December 17, 2023

Homily Two for the Eleventh Sunday of Luke (St. Luke of Simferopol)

A Call to the Wedding Feast

Matthew 22:1–14

(Delivered on September 8, 1947 - 
Monday of the 14th week of Pentecost)

And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding."' But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both wicked and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matt. 22:1–14)

What kind of wedding feast was the Lord Jesus Christ talking about? About that feast in the Kingdom of Heaven, to which many, many are invited. He Himself called, called intensely, and the holy prophets who were long before Him also called; He called everyone to follow the path of righteousness, to go to the Kingdom of God.

And what? No matter how strenuously they called, almost everyone refused to go: they did not need a feast in the Kingdom of God; everyone was looking for another feast, they wanted to enjoy the benefits and successes of this earthly life. There were many things on which they based their earthly well-being, and they had no time for a feast, they did not need a spiritual feast, a feast of truth, a feast of spiritual joy, a holy feast.

They refused, citing the fact that they were busy with their own affairs, and there were those who insulted and killed those sent. These are the Jews - mainly the leaders of the Jewish people - who insulted and killed their prophets, who called them to the Kingdom of God.

The servants came and reported to the organizer of the feast that no one wanted to go; they told how his servants were insulted and killed. The king was angry, sent his army and destroyed their city. In fact, everything was like this: the Lord destroyed Jerusalem for the crucifixion of His Son. In the 70th year from the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Romans came with the commander Vespasian, who was replaced by his son Titus, and laid a siege of Jerusalem: a siege so terrible that your heart shudders when you read about the horrors of this siege, when they ate each other, when mothers cooked their babies and ate them. Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed.

This, you see, has come true, it has come true completely. What did the organizer of the feast do when evil people did this to his servants? He again sent his servants, but no longer to the nobles, not to the rich, not to the leaders of the people of Israel: in all the streets and crossroads his servants gathered everyone - the poor, the crippled, the evil and the good.

And they brought them to the feast, and the feast was filled with those reclining. These were the poor and simple people whom He first called to follow Him. From among the simplest He chose His apostles. He always gave preference to people whom everyone despised, so He called publicans, tax collectors, to the feast, whom the people hated for their oppression, bribes, for untruth in collecting taxes; He called for harlots who wet His feet with their tears and wiped them with their hair. This is how the feast was filled.

And who is this unfortunate person whom the owner of the feast ordered to tie up and throw into the pitch black darkness? This was the one who was not in wedding garments, the one who was called to a feast in the Kingdom of God, to a feast in the company of saints, but did not have spiritual garments, his clothes were dirty and not festive. This was a man illumined and sanctified in the mystery of baptism, but then he forgot his dignity. This man was a participant in the truth, but led a sinful and ungodly life, and was stained with vices. His spiritual clothing was dirty, he had no place in the company of saints, and therefore he was condemned and thrown into utter darkness.

So it will be with us, Christians, called to follow Christ, to go to the feast in the Kingdom of God, so it will be with everyone who finds themselves in dirty rags, not in wedding clothes, who is stained with sins, with everyone who places nothing on the sanctification received at baptism.

How terrible it is, how countless are the people who do not want to follow the call of Christ, have despised all the calls of the Lord, all His commandments, gone their own way, served their flesh, following the commandments and seductions of the world, who preferred a worldly feast to a spiritual feast in the Kingdom of God.

They will all perish, no one will be a participant in the feast of Christ, a participant in the Kingdom of God, and many of them will suffer God’s punishment in their earthly life, which is spoken of in the parable about the extermination of these who refused to go to the feast. The Lord, being angry, will destroy, like a cobweb, the unclean, unholy intricacies with which they arranged their well-being on earth, preferring this bliss to the bliss of the Kingdom of God.

May such horror not happen to any of you, may you all be participants in the feast of Christ in the Kingdom of God. Let none of you be dressed in stinking rags! Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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