A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
This week’s readings follow the lessons for last Sunday just as the commandment to love our neighbour follows the commandment to love God. Paul tells us to, “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love.” This is the living out of our discovery last week of the fullness of the love of God. Only once we have been immersed in the true scope and profundity of God’s gift of Himself to us, and have learned that nothing in heaven or earth or under the earth can hinder than gift, and that to receive the gift is to be defined by it—only once our earthly limits are consumed by God’s unlimited goodness—can we truly open our hearts outward, to see and to take loving care for our neighbour.
Think about how this works: if we imagine God’s love has something to do with our power to earn it, or that our position in the scheme of things is something we must take and make for ourselves, then we will always live to some degree in competition with, or with disregard for, our neighbour. What would matter is our own status and worth. We might offer help to a stranger, but only to the degree we felt obliged to by duty or for our conscience’s sake. And if we felt that God’s love had something to do with worthiness, then we would always hesitate when we met a wicked soul, and wonder if we ought to love them. But once we know that God’s love is infinite, and limitless, and that His mercy falls equally upon all, then we are free to stop the earthly obsession with our own stature, and turn to regard our fellow humans with the same love by which we ourselves are saved.
Jesus’ example of healing on the Sabbath is a beautiful illustration of this point: not that our observance of orderly religious devotion has no value, but rather that its value is precisely defined by our encounter with the mercies of God; if we fail to extend the same mercy outward to our neighbour, we become like ‘white-washed tombs’, empty images of a life we do not truly possess. Jesus sharpens the point with the story of the wedding feast: if we attend life’s occasions only with a view toward our own status or achievement, in the first place we will generally be disappointed, because the winner’s circle is so exclusive; and even more importantly, we will always be lonely and empty, because we will not have been able to enjoy the feast and the celebration it provided. We will only have considered ourselves, and failed to share in the joy of the occasion for its own sake.
Surely this is part of what Jesus meant when he said we must become like little children if we would enter the kingdom of heaven. A child only takes part in the feast for the joy of it, (mainly the joy of dessert) and knows nothing of social status. The child will sit happily at the little table, in the hallway with the other children, and so almost inevitably it is the child who is called to sit on the lap of the father of the bride, or to dance with the bride before any other guest.
By our faith, we are reborn, and made children again, children of God, and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the Wedding feast of the lamb, and the dance is our dance of joy, to be known and to be loved without pause or limit by the Father, “even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; [there is] one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”