Message of Faith
Reverend Protopresbyter Athanasios C Haros
Dean of Cathedral
St. Nicholas Cathedral, Tarpon Springs, FL
The Invitation from God is Freely Given and Should be Freely Accepted
Most if not all of us have hosted dinner parties where certain guests that were invited did not attend, and most if not all of us have been invited to dinner parties we have chosen not to attend. I’m sure none of us enjoy attending a dinner party out of obligation and guilt when we would rather be doing something else, and I’m sure none of us would prefer having guests attend our dinner party when they didn’t really want to be there in the first place.
The same is true when it comes to the Heavenly Banquet. The Lord has invited each of us to join Him at the Heavenly Banquet and is waiting for our response. It is a simple invitation: “Come, for all things are now ready.” (Luke 14.17) The rest is up to us…will we accept the Lord’s invitation?
As we hear in the Gospel, not everyone accepts His invitation. When the servants had called all those invited, “They all with one accord began to make excuses.” (Luke 14.18) In response, the Lord didn’t try to guilt them into accepting, nor did He force them to attend. Rather, He went out and invited others to attend so His “House may be filled.” (Luke 14.23)
Over the years I have heard many excuses from people who don’t attend Divine Liturgy on Sunday. They may not be testing their new fields or oxen, but they make excuses nonetheless. One of the most popular lately has been, “I’m just too busy,” as if Sunday morning is filled minute-by-minute with exhausting tasks.
The truth is, if we wanted to be in Church, we would be in Church. The most frightening answer lately has been, “I don’t think I need to be in Church to be a good Christian.” If we are not in Church, we cannot receive Holy Communion. If we do not receive Holy Communion, we are not united to God.
Being a ‘good Christian’ isn’t just about how we behave toward others, though that is important. Being a ‘good Christian’ includes wanting to be with God in Church, where He is physically present. The banquet in today’s Gospel is the Divine Liturgy. The meal is Holy Communion. God has invited us to be with Him, in Divine Liturgy, partaking of His Body and Blood.
Only one question remains; will we accept His invitation or make excuses? He won’t force us to accept and He doesn’t want us to come out of fear or guilt. The invitation is freely given to us and He desires us to freely accept it.