Monday, September 28, 2009


In this parable, a king arranges a marriage feast for his son. The king, of course, is God the Father and the son is Jesus Christ our Lord, while the feast signifies eternal life in God's heavenly Kingdom. Those who are initially invited to this feast are the Jews, God's chosen people. Most of them, however, do not take the invitation seriously. Instead, they make light of it, while some go so far as to persecute and even to kill the prophets. For these ungrateful people, it was "business as usual:" the status quo must be preserved at any cost.

So it was that God called the Gentiles, both the good and the bad. The truth is, being "good" is no guaranteed passport to heaven. The Pharisees were "good," after all, following the Jewish Law to the letter. Merely being "good" is never enough. Salvation is granted unto those who strive with violence to be made worthly (by God's grace) of the Kingdom.

So the magnificant feast commences, but lo and behold, the king enters the banquet hall and finds there a guest who is not wearing a wedding garment. He is therefore unworthy: but why? Because in those day, the guests were not expected to bring their own garments. These were provided at the door to all who entered. Therefore, this guest is unworthy because he rejected that which was so graciously provided, free of charge. That is, he rejected the grace of God, which alone can make us worthy of the Kingdom.

This parable was spoken to the Jews, but just as surely it can be applied to so-called Christians of this day and age. Many there are who make light of their salvation, being totally focussed on worldly goals. Others do not even bother striving to acquire the grace of God (which is, according to St. Seraphim of Sarov, the whole purpose of the Christian life) because they feel they are already "good enough."

So it is that "few are chosen:" not because God does not desire our salvation, but because we ourselves reject this gracious gift either through indifference or laziness. It is we ourselves who choose either life or death, but this is not a one time choice. Rather, we make many choices, every day of our lives. Every time to choose to put anything whatsoever before our commitment to God, or we place worldly comforts and pleasures before concern for our salvation, we are choosing death over life.

It is, in fact, the sum total of our choices throughout our earthly life that determines our eternal destiny, and the more often we choose death over life, the more difficult it is to break the pattern. However, that which is impossible to man is possible to God. No matter how far we may have gone astray, it is always possible through a single decisive choice combined with sincere, heartfelt repentance to be restored to the path of salvation.

The most vital thing to remember, however, is that today (this very moment) is the day of salvation. Tomorrow it may be too late, and the doors to the wedding feast may be closed forever.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


"For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and a holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly." This was the same Herod who was the scion of an evil root, the son of that other Herod who ordered the murder of the Holy Innocents. Yet this Herod was, in fact, a sincerely religious man. His piety was genuine, though, as it turns out, it was only skin deep. All of this religiosity did not stop him from committing acts of debauchery and murder.

History is replete with cruel men and criminals who were likewise religious and professed a moral code. Consider Ivan the Terrible, who would attend Vespers with his court and later retire to a downstairs room to torture his enemies (both real and imagined). Whenever it suits such a person, they can easily compartmentalize their faith and do as they want, feeling no concern for the pain and suffering of others.

This is so because they are essentially self-centered, "narcissists" in modern psychological parlance. All that really matters to them in the end is the fulfillment of their own needs and desires. Thus Herod took for himself his brother Philip's wife, though he knew full well that this was wrong. St. John, in sharp contrast, was willing to decrease in order that Christ might increase. He was but a voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord!" His whole purpose in life was not to draw attention to himself, but to point the way to Christ.

And so he was willing to suffer and to die for the sake of the Truth, without any compromise or self-serving motives whatsoever. He bore witness at all times to that same Christ Who proclaimed, "I am the way, the truth and the life."

Paradoxically, those like Herod who look out only for themselves, for "number one," sooner or later end up losing everything, while those willing to bear witness to Christ whatever the cost will eventually inherit eternal life in God's heavenly Kingdom. It is not enough, you see, to be religious and to profess moral ideals. A saving faith demands an absolute and conditional commitment to the Truth and a willingness to sacrifice everything we are and have for the sake of the Kingdom. Such a faith is the antithesis of a lying, conniving and deceitful life dedicated to the acquisition of personal power, wealth and prestige.

May the life of the Baptist inspire us all to be faithful to God at all times and in all places, striving to live a life of holiness, purity and devotion to the Truth. May the love of God ever dwell in our hearts, banishing every trace of pride, self-centeredness and lust for power.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


"What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" the rich man asks our Lord. Now wouldn't it be grand if there were such a thing that we could do, and having done it, we would be assured of eternal salvation? Jesus, though, provides no such easy answer, but He simply states the obvious: keep the commandments. This, the rich man assures Him, he has been doing since his youth (at least externally). This is certainly not the answer he was hoping for, and no doubt he is feeling somewhat impatient. He feels deep down that something is missing, despite his outwardly pious life as an observing Jew. Truly, as St. Augustine said, "Our hearts are ever restless till they find their rest in Thee."

When the man persists, demanding to know the one good thing he still lacks, Jesus throws him a loop: he tells the man to do the one thing he is not prepared to do, the one thing that ever remains an obstacle in his quest for eternal life. He must sell all that he has, give the proceeds to the poor, and then come follow Christ. Thus it is that the rich man shakes his head sadly and turns away.

The truth is, salvation isn't a pleasant bonus we receive as a reward for living a "good life" here on earth--it is rather the whole point of our existense, the reason God called us out of nothingness into being. It is not a part time venture--it is the sole purpose of everything we say, do and think. There simply is no free passport to heaven--nothing less than a total commitment to God is required if we desire eternal life.

Of course we all fall far short of the perfection the Gospel demands--"Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect"--so what then? Shall we, like the rich man, turn sadly away? God forbid! Salvation is not something we achieve in a moment, by doing a certain one good thing. It is, rather, a lifelong process. Speaking realistically, we shall never achieve complete perfection in this fallen world--but it is and ever remains a goal we must strive for until we take our dying breath. And though we will surely miss the mark time and again, genuine and heartfelt repentance is all that's required to restore us to God's grace.