11th Sunday of Luke (The Great Supper)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In today’s gospel we will hear the parable of the great supper, in which God is represented as a certain rich and noble man who has prepared a great banquet for many guests. Despite however the invitation being given to many guests, most of them came up with excuses and declined. Some stated that they bought land, some that they bought animals and some stated that they married. The host then sent out his servant to gather people from the streets of the city, all the poor, the suffering, the blind and to bring them in to his house instead of his guests. And the servant was told to keep bringing people in until his house was full. The host then stated: “For I say to you that none of those men who were invited will taste my supper” (Luk. 14,24).
According to the Holy Fathers this parable summarizes the mystery of the salvation of all of humanity by God. The banquet that was set by the Host-God represents the Divine plan for our salvation. The servant who was sent out to gather the poor was Christ. The formal guests in the beginning of the parable are the spiritual leaders of the chosen people of that time. When the leaders rejected God’s invitation, He asked the simple people and all those who didn’t know the true God yet, to come. Therefore the Supper takes on an ecumenical flair and becomes a celebration for the salvation of the nations, which is completed with their participation in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist. The Holy Fathers therefore say that this parable represents the incarnation of Christ, the feast of the kingdom of Heavens and the enjoyment of the Kingdom of God. It has therefore been determined that this parable should be read immediately before Christmas as a way to prepare us towards Holy Communion.
We can further understand the relationship between the Holy Eucharist and the Supper of the parable, when we think of the fact that during His incarnation Christ restored the relationship between soul and body, which had been disrupted by the Fall from Paradise. After the Fall, the soul lost the Divine Grace and its communion with God through which it was being fed, and thus it started feeding off of its body, creating the passions of the soul. The body at the same time was no longer able to sustain itself through the soul, and therefore was trapped by the earthly matters, which lead to the creation of the bodily passions. Christ brought back to the heavenly order, our human nature, by putting it on, and offering to man His Body and His Blood. Saint Nicolas the Kavasilas states that it is not the body of man that receives the body and blood of Christ, but instead, it is the body and blood of Christ that receives the soul and body of man, and replenishes it with the True Life.
As we hear in today’s parable, those who refused to participate in the Feast of love given by God were many. The first deniers are the slaves of earthly things. „I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and see it” (Luke 14.18). These people worship matter, without being able to offer it back eucharistically to God, as we do in the Liturgy. There, we offer to God the fruits of our hard work, saying: „We offer to you these gifts from your own gifts”. Those people slavishly serve the earthly, while they allow their heart, the place in which God can dwell, to become like a desert.
Deniers of God’s invitation are also the workaholics, those who are obsessed by greed and debauchery, who keep working while they forget about God. Those who said: „I have bought five yoke of oxen and I am going to test them” (Luke 14.19). They stand away from the church because they are busy, and enslaved to work. A Christian, without denying the value of honest work, does not worship it, but instead recognizes that the purpose of His life is the union with God. Christ blesses and sanctifies any work when it is done while seeking to uphold His will, through prayer and the remembrance of God.
Finally, those who refused and continue to refuse to participate at the big Supper are the slaves of the senses, who said: „I have married a wife therefore I cannot come” (Luke 14.20). They use the excuse that they have a wife to look after and have various obligations, in order to avoid going to church and participate in the Holy Eucharist. However the church blesses the sacrament of marriage, that is, the union of man and woman and thus marriage ceases to be a biological act and becomes an invitation to Christ to come into our lives and revive them.
Preaching about the host of today’s gospel, who sent his servant to pick up the guests from the streets of the city, St. John Chrysostom observes that God called us from the streets of sin. He called us all while we lived in sin, and made us His heirs and tablemates. Sin makes man spiritually poor, disabled and blind. Those who did not honor the call of the Lord, and those who attended the Supper but have not changed lifestyle, will not be forgiven in the other life.
My brethren, the call to participate in Christ’s Supper, the Eucharist, is continuous throughout the ages. Our participation in the Holy Communion is necessary, in order to feed ourselves with the eternal Bread of Life. However, a prerequisite is to repent of our sins large or small. The Church has connected every sin with the abstinence from Holy Communion, because those who have sinned have shown that they do not love God because they have violated His orders. So, those who do not have love for Him, cannot join the Love-God. They cannot be given the Holy Communion, unless they get absolution from the priest-confessor who performs the holy sacrament of Confession, and gives the blessing of forgiveness.
Let us prepare ourselves properly, so as to create within our souls the mangers in which the Lord our God, will be reborn in the approaching Holy Night of Christmas. AMEN
FR. KONSTANTINOS MANETAS (DORMITION CHURCH, Somerville, Massachussets, US)