A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
Our lessons today carry on directly from last Sunday, with the theme of our growth into our Christian life and calling: we hear more from St. John’s first epistle about the way of charity, and Jesus illustrates more of the worldly impediments to that way in the parable of the dinner guests.
In the epistle, John wants us to see the sharp difference between ourselves as the disciples of Jesus, and the fallen world from which we were converted and redeemed, and he wants to encourage us to embrace that difference as a necessary condition of our Christian journey: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” Our life is no longer to be defined by any other standard than the new commandment of Christ: “That we should believe in the name of … Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” That love is not a matter of earthly affection or common experience or social expectation, it is solely an embodiment of the good will we find for us in Jesus: “hereby we know love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” By His love we were saved from death, and so only by remaining in His love, and sharing it with and for one and other, are we able to make any progress into the way of life: “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” Still, to live in this way will mean that we find ourselves opposed by the world around us: the world which has no knowledge of the love of God and that shuts its heart against a brother’s need, for its own perceived advantage. The world’s way is not our way, just as our salvation comes through Christ, whose own suffering overcame the world. We are His followers, and on that path we come gradually to know and to find peace in His presence, to have “confidence toward God,” and to “know that He abides in us.”
All this, Jesus tells us, is lost on the world, caught up in its own fleeting ends and earthly efforts, so that when the invitation comes from on high, the world prefers to offer its regrets, rather than to accept the divine offering that has power to provide not only its life, but its joy.
The challenge in all this for us is clear: how shall we ever find patience or kindness enough to bear with a world that so rudely neglects God’s goodness, and so willingly abuses our efforts to care for it? The answer itself is a matter of patience: it takes time for us grow into our calling, and depends on these two things: first, that in our own redemption Christ has already laid down His life for us, and we must be free in our recollection of that reality: we must spend time with the Cross. Second, we must also recall that we, too, are constantly in need of the Master’s feast, and are often among those lost and wandering in the highways and byways. We are no better than the souls we seek to serve, but by His love, we are able to serve them.