(The Twenty Eighth Sunday after Pentecost)
Last week, brothers and sisters, I had two unexpected encounters here at our church. Both of them were, in some way, brought about by an unhappy turn of events. I interrupted my regular work activities twice on order to open up the church and witness the drama of two human beings. Or perhaps it was only on these two occasions that I was actually doing my real work. On both occasions I spent time explaining to the poor souls how to get to their church. One of these individuals has lived in close vicinity of the church all her life, yet had no idea that there was a church here.
She poured out her life story to me. She is a smart, educated and ambitious girl with a university degree and a good job. She was certainly climbing the corporate ladder. Feeling above anyone else, she had never opened up to anyone and had never let anyone into her close proximity. She was self-sufficient, as they say. She completely ignored the spiritual side of life, her faith and the customs of her ancestors until the edifice of her soul was shaken from the foundation. She called me a few nights ago at a late hour and asked to see me between sobs. She was facing a series of difficult medical tests because the doctors were suspecting the worst. She looked around and saw that she was weak and lonely, that she has no firm foundation and nothing to lean on and to fall back on. So she cried in the presence of the person who can and must accept her for who she is.
At one point she said to me, “I know, Father, and I see that God had called me to Him even before all this. I know that He had tapped my shoulder on many occasions and called me, but I was always busy doing something else. I know now that God is giving me His last warning so that I can hear His voice and approach Him.”
Brothers and sisters,
This is but one of the many life stories and dramas that I as a servant of God have faced. I know from my long experience that there have also been easier and nicer ways in which God has called on someone, but also much harder ways as well. Those who were wise enough to heed His call on time were happier, that’s for sure. Those who chose not to listen to His call were reminded again and again through severe hardships. I have known cases of mothers turning to God only after the death of their children. And I have always asked whether there had not been easier ways to do that?
And to all of you gathered here, brothers and sisters, whose presence bears witness to the fact that you have heard God’s call and have approached Him, I say: even though you have come to Him, you can still come even closer. Even if you doubt His call, make no mistake – He is always calling us, through happiness and health and love, through our pride in our good children, but also through our questions and doubts, through hardship and suffering and, if all else fails, through punishment for our disobedience.
We can lie to ourselves as much as we want, but we cannot oppose God. You all heard today’s Holy Gospel. Many people were invited to the feast, but they all found different excuses. The master sent his people to force them to the feast. There was no other way. Christ concludes His narrative with the words, “For many are called but few are chosen. (Luke 14:24)
I see busy people all the time, people who are in a hurry, doing without many important things, ignoring others and stepping over them. I wish I could find a way to show them what a sad ending they will have. They do not and cannot know it and we, who have seen many things over the course of our lives, do know, but that does not help. These poor wretches listen to no one. I have stood by the deathbeds of people who died abandoned and in loneliness in this anthill of a city. Their common story is, “I was so caught up in the business of acquiring money and I ignored and abandoned everyone and everything except for my business. This is where it got me.”
Brothers and sisters,
Let us not be short-sighted. No one has an excuse. The voice of God speaks to us quietly all the time, like a never ending tape. If we only stop for a moment and listen to the voice in silence, if we venture just a little closer to Him, He will come closer to us. God stands and knocks at the door of each soul. If anyone heeds His voice and opens this door, God will enter and He will sup with him. Those who have been invited to the supper are truly blessed. These are God’s words.
“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:7-8) “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:22) and, since we have been called, let us heed the call and answer it, so that God may take us into His embrace and have mercy on us. Amen.