Open Invitation

Passages: Is. 37:14-38; 1 Thess. 1:1-12; Lk. 14:12-24
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. ԼԷ 14-38; Ա Թեսաղ. Ա 1-12; Ղկ. ԺԴ 12-24

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

When I was in school, I enjoyed team activities. Whether it was sports, theater, organizing events, or whatever group activity we were assigned in class, I always enjoyed it. However, the truth is I wasn’t always picked by my peers; sometimes I was last to be picked, or the teacher had to assign me to a group. Growing up this feeling of not being picked was hurtful and it left me questioning as to why I was not desired, liked, or included. I had skills, talents, ideas, and ways of getting things done, but for whatever reason, occasionally, I was left out. I’m certain my dears, we’ve all felt this way throughout our lives. Perhaps in school, work, in our families, in the groups of people we relate to and call friends, for whatever reason perhaps we’ve felt left out or undesired. And to show that we are tough and resilient, we try to convince ourselves that we never really wanted to be part of the group, or we didn’t want to be invited to the party or be included. But in truth, it hurts; we all want to be included, picked, called upon, trusted, liked, and loved. When we examine our lives there is a truth that we must accept, sometimes we don’t want to be picked, included, or called upon; sometimes we wish we could stand on the side lines. This is especially true when it comes to difficult tasks; things that whether they are beneficial or not, require time, energy, responsibility. This is definitely the case when it comes to our Christian faith. 

As Christian’s, as children of God, we want to be accepted by God; we want to share in His love and blessings; we want our prayers answered, our hopes fulfilled, our cares lessened. However, too many of us don’t yet realize that to be a child of God, to recognize God as our Father entails, requires, demands a certain energy and responsibility.  To be a Christian is more than just about believing in a “higher power” or living by a certain standard. A Christian must reflect Christ; meaning, humble, merciful, compassionate, loving and forgiving. A Christian is charitable and outspoken for those who cannot speak, a defender of the defenseless, a feeder of the hungry and teacher of God’s love. A Christian, a child of God is someone who answers the call of God. Most of us would agree with all those things. However, the last part, “to answer the call of God” we often associate with who? Clergy, nuns, monks, etc. People who serve the Church in a more direct way. Countless times I have had conversations with faithful who say, that I only act or think a certain way because I’m the priest; or I have to visit the sick and be forgiving and patient because I am clergy; it’s my vocation or calling. Yet, look at what St. Paul says in Thessalonians today. “We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you; for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit; so that you became an example to all the believers…your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.”

St. Paul, a clergyman, someone who was called and answered is exhorting, teaching us that it’s not just him who is healing, teaching, sharing in the power of God but it is you, everyone. Every individual who believes and calls upon the name of God as Father in Heaven has been charged, called, selected and picked. Paul is not saying that educated, the married, the bearded, the men or women, the politician, the democrat or republican, the black, white, Asian or Armenian; Paul is not saying people who speak a certain language or who dress a certain way, or any other arbitrary category we can come up with.  Rather, “For we know, beloved by God, that He has chosen you…” The issue therefore, my dears, is whether or not we chose to accept that call, to accept being selected by God, to take up our Cross, as Christ says, or to deny Him. That is why Christ gives the parable of the Great Banquet in Gospel of Luke. A great feast that has a multitude of guests invited and yet, when the time to answer the invitation is at hand, everyone begins making an excuse why they can’t attend. I have work, I have family responsibilities, I am tired, I am x, y, z. All sorts of reasons. What is our reason? If we want to enjoy God’s blessings, if we truly believe that God has saved us through Christ Jesus, then what is our attitude, our heart, our thoughts and ultimately action when we are called not just to enjoy this banquet but to also feed others, care for others, teach others about God?

If in life, young or old, we feel hurt when we are rejected, when we are not picked or included, how much thought have we given to the truth that we are now rejecting God. The difference is, my dears, that because God is ever loving and patient, His call doesn’t stop, His invitation is open for us always to recognize and answer. Yes, there will be a time when that call will stop, not because God’s love stops but because we’ve rejected Him so much that we have distanced ourselves, become blind and deaf to His call. Just like when we don’t want to talk to someone who we don’t like, we do what? Ignore their calls, and texts. We become blind to that person reaching out to us and likewise, overtime, we become blind and deaf to God’s call. Yet, know that God will not reject a repenting heart, a person who sincerely calls out His name, Abba, Father, forgive me. During this time of Advent, we once again have an opportunity to ask and reflect whether we are accepting God’s call, taking up that Cross, answering the invitation or rejecting Him. It isn’t the priest alone, in the same way it isn’t a single player on a team, or a single actor on stage that makes a memorable performance; we are all in this together. We are all a body, the Body of Christ, with different ideas, skills and talents which God will use to share the Good News of Christ Jesus.  We are all selected for this group activity called life; a Christian life, is therefore, one that must answer the invitation of God.

Is it easy? No, but that is why we begin with the knowledge that God gives us the strength to overcome all difficulties we face. Allow my dears, this time of year, as we are gathering for Christmas and New Years dinners, as we are shedding off the 2022 disappointments and planning ahead to do better in 2023, let us allow ourselves to pause and listen to God’s call. Whether that means serving in the Church directly, or merely being a comforting shoulder to someone in need. We are all called according to what talents God has given us; we are invited to this banquet table; we have all been picked to be on “God’s team”; if only we choose to accept. Let us pray now and each day, that we hear, see and ultimately accept that call. Grace, hope, faith and love in the name of Christ Jesus be with us all, Amen!

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