A HOMILY FOR THE TWENTY-EIGHTH
SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

About the Parable of the Great Supper

 

          Brothers and sisters!

 

          Today we heard Saint Luke’s version of the parable of the great supper, a variant of the story about the wedding of the King’s son from Saint Matthew, which we heard some weeks ago.  The Holy Church regards the lesson taught by this parable as so important that it is presented twice, on two separate Sundays, the day when all the faithful are expected to be in church.  On the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost we are read one version, and on the second Sunday before Nativity, another, although this means that the opportunity for presenting a different lesson is lost thereby.

          And so what, dear Christians, does this parable, which is so important that it is read on two Sundays of the liturgical year, tell us; what does it teach us?  It tells about how a certain man prepared a rich feast; about how those invited disdained his invitation, making up various excuses for their absence; about how the man sent his servant to summon other guests – the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind – to come in place of those originally invited; and about how none of those men which were originally bidden were allowed to taste of the supper.

          We all understand, I think, that Christ did not tell this story only for the benefit of those present on the day He spoke it, and that the Holy Church does not repeat it solely as a matter of historical interest.  Therefore, it is clear that we must apply the parable to ourselves.  Those invited to the supper are all of us.  Through Baptism, Chrismation, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we are summoned to enjoy the blessings of the Kingdom of heaven, of which the supper in the story is a figure.  All that remains for us to do is to enter into the Kingdom, by not proving ourselves stubborn; by not offending the good and loving Lord of the Kingdom or, as this version of the story has it, the master of the house, spurning His kindness or rejecting what He offers.  But here is where the trouble begins.  We find many, many excuses not to join in the feast.  Of course, none of us actually say that we refuse to enter the Kingdom, but what we do not say in words, we say very clearly by our deeds:  namely, by our lack of faith, our failure to repent and amend our ways, our hardening in sinful habits, our pandering to the flesh, our friendship with the world, and our obsession with fleeting pleasures and earthly concerns.  These do not permit us to think about God and the soul even for a minute, much less to love God with our whole mind and heart, though He has shown us boundless love by creating us, by bestowing innumerable blessings upon us and, especially, by sending His Only-Begotten Son to save us.

          Without real, living faith, and without correction of the heart and one’s way of life, it is impossible to enter the chamber where the supper is held; it is impossible to enter the Kingdom.  Repentance is the one and only means by which the conscience and soul of the sinner may be cleansed.  It provides the wedding garment essential for the supper.  It is repentance that imparts to the soul the proper disposition for entering the Heavenly Kingdom, the desire for partaking of its blessings.  The sinner alien to repentance remains devoid of fervent desire for eternal blessings, of zeal for them, just as a seriously ill person has no hunger for food and makes no effort to obtain it.  That is why in Saint Matthew’s version of the parable, the master of the house (called, as we said, a king), asks one of the guests, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?1 meaning, how did you come in, not having the purity of heart before God that is born only of fervent repentance.  And when the man could give no answer, the King commands his servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  For many are called, but few are chosen.2

          God’s supper or Kingdom is the inheritance of the chosen, of those who hate sin, repent of it, and with all their strength love God and His righteousness:  it is the inheritance of the devout.  But nowadays most people would admit to the supper or the Kingdom of heaven everyone without distinction, saying that God is merciful and therefore pardons everyone, regardless whether or not they repent.  As a result, they would populate heaven with impenitent drunkards, fornicators, adulterers, thieves, murderers, rapists, unbelievers, and freethinkers, with impenitent sinners of every sort.  They think that God saves us against our own will, without our consent or cooperation, and without fervent repentance on our part, even if we are a blasphemer, or a sodomite, or a hard-hearted miser; even if we refuse to forgive others their trespasses.

          No, brothers and sisters.  This way of thinking is simply fantasy.  Be not deceived; God is not mocked,3 writes Saint Paul; and David says that he that worketh evil shall not dwell near the Lord, nor shall transgressors abide before His eyes.4  For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, and the way of the ungodly shall perish.5

          Others – and these are more and more in number every day – go even further, and deny the very existence of both Paradise and Gehenna.  They proclaim that man’s end is utter oblivion, although they know very well that in nature almost everything is reborn, or changes form, or passes from one mode of being to another.  From this they ought to understand that it is impossible that man, the king of this world, God’s highest creation on earth, should entirely cease to exist.  Such a notion is nothing if not the boldest blasphemy against God, against His infinite righteousness and holiness, against His infinite love for mankind, and against the Lord’s fidelity to His own nature and the unalterable truth of His every word.  Till heaven and earth pass, says Christ, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law;6 that is, everything I have decreed is true and shall be fulfilled, down to the last comma or apostrophe.  Thus the one and the other – both of them deluded by insane modern, anti-Christian ways of thought – reject the words of God Incarnate Himself, clearly set forth in today’s Gospel.

          If upright, proper people can hardly bear to have shamelessly, dishonorable persons in their house for a few hours, do you think, brothers and sisters, that impenitent sinners will enjoy an eternity of delight in the presence of the God Whose countenance is numberless tens of thousands of times brighter than the sun?  Will the Neros and Diocletians and Stalins enjoy the same eternity as the Peters and the Pauls and the other favorites of the Lord, who suffered every torment, labor, temptation, and trial for love of God and His law and truth?  What concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 7  Not the least.  An unbridgeable chasm divides them; an unscalable wall separates then.  But man, as the Psalmist says, being in honour, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them.8  Honored with the divine image and likeness by God, he dishonors himself with thoughts and deeds unworthy of an irrational beast.  Persisting in these without repentance, he wastes his whole life in a disgraceful state, alien to His Creator, alien to manifest truth, and alien to piety.  Finally, it is in this miserable state that he dies.  Shall the gates of paradise open to him?  Most unlikely, for every word of Scripture, of the law of God, must be fulfilled.  As it is written:  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God?  Be not deceived:  neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the Kingdom of God.9

          And so, brothers and sisters, may we not continue to make excuse with excuses in sins,10 remaining ever rebellious, ever impenitent and unreformed, lest we be shut out of the great feast.  Rather, let us rouse ourselves and enter the supper clad in the fitting raiment of fervent faith, sincere repentance, and God-pleasing deeds.  Amen.

 

1. Matt. 22:12

2. Matt. 22:13-14

3. Gal. 6:7

4. Ps. 5:4

5. Ps. 1:6

6. Matt. 5:18

7. II Cor. 6:15

8. Ps. 48:12; 21

9. I Cor. 6:9-10

10. Ps. 140:4