What the parable of the Great Banquet means to us today

Rise above the world, come to the Lord’s banquet

rise above the world

In today’s reading from the Gospel, we hear a parable about a man who prepared a great banquet and invited many guests. But when the day of the banquet came, the guests began to make excuses not to come. “I cannot come to your banquet tonight,” they all said. “I ask you to have me excused!” One said that he had just bought a field, and needed to go and see it. Another explained that he had acquired five yokes of oxen, and was on his way to try them out. A third had just married, and could not come. In conclusion, the Lord addresses us with these words: "Not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet."

Today, the Lord is still waiting for us at His banquet, but continues to hear the same excuses: I am too busy at the moment. Sorry, I have too little time; I cannot come, I am exhausted. I'm having problems in my life. Can I come later? Everyone has some business to attend to or a set of ambitious plans; no one wants to be distracted.

2021 is almost over. Just think how old this world has become! Yet, in its present state, we find it even more difficult to answer the invitation from the Lord. The world is immersed in fear. The people are confused and terrified, but the world intimidates them even more. Incessantly, we are told about the numbers of the dead and infected. At every step of the way, the people are hearing, “Do not go there! Caution! Duck and cover!” In many countries, the authorities are cancelling Christmas celebrations and other public holidays that can lift the people’s spirits and give them some hope.

But the Lord never stops calling us. He calls us to a new life in His eternal kingdom. It either starts here on earth or does not start at all. To answer his call, we will need to overcome the gravity of the routine, much like the astronauts do when they lift off into space. We need to grow wings, as a popular song challenges us to do: “Where are your wings? Where did you leave them? In what kind of turmoil and strife?” We must put away our worldly concerns, as a known church chant tells us.

Our meeting with God is not an isolated event that illuminates our hearts and gives us wings for some time. It is our whole life of perpetual struggle with our selfishness and despair, of overcoming our old selves to follow the will of God. We all need these habits of spiritual life for our salvation. But none of them come automatically. We need to work on acquiring them.

Now is the best time to start. Our joint service to God and our communal prayer are our main preoccupations. We came to Church today and rose above the world. We took God and everlasting life into ourselves, and for some moments we rose to the Kingdom of Heaven. The biggest challenge for us is not to let ourselves fall. We must guard our hearts and minds against sin. With God, nothing is impossible. We cannot have salvation on our own; Christ saves us. Understand Ye nations and submit yourselves for God is with us! (Isaiah 8: 8 - 9)

As this year is coming to an end, let me give my greetings to all of you. May the rest of the year bring you no major troubles, and may you enter the new year with gratitude for all that happened.  I wish you the wisdom to see the best in others, a habit that makes all of us better people. As you encounter deceit and facetiousness, may you find the strength to forgive. I wish you persistence and endurance in all situations, no matter how hard and frightening it may be.  The great joy of everlasting life is lying ahead. A life free from any wrongs.

O, Lord! Glory to You!

Archpriest Andrey Lemeshonok

December 31, 2021
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