointed for this day, but the question is why?
What does the Sunday of the forefathers of Christ have to do with this parable about the grand banquet? The short answer is EVERYTHING. The man in the parable is the living God. This living God whom we worship and serve, has been inviting men and women into His great banquet for a few thousand years. He has extended this invitation to many, throughout the generations of the people of Abraham, and the generations that lead up to the Messiah Himself. But the sad truth is that while the invitation has been given freely, so many people have ignored or plainly rejected the invitation to come and to sit at the table with the Lord and to dine in His presence, to be treated to the most amazing banquet that we can possibly imagine.
As we prepare for the coming feast where we celebrate the earthly birth of the Lord and His taking on of human flesh, we are reminded that there were many who came before the Lord, who are related to the Lord. There are many who were invited, but only a few were ultimately chosen to taste of the Lord’s banquet. Two thousand years after the birth of Jesus Christ, we can say that in this regard, not much has changed. More people have been invited to this banquet, in fact, billions have been invited to this banquet. Yet the Lord is telling His servants to go out to the streets and lanes of the city, and to the highways and hedges in order to find more guests. He does this because He desires that His house may be filled.
We are part of those who are given an invitation to the banquet. In fact the Liturgy which we serve every week is a sign and symbol, a foreshadowing and a confirmation of the reality of this banquet. This mission alone has around 120 members. But where are those who were invited? Could they not afford the ticket? It was free. Could they not understand the services? They are said in the language of the land. Could they not find a seat? The seats are plentiful. Did they not receive an invitation? Far from it! The invitation is universal. Christ our Lord is inviting us to His heavenly banquet, to salvation, which is in truth a process of uniting with us and with our hearts. When we move past this little community we see the same thing in each of the churches. So many invited, so few who responded. What is worse is that these same people respond with eagerness to the invitations of the world, the world from which we are called to be holy and separate. So they run to parties, they plan for sports, activities, and leisure even on the day of the Lord. In addition people are toiling, sweating, worrying, and spending their lives to work for and buy gifts and toys and distractions that will not benefit us much in the long run. A heartfelt letter or card, or time together is more precious than most of the gifts we give. In the business world, those who make purchases are called consumers. But in truth it is what we purchase that often consumes us. It is what we possess that often possesses us. The Lord reminds us of this when He says, “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
What about us? We are here, physically present in the church. But where is our heart today? Where has our heart been during this fasting season? Where has our heart been all along, for the previous days, weeks, months and years? Christ has invited us to prayers every day, how have we responded? He has invited us to read His holy words in the gospels, how did we answer Him? Christ has shown us the examples of His multitude of saintly men and women, have we read their stories and imitated their lives? Christ has invited us to receive the greatest possible gifts and treasures, things that eyes have not seen nor ears heard. The Lord loves us so much that He has not only invited us to the banquet, He has clearly demonstrated the way to get there. He even grabs us by the hand and walks us there, if we are willing to be led by Him. My brothers and sisters, life is short, the invitations have been received by each of us, and the time to respond is now!
Without Christ there would be no great banquet, no Christmas, no festivities at all! Without Christ we would have no forgiveness, no surpassing joy, no freedom from sin and death, no resurrection. Without Christ we are nothing but dead, inside and out. With Christ there is festive joy, forgiveness, freedom, life and resurrection. This is the joy and the meaning of the invitation given by Our Lord Jesus. He comes to us as a pure and innocent babe that we might choose to come to Him in purity and innocence of heart. He comes to us as poor, that we might come to Him and receive true wealth. He comes to us to give us the gift of His life, that we might die to our old ways and accept His invitation to a banquet of true life with Him and in Him! To Christ be the glory, with His Father and the Holy Spirit, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages AMEN.