Two Sundays before the Great Feast of Christmas, the Church commemorates the Holy Ancestors of Christ. The assigned Gospel reading — see below — is from St. Luke the Evangelist (14:16-24), one of the most noted parables describing worldly entanglements and poor excuses as it relates to accepting the Kingdom of God. It concludes with the well-known sentence, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

As we approach the celebration of Christmas, the Archdiocese would like to offer the faithful across the country spiritual nourishment and encouragement, for this year has been an especially challenging one. The difficulties that we have encountered, both individually and as a society, compel us to strengthen our faith in Christ and at the same time to help our fellow man, which is our responsibility as Christians: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).

In the Gospel reading, St. Luke describes a man who “gave a great banquet” and through the “servant” invited many to partake. God the Father is the man and Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, is the servant. The invited are first the Jewish people, then all mankind.

What response does the servant receive from those called to come? How can we apply the lessons learned from this parable to ourselves and today’s society more broadly?

On the first question, we read three excuses given to avoid attending: one bought a field; one bought five yoke of oxen; and, one married a wife. The Fathers of the Church connect these excuses with excessive devotion to earthly matters, such as those pertaining to the five senses, as well as pleasures of the flesh more generally.

For the second question, let us perform a self-examination and determine if we approach God’s invitation to His Kingdom, if we approach the invitation to the Mystical Supper with enthusiasm and a desire to follow the words of St. Paul, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).

This year has presented new excuses to decline this blessed invitation, but it has simultaneously provided the faithful with reasons to seek out and find the Kingdom of God.

We have all witnessed the devastating effects of the pandemic. We have seen the coronavirus kill and make millions of people around the world sick. We have also seen secondary effects including increased mental health illnesses, drug addiction, an increase in suicides, depression, and economic hardship, to name a few examples.

For many of our brothers and sisters, the events of 2020 have instilled a sense of fear in our everyday lives, which in many cases has led to isolation, loneliness and unfortunately even despair. This in turn has caused some of us to excuse ourselves from God’s invitation, from Church, and from fellowship with our brethren.

The need for a pastorally sensitive approach, guided by love, compassion, and patience is more necessary now than in recent history. Our Holy Archdiocese, its Reverend Fathers, and all of our co-workers stand ready to help the plenitude of Greek Orthodox Christians in Canada understand and accept the invitation outlined in the parable by St. Luke. Christmas, the miracle of the Incarnation of the Word of God, extends to us a helping hand, a springboard to open our spiritual eyes, to set aside worldly cares – whether they be material obsession, passions of the flesh, or preoccupation with the pandemic.

Christmas is a time for us to remove the shackles of this world and to lift our eyes upward to heaven. Let us with faith and trust in Jesus Christ turn to Him and through prayer and fasting accept His invitation.

Let us set aside excuses and focus on the Heavenly Kingdom: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). Let us be among those who are both called and chosen. Amen.

The Gospel According to Luke 14:16-24

The Lord said this parable: “A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; and at the time of the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for all is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I must go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported this to his master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and there is still room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet. For many are called, but few are chosen.'”