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Homily for 9/9/12 - P14 - the garment of salvation

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matthew 22:1-14 Last night and this morning both we witnessed the baptism of two new members of the Body of Christ. Like the guests in the parable who came to
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 9, 2012
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      Matthew 22:1-14

      Last night and this morning both we witnessed the baptism of two new
      members of the Body of Christ. Like the guests in the parable who came
      to the feast they were given a new garment. Both have earthly garments
      of white as symbols of the garment of grace that has been bestowed upon
      each by Christ. We have, each of us, been given a new garment – a
      baptismal robe as it were – at our own baptism. God has bestowed His
      grace upon our soul and clothed us with His glory. Dressed in this new
      garment, we enter into the marriage feast of the Son in the heavenly
      Kingdom.

      It was the custom at such feasts as our Lord described for every person
      invited to be given a new garment which they then wore at the feast.
      These garments were freely given to all who responded to the invitation
      – all they had to do was put it on and enter in to the feast. With
      everyone clothed in the same garment, there was no longer any division
      amongst the guests. Rich and poor, free and slave, rulers and subjects –
      all were, for that brief moment the same and all the differences between
      them were erased. Their unity was perfect.

      In the parable, however, there was one guest who was not wearing this
      festal garment. He preferred his own finery to that provided by the
      host. His presence disturbed the unity of the feast and the host noticed
      this. He confronted the ill clad guest and because he had chosen his own
      finery over that which the host provided, the host had him cast out of
      the banquet hall and deprived of the light and joy of the feast.

      This ill clad guest is the one who depends not on the grace and
      provision of God, but who insists on using his own righteousness to
      enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It doesn’t matter how beautiful his garment
      might have been, how costly or how elegant it was – it still lacked one
      vital thing. It was not provided by the host and therefore the wearer
      was not joined to the unity of the other guests and the host. He was “on
      his own” and being on his own he ended up deprived of his place in at
      the feast. So also the man who strives to enter heaven depending on his
      own righteousness rather than the grace of God. No matter how “good” he
      might be or how exemplary his life – without the garment of God’s grace
      that goodness does not unite him to the Host.
      Our salvation does not depend on our good works or on how well we
      perform. Our salvation depends upon the grace of God which unites us to
      Christ and enables us to share in His life. Without the new garment of
      God’s grace, we cannot be united to Christ and if we are not united to
      Christ then we will have no place in the Kingdom of God. This garment
      has been given to each of us at our baptism. Having received this new
      garment of grace, it is necessary now for us to wear it and care for it.

      What does it mean to wear this garment of grace? First of all it means
      that we cease depending on ourselves, on our own righteousness, on our
      own goodness, and instead begin the work of living in dependence upon
      God. This is an easy thing to say, but a very difficult thing to do.
      When we depend upon God, we have to trust Him completely. We have to set
      aside our own fears which drive us and push us this way and that and
      instead focus on the love of God which drives out our fear. The moment
      you begin to fear anything in the world – whether it is fear of a
      tragedy, fear of another person, fear of losing some possession, fear of
      not having enough, or whatever fear attacks you – then you know that you
      have to increase your love for God. The more you love God, the more you
      become aware of His love for you. But if His love seems distant and
      unreal, then your own love for Him needs to grow.

      I recall once when I spoke to a spiritual father at a monastery I was
      visiting. I laid out before him a sinful habit that I had been
      struggling with and I had hoped that he would give me some guidance in
      how to fight that temptation. Instead he simply said that I fell to this
      sin because I did not love God enough. If I loved God more than the
      pleasure I derived from this sinful habit, then this temptation would
      not have any power over me. I asked him then how is it that I can love
      God more and his reply was simple – pray and ask God to give you that
      love. Pray this way on a daily (or even more frequent) basis and God who
      desires to give us every good thing will kindle the flame of love for
      Himself in our hearts. This I did and though I cannot say that I love
      God as I ought, I do know that as my love for Him has grown, that sinful
      habit has grown weaker and weaker. To love God is to depend upon Him and
      in this way we put on the new garment of grace which unites us to Him.

      Not only must we put on this garment, but we must also care for it.
      Whenever we sin, a stain or a tear appears on the garment. It is
      necessary then to first avoid those things which stain or harm the
      garment of grace and secondly when something does happen we must quickly
      clean and repair that garment. We avoid staining and tearing the garment
      of grace by living according to the will of God, filling our lives with
      the righteousness that attracts and holds onto His grace. The more we
      live a Christ like life, the less our garment is damaged. When, because
      of our weakness we sin and a stain or tear appears in the garment of
      grace, we repair it by repentance. By confessing our sins and truly
      turning away from them with all our heart, that stain of sin is washed
      out of our garment and it is again clean. If we fall into a grave sin
      then the garment of grace is torn and we must not only confess our sin
      and turn away from it, but also work to reverse the effects of sin in
      our lives – abstaining from those things which caused us to sin and
      replacing them with those things which attract the grace of God. The
      more diligent we are in not allowing the stain and tears of sin to
      remain, the closer we stay to Christ.

      We have all been invited to the feast in the Kingdom of God and when we
      accept that invitation and enter the feast through baptism, we are given
      a new garment – the garment of grace which adorns the soul. This garment
      of grace is necessary because it is through this grace that we are
      united to Christ and share in His life. We wear this garment of grace in
      our hearts by setting aside our own efforts, desires, and
      accomplishments and instead rely on what God has given us. The more we
      love God, the more aware we become of His love for us and we are drawn
      nearer and nearer to Him. We keep this garment in good repair by living
      a righteous Christ like life and when we do sin, we can erase the stain
      of that sin by confession and repentance and turning away from our sin.
      The Great King, our God, has invited us to live in union and communion
      with Him in His heavenly kingdom. All we need to do is to receive from
      Him the baptismal garment of grace and wear it.

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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