Fr David’s sermon for The Sunday of the Ancestors of Christ, 17th December, 2017
Today’s Gospel surely reveals insensitivity, or perhaps insensibility, when three men make excuses to avoid an important and life changing invitation to the rich man’s feast. And there were more than three, because so many places were unfilled. Of the three, one had bought a piece of of land, another a yoke of oxen and the third, perhaps with a more reasonable excuse than the others, had married a wife. All three and others missed out because of their lack of sensibility ( lack of capacity to feel, understand and be sensitive to the situation).
Our Philip Gorski has written a paper entitled, ‘Comfortably Numb’, with the sub-title, The Demon of Insensibility, as understood by various important Fathers of the Church. Alongside this I suggest, complacency, which the Abba Dorotheus describes as the mother of all failings. With complacency, we take things for granted and may even become indifferent. The Fathers tell us that we should often remember death in our thoughts. This may sound morbid to the modern era but it is part of the reality of life; there comes a time when each one of us passes from earthly life to the life beyond. We must not be complacent, believing that the God of Love who has done so much to reveal Himself to us and help us should therefore be taken for granted. St Paul says, ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling’. When we pass into the next life, it will be awesome and fearful. We shall come into the presence of God, how will we react? Will we be able to recognize and respond to the Glory of God, presented to us, or will it seem, as Metropolitan Kallstos points out, like a burning fire. Will we be sufficiently prepared to see Glory and enter into the promised life of Heaven, or will we only see a consuming fire. The Gospel story, inviting us to the banquet, is most apt at this time of year as we prepare of the Feast of the Nativity. So many around are indifferent as they revel in self indulgence, they are not sharing with us the Feast of the Nativity. Whether they know it or not, they are celebrating again the pagan festival of Saturnalia, the Roman midwinter feast of misrule. In Roman times this lasted for several days, now, for some, this misrule last the year round; self indulgence prevails, complacency abounds, God is not recognized and if He is not recognized in earthly life, how will He ever be recognized in the life beyond?
For us the path is clear, we honour the child in the manger in Bethlehem. We honour him not only as the Messiah foretold by the Ancestors of Christ, but we have the additional blessing of knowing that he is no other than God Himself, come to be with us, to restore us, to enable us to become what we were always designed to be. He is Our Savior. We cannot afford to be ‘Comfortably Numb’ in the face of such a great blessing. We cannot be complacent, and in any way fall into the life trap of the world around. Rather we kneel with devotion at the crib of the newborn King, even Christ our King and our God.