The Kingdom of God as a Celebration
Christmas day – how will you celebrate? Will you gather with family and friends, eating a great feast, listening to music, and enjoying one another’s company? Think of the happiest moments of you life, and reflect on the type of celebrations you had. One thing we can say about all humanity, the world over, and that is we all love to celebrate.
Whether it’s a wedding or a baptism, whether it’s a religious holiday like Christmas, or even a secular holiday like New Years, we all enjoy celebrating. And all of us know how we Greeks and Albanians and other Mediterranean people really know how to celebrate in a grand manner!
Celebrating plays a central aspect in any life, and it makes up an important part of who we are as human beings. This is why even those in the most horrid conditions – whether in slums or in abject poverty, whether in concentration camps or prisons – everyone still tries to find or create reasons to celebrate. Human beings cannot live without celebrations.
Well, in the time of Jesus 2000 years ago, maybe celebrations played even a more significant part of life, since the people then faced a much harsher reality of toil and struggle, of oppression under foreign rulers and subjugation from heavy taxes. People of that time surely would not describe life as something comfortable and easy, as we could in contemporary
I remember I witnessed such harsh reality of life when I lived in
As I watched this scene unfold before my eyes, it suddenly struck me what a harsh and monotonous reality these
It’s no wonder why our Lord Jesus Christ used the analogy of a celebration to describe the
Imagine, for people who struggled to put food on their table, our Lord describes the Kingdom of God like a King’s feast and banquet-hall; and for people who faced the reality of monotony and harsh labor, Paradise is a never-ending celebration!
Here lies another essential part of the Good News of our Orthodox Christian Faith. Christianity is not a joyless, cheerless, boring religion - a life of strictly following too many rules and regulations. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is glorious news about a celebration. As today’s Gospel reading reminds us, the
We get a sense of this celebration as we prepare for Christmas. The feast of Christmas epitomizes the spirit of good news and great joy. Joy from angels. Wonder from shepherds. A miracle in a manger. Gifts from the magi. Praise and adoration from all. And an overarching spirit of divine love which reaches from eternity into our present reality. All these words can barely describe the ineffable celebration of Christmas, and the spirit which God inaugurated into the world with His coming.
Deep within our souls, don’t we all want to experience this heavenly life of continual celebration? Don’t we all want to discover this everlasting promise of God’s blessed banquet?
Yet, today’s Gospel story not only tells us about God’s Kingdom as a celebration, but also warns us about the only thing that can prevent us from entering into this divine celebration, from this eternal love of God – and the only thing is ourselves! Jesus uses an analogy of a King inviting guests to come to his banquet hall, and yet shows how each guest makes an excuse for not attending. The first is too consumed with his work and business, and can’t get away. The second focuses on newly bought possessions, and can’t see past these. And the third allows family to stand before the King’s feast. The excuses aren’t evil in and of themselves – work, pleasure, and family – but each, when they become our priority in life lead us away from our entrance into the Lord’s heavenly celebration.
Maybe today we can each look at our own lives and ask ourselves – what place does work and career have in our lives? What priority do our hobbies, and our pursuit for pleasure play in our daily schedules? And what about family? As wonderful and beautiful as family may be, do we place it before God and His divine ways? As hard as it is to hear, Jesus taught that “anyone who loves father or mother, brother or sister, wife or children more than me isn’t worthy of me.”
Before our career, our pleasures, and our family, Christ say, “Seek first the
Today, let us all say yes, and allow nothing to stand between us and our Lord. For in the end, if we do this, we will begin celebrating in that heavenly banquet even here and now!
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Holy Land Pilgrimage 2019