A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
The further we make our way along the pilgrimage of this Trinity season, the clearer becomes the vision of our faith, just as the nearer we draw toward the object of our desire, the better able we are to perceive its attributes. Today’s lessons are all about that sharpened perception, and about the shaping of our life accordingly, in the Gospel and Epistle readings, respectively. The goal and purpose of our redemption, of God’s saving work in Jesus, is to bring us into His own kingdom— ‘today, you shall be with me in paradise’, Jesus told the thief on the cross beside Him—and so, our faith entails coming to a knowledge of that kingdom and its constitution.
At first, the stark message of Christ’s parable in the Gospel hardly seems to contain any redemptive encouragement for us, ending with the awful judgment, ‘there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth’. But in that story we find these two crucial points, on which all our hope depends: first of all, that there is in fact a feast. It seems silly to say, but we must not gloss over this fact. Quite apart from our own struggles and accomplishments, there is a banquet of God’s own making, for us to share and enjoy. Second, we who find our way there are not wedding crashers. We are not some outcast unwanted at the party, permitted to attend only out of politeness; in fact just the opposite. The master of the feast covets our presence, and takes anguished offence at our excuses. God wants us, deeply, and has prepared all things for our goodness and blessing. The thing He would have us ‘cheerfully accomplish’ is to come, and to receive what He has given—the Lamb, whose wedding feast we attend, not as footmen or slaves, but as friends. And so, the consequence of failing to answer that call is just as dire and wretched as the blessing of attending is joyful and beautiful. And so too, as we come to the feast, we must accept its forms and customs, we must don the appropriate garment, we must rejoice with our part in the celebration.
Therefore, says St. Paul, we must form our lives accordingly—seeing clearly that the claims of this fallen world, and its joyless self-conceits, must hold no sway over us, but that instead we must convert the story of our time, to make it an account of our blessedness at the hand of God—not looking for satisfaction in any earthly sweetness (which leads only to a hangover, or worse), but knowing that ‘our sufficiency is from God’, that we are filled and overfilled with the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Our reply to those spiritual mercies is the sound of praise and thanksgiving, “singing and making melody in [our hearts] to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and in that spirit, we find ourselves able to come together as a people, as His people, ‘submitting to one and other’, even as we find ourselves coming into His Kingdom.