(Matthew 22: 1-14)
The Holy Gospel invites us and warns us that no one has an excuse. It is about God’s invitation, sent to all of us to come to Him, to approach Him.
Christ illustrated this invitation in the story about a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. As all of those who were invited refused to come, the king ordered his servants to go to the street corners and gather all the people they could find – the good, as well as the bad. Even though the wedding hall was filled with guests, the hosting king did not hesitate to have a man not wearing wedding clothes cast into outer darkness.
There are many interpretations of this Christ’s story, due to its many aspects and layers of meaning. We will limit this discussion to the story’s part about God’s invitation sent to all of us. We are born into this world and live in it under different circumstances, but nobody can say that he or she has never heard God’s calling; that God, in one way or another, has never revealed Himself to him or her. Like a good father, God keeps calling us. If we disregard His call and, carried away by our worries and hardships, choose not to respond to it and follow it, that is our grave misfortune. Sooner or later, like it or not, we shall all gather before the face of God and we had better not appear unworthy before Him, as we will be cast into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 22:13).
Thousands upon thousands of young, as well as grown up people, born into and raised in godless environments, but later joining in Christ as soon as there was an opportunity, testify to just how powerful and irresistible God’s call is. In my time, as a priest in Belgrade, I baptized a lot of them. Today, too, we here baptize such people and meet many of them who have no knowledge of their faith, but express a sincere desire to learn about it and become members of the faithful community.
As I mentioned, none of the disobedient have an excuse. Since the ancient times, since king David, it has been said that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalms 19:1) A person does not need to be able to read, or be a prominent scientist, to realize that God is above everything. A man only needs to open the starry book of heavens, be amazed by the wonders above, and, through the creation, get to the Creator. Our “uneducated” farmer has proven himself way more informed than many that are highly educated, but undereducated at the same time. Reading from the book of God’s creation, he dove much deeper into the secrets of life and death than many pseudoscientists. He has been recognizing the work of God in each blade of grass and in each plant, each crop and each blessing. It is, indeed, true that “There is no speech nor language where His voice is not heard (Psalms 19:3). “His eternal power and divine nature… have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” (Romans 1:20)
To those to whom the voice of creation was not clear, God has sent His messengers – prophets and apostles, teachers of the faith and confessors – to remind them and summon them to God. “To you, o people, I call,” cries out wise Solomon. But, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (Romans 10:16) – lament both the prophet (Isaiah 53:10) and the apostle. For many “made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets.” (Zechariah 7:12)
Most of the time, God calls us through His love and kindness and, at the proper time, showers us with His blessings, health and vigour. The Lord stands at the door to the heart of each one of us, knocks and waits for us to open (Revelation 3:20). If one does not respond to God’s voice of kindness, the Lord also has other ways to warn and call us. Only, I think it is better to reply to Him immediately than to suffer horribly, paying a handsome price for our obstinacy.
“One prays only in times of trouble” is a popular proverb among our people. But, as much as this proverb is true, it is just as bad to behave according to it. If the Lord calls, and we do not listen, neither will He listen to us when hardships drive us to call Him (Zechariah 7:13). It is said in the Holy Scripture: “But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand… I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you… Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.” (Proverbs 1:24, 26, 28)
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) – Prophet Isaiah advises.
According to apostle Paul, we are all “called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:6) Should we experience hardships – and who doesn’t – approach Christ. He will help us. We are burdened – He will place our burdens on His shoulders. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28) He tells us.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, “… as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…’” (Hebrews 3:7,8) Respond to the Lord and He will embrace us and have mercy on us.