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Homily for 9/5/04 - Many are called...

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  • David Moser
    Matthew 22:1-14 In speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven our Lord says, Many are called but few are chosen reminding us that at the Great Judgement, there will
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2004
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      Matthew 22:1-14

      In speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven our Lord says, "Many are called but few
      are chosen" reminding us that at the Great Judgement, there will be a
      winnowing, a weeding out process. Indeed in another image of the Judgement,
      our Lord speaks of the sheep and the goats and while they live together now,
      in some cases, sharing even the same pasture, the time will come when they
      will be separated and the sheep will be taken into heaven and the goats
      consigned to hell. How then is this judgement made, what can we do to assure
      our entry into heaven?

      In another parable our Lord says that "Not everyone who cries out to Me,
      'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who hear the
      Word of the Lord and keep it." By this He tells us that it is within our
      power to set our feet upon the path of salvation, for our entry into heaven
      is to first hear the word of the Lord and then to keep it. This is exactly
      what is described in the parable we heard today. There were those who were
      called, but who chose not to hear that call. The banquet was prepared and
      the invited guests were called to come, but one was busy with new land,
      another with new oxen, and yet another with a new wife. Each one had some
      excuse to continue pursuing his own interests and so ignored the invitation
      of the King. These guests were called, but they did not hear the call.
      Instead of the call of God, they continued to follow their own will, to
      immerse themselves in their own possessions, passions and desires. They did
      not even bother to hear the word of the Lord. We must guard ourselves
      against this situation, when it is tempting to "turn a deaf ear" to the call
      of God and to continue in our own way doing what we want to do. Many are
      those who are confronted with the Gospel and yet they continue in their own
      lives. They come to the doors of the Church, they may even come in and look
      around - but everything just passes over them and because they are not
      "listening" to the word of the Lord, nothing takes root and they continue on
      their way. The Church is the ark of salvation and the life she prescribes
      for us is the path of salvation. The doors are open as wide as we can make
      them - but those who come to the door must listen just enough to enter and
      to begin to walk that path.

      Many of us who are in the Church have indeed heard the word of the Lord. We
      have come to our Holy Mother Church and embraced what she has to offer. We
      give our former lives, our lands, cattle and wives - or as the fathers
      indicate our possessions, our works and our passions and instead take on the
      yoke of Christ, the path of self denial, crucifixion and of following
      Christ. We do this not because we love to suffer and struggle, but because
      we see the hand of God, we know that our destiny is not of this world, but
      rather is in the Kingdom of Heaven. And in so "hearing" the word of God we
      accept His invitation and set our foot on the path of salvation.

      But there is a second criterion; not only must one "hear the word of the
      Lord," but he must "keep it" as well. Having set our feet on the path of
      salvation, it is necessary also to follow that path as best we can. In this
      parable this necessity is illustrated for us by the man who had indeed heard
      the invitation and who had come to the feast, but who chose not to abide by
      the instruction of the master of the feast and did not clothe himself
      properly. This man was seized and was thrown out of the feast by the
      servants of the king. We must not congratulate ourselves simply because we
      have heard the word of the Lord and have responded. It is not enough simply
      to come into the Church, to be baptized and chrismated, to attend the
      services, hear the prayers, cross ourselves and to call ourselves
      "Orthodox". It is necessary to take the next step - to keep the word of the
      Lord. We have to attire ourselves properly so that we can enter into the
      presence of God without condemnation. Our first parents Adam and Eve while
      they lived in obedience to God were attired properly - conforming to the
      will of God in all things and growing in His grace. But when they sinned,
      this attire was stripped from them and they realized they were naked. They
      tried to clothe themselves, not in the garments of grace that God had given
      to them, but in fig leaves according to their own ideas and wisdom, but this
      was not sufficient - they were still naked and ashamed before God and
      because they had cast off the garments of grace, they themselves were cast
      out of the presence of God. When we come into the Church, we come naked (in
      fact in the ancient Church when a person was baptized they were literally
      naked) and we are clothed not with our own clothing, but with the clothing
      of grace (again, in the old tradition, the newly baptized was given a white
      robe which they wore as their only clothing for the week following their
      baptism as a symbol of this). These garments are often identified with the
      virtues with which the soul is clothed and while it is an accurate
      portrayal, it is certainly not complete. For the newly baptized is now
      clothed in God's grace, but the virtues are not yet complete in that person
      (for if that were the case then they would no longer be subject to sin; by
      this evidence we see that not even the first parents Adam and Eve were
      perfected in the virtues, but, like the newly baptized, were clothed in
      God's grace which had yet to mature in them). So our clothing is not simply
      the virtues that the soul attains as it matures, but rather the grace which
      is given us by our obedience to the word of God. This grace comes to us
      through our denial of our own will and the choice to conform ourselves God's
      will.

      In the Church we see this "self denial" in action whenever we set aside our
      own reasoning and take instead the instruction of the Church, whenever we
      order our lives according to the tradition that we have received. There is
      sometimes a false distinction made between "Tradition" (with a 'big T) and
      "tradition" (with a "small t"). There is no such distinction - all of the
      elements of the tradition that we receive from the Church are beneficial to
      our salvation, but it is also necessary to live under the guidance of a
      spiritual physician who applies the different elements of tradition to the
      life of each person in such a way that it will have the greatest effect.
      Hence there are differences between the Greek traditions and the Russian
      traditions and the American traditions - but these different applications
      and expressions of tradition do not conflict or cancel each other out, but
      instead combine to enrich and enlighten each other. We cannot discard any
      part of tradition because it is "old country" or "foreign" or "doesn't make
      sense" or is "old fashioned" and outdated or for any other reason. All
      tradition is given to us for the benefit and health of the soul. When we
      conform ourselves to the Traditions of the Church then we re-order our lives
      not according to our own reason, but according to the divine wisdom of God
      and we do so not in a chaotic and self willed fashion, but under the
      direction of our spiritual shepherds, our pastors and archpastors, who are
      given grace by God to lead the flock of the Church according to the
      Traditions of the Church in an orderly and beneficial manner.

      Let us then, brothers and sisters, first set aside our own lives and hear
      and respond to the word of Christ, accepting His invitation to come to the
      feast. And having come to the feast, let us then set aside our own will, our
      own attire, and instead put on the clothing of grace through obedience and
      submission to Holy Tradition. Let us practice self denial in turning away
      from our own will, our own ideas, our own reasoning and following instead
      the traditions that we receive from the Church from the hand of our own
      pastors and archpastors. In this way we attire ourselves with the grace of
      God and we enter into the Kingdom of heaven. Many indeed are called - but
      few are chosen. Those who are chosen are those who have heard the word of
      the Lord and who have kept it.
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