Sacred Moments & The Kingdom of God – On the Parable of the Wedding Banquet

In Orthodox Spirituality by Fr. Paul Jannakos0 Comments

The parable read for us today from St. Luke’s gospel shows that those originally invited to the banquet of God’s kingdom were unworthy of it because they thought so little of it.

The invitations was sent, but when the right time came each of these believed they had something more important to do: one bought a field and needed to examine it, another bought some oxen and needed to attend to them, and another was recently married himself and deemed that his marriage was more important than the marriage feast of God’s only Son. Christ first spoke this parable to His fellow Jews who, with the exception of a few, had forsaken the covenant of their fathers in favor of the love of the world. For indeed, “many are called but few are chosen.” Yet we also take these words to heart because they are just as much a warning for us as they were for the men and women of Jesus’ own generation. We, too, have each been called out of the world in order to become sons and daughter of the light, and as long we live in this world, there remains the very real possibility that we can choose the darkness instead, as did the men in today’s gospel.

Which leads us to the following question. Why didn’t these mean see fit to drop whatever they were doing and make good on the promise given to them by their Lord? How is it that these men failed to gain the gift of eternal life offered to them by their Creator?

The answer is simple. Because they were just too busy. There were other things that were more pressing, their work, their possessions, and their family commitments. These things took precedence over their entrance into God’s kingdom and thereby became obstructions to the purposes God had in mind for them. Yet what Christ is teaching us today is that when the call comes to us we must not only believe in the call but act upon the call. For as St. Paul says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in any one’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”

In the practical sense this is why during the course of our daily and weekly routines we “stop and drop” whatever we’re doing in order to attend to the “one thing needful.” First and foremost, we attend to the Liturgy and Sacraments of the Church because these are quite literally the Mysteries by which the Kingdom of Heaven is revealed to those of us here on the earth. For according to the gospel, wherever the Person of Christ is, there is His Kingdom, and it is through the Great Mystery of the Eucharist that the Son of God manifests Himself here on earth – in a way that nothing else can. Along we this we also attend to the call of Christ by making time for prayer and the study of the Holy Scriptures, for prayer is the opening of our hearts to the grace of the Holy Spirit and all It’s gifts.

But this is not all there is to say about the subject. Because if we take a closer to look at the scriptures and the lives of the saints, what we learn is that Gods invitation comes to us not only through the liturgy and the sacraments and prayer, but in many other ways as well. And here is what I mean. For each of us, there will be moments in our lives that are sacred moments because in whatever way God so chooses, He will manifest Himself to us in uniquely personal way. The Lord will meet us face to face as He did to all the saints. He will touch our hearts even if only for a moment. The Lord does so because it is through these epiphanic moments in our lives that He engenders within us the gift of faith. We see this in the call of Abraham from the land of Ur, in Jacob’s dream of the ladder from heaven to earth, in Moses’ vision of the burning bush, in Gideon’s vision of the Archangel Michael, in Isaiah’s vision of the Lord enthroned upon the Cherubim and Seraphim, in Samuel’s call while serving as an altar boy in the Temple, in the Lord’s revelation to Job through a whirlwind, in Elijah’s still small voice on Horeb, in David’s dance before the ark of the covenant as it entered into the city of the Jerusalem for the first time, in John’s baptism of Jesus when He saw the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove, and in Paul’s vision of the resurrected Lord after being knocked off his horse, just to name a few. The common denominator here is that these epiphanic moments happened at a time when these persons least expected it to happen. Yet these also did something that the men in today’s parable chose not to do. They responded to their invitation, to their call, and because of their lives were changed forever.

The teaching of the Church is that every human being on the face of this earth is given at least one of these sacred, epiphanic moments. We see this beautifully expressed in a hymn of the Matins called “From my youth,” which says, “Every soul is enlivened by the Holy Spirit, and is exalted in purity, illumined by the Holy Trinity in a sacred mystery.” Which brings us to the intended point of the parable, that when God’s invitation comes to us, and come it will, we must have the faith and the courage to lay aside anything that impedes our wholehearted response to grace. One of my favorite stories in the gospel is the calling of St. Matthew the Tax Collector who was sitting at his tax table in the town square with all of his money laid out in front of him. Christ came to him and simply said, “Follow me.” And Matthew does so by immediately standing up and walking away from it all, and he does so because he knew that this was the time of His visitation by the Lord and that there may very well never be an opportunity like it.

There should therefore no doubt in our minds that the same will happen to us. And when it happens, we must learn how to say with the psalmist, “For I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord.’” Amen.

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