On December 26, the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Bishop Michael (Anishchenko) of Koman, celebrated the Divine Liturgy in St. Andrew’s Church, along with the clergy. Referring to the Gospel parable of the wedding feast, Bishop Michael explained that God never punishes anyone because to us he is a loving Father. It’s a man who punishes himself, distances himself from God by his actions, by his life.
That’s according to the press service of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Stauropegion in Ukraine.
“Many are called, but few are chosen,” the Lord tells us in a parable today. We read with you, today in the Holy Gospel, that a wealthy man organized a great supper and called whomever he wanted; and about how people reacted. One says, ‘I bought oxen,’ another says, ‘I got married,’ and a third says, “I bought a field.” So, everyone went about their business. Moreover, these were things that could be done on any other day as this wealthy host doesn’t arrange a such a great supper every day to invite everyone. But everyone snubbed him, looking for some excuses, only to not attend and to not return the invitation. It is written that the host got angry and told his servants to bring everyone they could find: the lame, the blind, and the poor. And when this was done, they came to him and said, ‘We did as you asked.” And then this host concluded that none of those he had called up was worthy of this supper, because many are called, but few are chosen,” said Bishop Michael.
The bishop noted that the Lord spoke parables to people who had been living under the shadow of the Old Testament. Consequently, the content of the Old Testament was very relevant at the time.
He added that the Old Testament states that man was constantly terrified of God’s wrath. He called the Lord “Almighty,” “Creator,” but did not call by one name – the name that Christ revealed to people. And the name is “Father.”
“We see a big difference in the perception of God in the Old and New Testaments. Speaking to the people who lived under the shadow of the Old Testament, the Lord uses the form such as “the Master was angry.” That is, the Lord was angry. ”
The Bishop of Koman asked the faithful: “Can the Lord get angry? Don’t we know that God is love, that God is unchanging? So how can He get angry? ”
He further explained: “We see that such forms of expression are used by people through their prism of vision. Often people say “God’s hand,” “God’s eyes see.” That is, they attribute to God anthropomorphic features. Why? Because it’s easier for us to perceive Him this way. ”
Bishop Michael explained that God does not punish anyone – it’s a man who punishes himself by moving away from Him by his actions and therefore reaps bitter fruits.
“And so when Christ came, He revealed to people a name that had been unknown in the Old Testament. First of all, God is the Father. But even now we say, ‘it’s God’s punishment,’ ‘God’s wrath,’ and the like. Why? Without taking the courage to understand that if something (bad) happens in our lives, if we deviate from God’s commandments, if we do something wrong and reap the consequences, it is not because God is angry, but because we have contributed to this by our own actions,” the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate emphasized.
“So one of the central ideas of the New Testament is that God is a loving Father who always waits for us, His children. No matter how far we go away from Him, even if we do as the characters of today’s parable do, God still loves us and always waits for us. And when we say that He’s got angry with us, it’s actually we who have contributed. It is we who have built our lives and spent them in such a way that we perceive the consequences as God’s punishment, although we ourselves have made every effort to this end,” His Eminence Bishop Michael said in his sermon.
According to the exarch, if while praying we realize that we are not doing this as any duty, not doing this for a check, we begin to understand that we turn to our heavenly Father, who values each of us without exception. He doesn’t look at wealth, education, or positions people occupy in society. He looks into our hearts with love.
“At the same time, this doesn’t mean you can do anything, saying that God still loves us and forgives anything so come what may. No. This places upon us a special responsibility. Because God, loving us, has given us the freedom to act as we choose. And when we act according to our free will, we must keep in mind that we are limited in our behavior, morally, by God’s commandments, which we can either fulfill or reject. It all depends solely on us. When God calls us to a prayer or to service, or when the Church calls us to fast, it is all a call, but we must realize that no one can force us, no one can impose this on us. And when we fulfill these commandments willingly, we communicate with God sincerely. Accordingly, we say to Him: “Heavenly Father, you have commanded and I want to act this way because I understand that these commandments were given by You out of love for me, so that I may feel better, so that I may become better, so that I reach that great supper, the Kingdom of Heaven, which You have prepared for all of us,” said Bishop Michael.
The bishop also urged believers to remember that the basic principle of communion with God is our personal will, our personal sincere desire.
“Let us cherish every moment when we can pray, when we can open the Holy Scriptures, when we can do good to our neighbor, because that is the call of the Father. This is our way, to this heavenly prepared supper to which we are all called. Let’s recall such a detail. Absolutely everyone was called. Including the rich – but the rich ones refused. Then the Lord says, “Call up all. The lame, the blind, the crippled, and the poor.” And they came. So we can assume that those people who had some defects are sinful people. Each of us has personal sins, personal flaws, but in spite of all this, the Lord loves us, the Lord calls upon us, the Lord awaits everyone without exception. Let’s remember that. Let us value this and not waste our lives on rejections, as did the characters of today’s parable, those who had other personal matters to deal with. May the Lord help us all. Amen,” summed up the exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Bishop Michael.