Friday, October 21, 2016

Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity


Matt. 18:21f

The parable of the Unforgiving Servant should remind us of words that the Lord spoke earlier in the same Gospel, in the sixth chapter:

…And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6:9-15)

Later today in this service of Holy Communion we will be bold to say “Our Father.” Following the Prayer Book translation of 1549, we will use the word “trespasses” instead of the word “debts” from the King James Bible, published later, in 1611. However, the word “debts” is actually a more accurate translation of the Greek word (opheilema) .

The servant owed the king ten thousand talents, but was owed by his fellow servant a mere one hundred pence. The difference is staggering, sort of like a man who was released from a debt of a million dollars demanding full payment from another man who owed about, as one hundred pence suggests, ten dollars. Frankly, the use of absurdity is a method of humor that Christ employed in His teaching (“ye strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” - a perfectly ridiculous picture). But, the fact is that both men in this story were too poor to pay, and could have faced a lifetime of debtor’s prison or slavery unless they were given mercy.

When the Lord Jesus addresses the issue of our sins He forces us to face the fact that we are much too subjective. We do not look at the world objectively, but rather as it affects us, and how we feel. So He compares the act of repentance from our cherished sins to the pain of self-mutilation, an act of amputation. Go back to chapter five:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee (i.e. if it makes you sin), pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut if off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matt. 5:27-30)

For people who are fond of their sins, to repent can feel like self-mutilation, as hard as pulling out an eye, or cutting off a hand. That bit of lust, that secret desire- how can they live without it? The price of holding on to sins, including cherished sins, is far worse than being maimed, loosing an eye or a hand. It is an eternity of separation from God. The danger is that those who do not repent in this life could cling to their sins forever, growing more attached to them, going only further into darkness, into Hell.

The same subjectivity that deceives us about our own sins, and makes repentance seem painful (painful, that is, until we have done it and realize that we are free), is the same cursed subjectivity that distorts the truth about the offenses that others have committed against us. And so it is that the mercy that was just shown to me, the mercy that forgave my million-dollar debt, seems small compared to the ten dollars that my fellow servant owes me. That is what sin does to our common sense; that is how it distorts our perspective.

You see, we cannot pay God the price for our sins. But, it has been paid already; the King Himself to Whom we owed our hopeless debt said, upon the cross before He gave up His spirit and died, "teleō" -“it is paid in full” (translated, "it is finished" in the KJV). The debt is impossible to pay ourselves because we cannot redeem ourselves, and because God is infinite in His Divine Majesty. Yet, it was paid in full,1 and we are frankly forgiven all. But, whatever offense has been committed against us has been committed against a finite creature by another finite creature. It has been committed against one sinner by another sinner. It has been committed against one creature made in God’s image by another creature made in God’s image. It has been committed against someone for whom Christ died by another person for whom Christ died. It has been committed against one object of God’s love by another object of God’s love. It has been committed against one person called to share in Christ’s resurrection by another person called to share in Christ’s resurrection.

I hope this puts the million-dollar debt against the ten-dollar debt into perspective. Furthermore, we have three classes of wrongs. Some wrongs are very real, for if you live in the real world, somebody somewhere, perhaps even somebody close to you, has hurt you or wronged you. These are the real offenses against you. Other wrongs are simply perceived wrongs, but they seem to be real. Perceived wrongs can be accidental, or maybe even things others have done innocently, or even quite correctly because they had to; but from our perspective they appear to be wrong. A third category is the grudge, the wrong we refuse to forgive. Be it real or simply perceived, be it a wrong done to us, or a grudge we bear out of loyalty to another person who bore his own grudge, and for whose sake we must carry on the grudge so as not to feel disloyal to a friend, one who may be dead or alive. Whatever, if I bear a grudge for my own sake or for the sake of someone else, it is killing me, bringing death into my own spirit unless I cast it off.

I know, I know, it feels like a bigger debt than ten dollars. Bad enough those strangers who hurt you; but if it is a person close to you… That person ought to be dropped into boiling oil, because his ten-dollar debt is so big, so much bigger than the million you once owed the king before he frankly forgave you all. There it is, the curse of subjectivity. Do you know why you are asked to forgive your debtors? For the same reason that God your Father forgives you your debts. You must forgive for the sake of the One Who shed His blood to atone for every sin against God. He bought their forgiveness from the Father, and for His sake you must pray for their salvation.

What will you really mean when you pray today, “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us?” Taken in one sense you maybe would not want to ask such a thing. Who would want to limit God’s mercy to the smallness of our mercy? To understand the meaning of this prayer, look at the version of the same prayer from the Gospel of Luke: “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” (Luke 11:4)

And so we see that when you pray these words you are actually pronouncing forgiveness upon everyone who has hurt you. At least, that is how you are supposed to mean it. “Forgive us our debts, as we here and now forgive everyone who is our debtor.” You are pronouncing your forgiveness in the very words of this prayer. And, this brings us to that last problem of subjectivity. You are not forgiving because your emotions agree with the need you have to show mercy. Indeed, your emotions may not agree. But, like that repentance that may seem to be as impossible as cutting off a hand, the pain is not real. The freedom that follows the effort, once the deed is done and the decision made, outweighs the pain we had imagined. Destroy your resentment, cast if off, have done with it, and find your freedom.

In the Old Testament Chronicles, a prophet named Zechariah (not to be confused with the later prophet of the same name), suffered this fate:

And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD. Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, “The LORD look upon it, and require it.” (II Chron. 24:20-22)

However, in the Book of Acts, we read of the same fate being suffered by the first Christian Martyr, Saint Stephen centuries later. Notice the difference.

  • Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:57-60)

Saint Stephen had an advantage that Zechariah, centuries before, did not have. We do not criticize Zechariah for demanding justice when he died, because, unlike Saint Stephen, he could not look back to Jesus Christ on the cross. We all know the words from the Gospel of Luke: words spoken by Jesus as He was hanging upon the cross: “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 24: 34) The Word made Flesh, God the Son in His human nature, showed us what mercy truly is. We already knew that God, from heaven, forgives sins. God cannot be harmed, wronged or deprived of anything. Yet, as a Man, it is God who was mocked, beaten and crucified by sinful men, and who pronounced forgiveness. No angel can preach on this subject as well as you and I can, for it takes human frailty to understand the reality of forgiveness, especially if we forgive after we have suffered.

So we do not criticize the holy prophet, Zechariah, of the Old Testament; Instead, we see that Saint Stephen had even more grace, for he could look back to God the Son, in His human nature, forgiving the very men who were murdering Him, who were enjoying the spectacle of His suffering, as they displayed the depths of schadenfreude. Saint Stephen could recall God in the flesh forgiving genuine pains that were inflicted upon His Person.

May our Lord Jesus, grant to us the joy that comes when we are free to love everyone, including those who have wronged us, with that charity placed within us by the Holy Ghost; for only that God-given charity can make us perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. Amen
1. "It is paid in full" is an acceptable alternative translation of the words rendered "It is finished" in John 19:30. The Greek word used is τελε’ω (teleo). It means to finish, and was used often to speak of complete payment of a debt.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Ephesians. 6:10-20

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

In the nice world of religious pleasantries, today’s text from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians has no meaning. The idea of spiritual warfare, striving against demons, is seen as quaint, outdated, the product of an age of ignorance rendered irrelevant by scientific rationalizations. In other words, it is disregarded due to the bigotry of our modern age, and the arrogant assumption that the little bit of knowledge we have gained about material things gives us wisdom about the invisible world and its realities. The words of Shakespeare’s Hamlet speak to our age : “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

The problem with the modern Rationalist prejudice is that people who suffer from it think it is not a prejudice. They do not know the difference between being rational and being a Rationalist. I, for one, am rational enough to know that the belief that there is a scientific explanation for everything, is simply a new dogma that rests on faith without evidence- the very thing they accuse us of. They say “a rational explanation” or “scientific explanation” because they either disregard the true meaning of words, or do not know what the words mean. By “rational,” they do not mean the use of reason, but rather the prejudiced dismissal of belief in natures supernatural to those natures below them. By “scientific” they do not mean the acquisition of knowledge through empiricism, but rather, the dismissal of facts that cannot be explained in strictly material terms. For these reasons, I do not regard the Rationalists, or believers in what is called "Scientism" (as opposed to simply "science") as being either rational, scientific or sophisticated. Quite the opposite.

On the other hand, a large number of people these days who escape the influence of the Rationalist prejudice look for the supernatural in all the wrong places. A few years ago I was watching something, that passed for a documentary, about a family that had been living in fear and torment because their daily experiences indicated to them that their house was haunted. In fact, they feared that the spirits were evil, and even called them demonic. But, to whom did they turn for help? They called in a man who supposedly was a “Doctor of Paranormal Psychology.” I don’t know where they found this D.P.P., but, I do know that there is no university anywhere that would bestow a doctorate for something called “Paranormal Psychology.” That is, of course, unless Mr. Haney from the old comedy “Green Acres” has opened his own university. And, who did this alleged doctor call in for “expert” help? A psychic. And, did the "psychic"- that is, medium- offer any help? No. Just very bad advice, namely, to regard the tormenting affliction as a rare “psychic” gift. Finally, after finding no help from the psychic, they asked their pastor for help. It turns out that they were members of some sort of Pentecostal denomination. It was obvious, from a scene filmed in their church, that theirs was not one of the kooky fringe snake-handling types, but a simple old fashioned Protestant congregation with a seemingly reasonable pastor, one who seemed to know how to pray in faith. I wonder why these church-going people failed to go to their pastor first.

I mention this because, if any of you are impressed by psychics, or fortune-tellers, or go to seances, or any engage in any other occult practices, I want to be clear with you. The kinds of evil spirits that Saint Paul speaks of in today’s Epistle are very real. If you are looking for the supernatural in all the wrong places yourself, there are two things you need to know. First of all, it is a sin. It belongs to a forbidden world of idolatry and magic that the Biblical prophets referred to as a spiritual form of adultery, because it is unfaithfulness to God. Secondly, it is forbidden because it is dangerous. You may think that demon possession is only a Hollywood genre within a larger genre of horror movies. No. It is real, and the Church has always maintained that it is real. I have had to perform an exorcism on a real life demon possessed person in my time (more than one really), and I know it is real. Just as I know that miracles of healing still happen by the power of Christ, because I am an eyewitness to them. It is all of it quite real, everything you see in the pages of scripture, all of those supernatural events recorded in the New Testament (and, by the way, if you think you may need someone to do an exorcism, don’t call in a psychic. It is a job for a priest, not a circus sideshow act).

We live in a natural world that interacts with a world of holy angels and fallen angels. The holy angels are God’s servants, and the fallen angels are called "demons" (δαιμόνιον, daimonion) in the New Testament (translated as “devils” in the King James Version). The latter seem not to be super-human, but sub-human. The evidence indicates that they resent us, because we are destined to be, by God’s grace in the Lord Jesus Christ, “partakers of the Divine nature.” (II Pet. 1:4) Satan and his fallen angels were defeated when Christ died on the cross, the sinless One for the sins of the many. If you saw Mel Gibson’s The Passion, you may recall that right after the Lord gives up His spirit and dies, and the earth quakes, that Satan cries out in agony from being defeated. That is not a bad scene at all; it makes a very true point about Christ in his cross defeating the enemy of mankind. Because we live in the time of Easter, that is Christ’s resurrection, and because we live in the time of Pentecost, that is, because we are the Church of Christ filled with the Holy Spirit and His gifts and power, we need not fear any evil power such as the spirits mentioned in today’s Epistle. They are, as the Lord Jesus told us, subject to us. If I may be critical, an exorcism is not something to be tried or attempted. It is, rather, something to be done. When it is the appropriate thing to do, it must be done with faith, faith that it cannot possibly fail.

Listen to these words from the tenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel:

"And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:17-20)

This brings us to an unavoidable question: If they are subject to us, and we can trample all over them, and they cannot hurt us, why does Saint Paul tell us to put on the whole armor of God? Why are we in a fight? The answer is to be found in scripture, and also in the tradition of spiritual warriors throughout the history of the Church, such as Saint Anthony and the desert fathers; it is continued today among monks such as my younger brother got to know on the famous Mount Athos, and many others who have been spiritual directors. The demons work hidden from our view through temptations into sin, and they work mainly through deception.

In the New Testament we see that false teaching is attributed to the work of demons. The scripture speaks of “seducing spirits and doctrines of demons,” “the spirit of error” and the “spirit of Antichrist.” How do you understand that in our time the former Episcopal bishop of New Jersey attracts audiences and readers by proclaiming that it is high time for Christianity to abandon belief in God? How is it that many cults exist that cause people to suffer both spiritual and physical harm? Apart from the countless and shocking examples of heresy, ask yourself how much you are willing, in your own mind, to abandon the direct teaching of the word of God in the scripture as understood by the Church in every place and age, in favor of ideas that you like better? Where do those ideas come from? These ideas, that we all must fight by wearing "the helmet of salvation," are capable of reaching the flesh because it has sympathetic vibrations in its tendency to sin. All of us must wear the armor, the whole armor of God, and we must consciously and deliberately put it on every day.

My dear brothers and sisters, it is time we all took heed to Saint Paul’s words. It is time we all put upon ourselves the whole armor of God, and gave ourselves to prayer.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The burden of the word of the Lord

“The prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.” Hosea 9:7

What might I say about my country, at this time, if I were a fool and mad? I think something like this:

The Lord spoke a word in my ear, and kindled a fire in my bones: Cry out and say,
“I have looked, I have seen. I will have blood for blood for all the innocent blood that is shed.”

Do not trust in technology and wealth anymore, neither in might and in weapons. In a flash and an instant these will all be taken away, and we will be left exposed to the forces of nature. Innocent blood of infants in the womb is shed because of profiteers greedy for gain. Blood of innocent people in foreign lands is shed for the greed of our military industrial complex. Our officials are mad. The North Atlantic Treaty is a snare. Our government is in a drunken stupor. The call to arms, the lust for war, the charge into battle, are all a sword that will strike at our own side. The blood that will flow will not bring profit or wealth anymore, not to the slayers of infants, not to our military industrial complex, not to politicians bought and paid for. For all their plans to profit will be to their own destruction, and to the falling of the empire that strikes fear throughout the earth.

Make war if you desire; but the Lord will not be with our troops for victory. Go forth to battle, but do not ask the Lord’s blessing; rather cry, “Woe unto us. We battle not for justice, and not in defense of freedom, but in lust for conquest that we might rule all the earth for profit. And we cannot prevail.”

Those are things I could picture myself saying, if I were a fool or mad - as Hosea said. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


[The following is a rare excursion into the current political mess here in the United States where I am living. To those of you in other countries, pray for us in this hour. It is posted because every significant choice in life must be considered in light of morality and conscience as informed by our Faith.]

“Leadership” is a word misused today. When it is applied to elected representatives simply by virtue of their election, its use is downright contrary to the American democratic idea of representation as a public service. It is obvious that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton can be leaders, and that neither ever will be. Neither is a fit role model for children. Neither one is impressive on a moral level. Indeed, the polls show, among many details, that most people who have decided to vote for one of them is doing so mainly to vote against the other. No leadership there. Bernie Sanders was once a leader, but he has lost his followers because he sold out to the very Wall Street power (personified in Hillary Clinton) that he had campaigned against. President Reagan was a leader, not because he was the President, but because his ideas appealed to many people, and because he inspired hope, and was an impressive person. But Trump and Clinton are so flawed that neither can be a leader. This brings us to the only reasons remaining for voters if they are weighing the choice between the two major party candidates: Policies and appointments.

Dr. Wayne Grudem has withdrawn his endorsement of Donald Trump, and I believe that endorsement was overstated. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is a “morally good” choice. But, the first part of Dr. Grudem’s argument was perfectly reasonable, that is, that we will have to live with the policies and appointments of one or the other. I know that if Hillary Clinton becomes President that the courts, including the Supreme Court, will be packed with judges and justices who radically stand for things that I very much oppose; and that I may not, in fact, be allowed to live freely without actual persecution by the government on matters concerning which I will not violate my conscience or the Canon Law of my church (which two things happen to be in perfect agreement). If she becomes President then more innocent blood will be shed, not just through abortion, but in the Middle East and in Africa. Very possibly, almost probably, her gung ho saber rattling against Russia will lead NATO aggression into the “Dr. Strangelove” scenario, nuclear war from which almost no one survives of any species save cockroaches. Her appointees to the departments will not be qualified and experienced, but simple political cronies (remember, this is the person who put forth Janet Reno – need I say more?).

Trump could be better only if he surrounds himself with somewhat-to-very wise counsel such as appears to be the case now, if he appoints the people he has promised to appoint, actually does make peace with Russia, actually defeats ISIS instead of our current foreign policy of supporting them and pretending to believe in a three-sided war, and (or but) also continues to no longer believe in some of the craziest and unjust things he was saying last year, e.g. “taking out” the families of terrorists, reinstating torture, etc. However, he appears to be unpredictable and impulsive in things he has said. As to what he would do no one can be sure. 

A third debate is scheduled. In that debate will the promised appointments and policies be what is on most minds? Will those things be the focus? If it is about those two persons, then, no matter who wins, we all lose, and so does the world. It’s a shame, because the real issues are heavier than ever before in history.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Ephesians 5:15-21  *  Matthew 22:1-14

The reaction to the king's kind invitation, bidding people to attend the wedding of his son, reminds me of the fifth seal in the Book of Revelation:

“And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled (Rev. 6:9-11).”

When the guests who were invited snub him, and refuse his invitation, and then persecute the messengers of his gracious invitation to the death, the king becomes "wroth." His judgment falls on those murderers, and he sends his army to slay them. The word "wroth" is, of course, a form of the word "wrath." In many passages of scripture we read about the wrath of God. What is the wrath of God?      
          To answer that, we look at the image of God in this parable. The king represents God, and the invitation represents the proclamation of his mercy offered in the Gospel. The invitation is to attend "the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rev.19:9), the marriage feast of the King's Son. The image in the parable includes the obvious implications of forgiveness of sin (purchased by that Son on the sacrificial altar of the cross, and his resurrection that destroys death), showing that the heart of the king is generous, benevolent and gracious. "God is good."
          When the invited people refuse this kindness, and persecute his messengers, they incur his wrath. The king has not changed, the people have. His principles are solid and unmoving. His wrath comes from the same heart as his generosity. Of course, the wrath of God is not exactly like the wrath of this king, for the king is a man who changes due to emotion. This brings up a very ancient doctrine of the Church, and the term for that doctrine is Divine Impassibility: It means that God does not change. In fact, as our own Anglican Article I teaches, he is "without passions."
          Some modern theologians object to this, and insist that the scriptures present to us an emotional God who makes up his mind by reacting to events. They see metaphorical language as literal, forgetting that God has revealed his word to our minds by use of our own language. Emotion includes motion, that is movement and change. But, God does not change. The king in today's Gospel appears to be moved, sometimes by anger and sometimes by his own generosity. Unlike God, this king can be surprised, because he does not know all things before they happen. But, he is in the story only to represent God as an imperfect human illustration, a character who is metaphorical in nature. God's wrath is itself a metaphor. What it means is that you stand on one side of the line or the other, either accepting his kind and gracious offer in the Gospel of his Son, or you refuse that offer and side with the world, the flesh and the Devil. Because God never changes, you stand either on the side of  wrath or on the side of mercy.
          Look at the word that the king uses when he must have his bouncers kick out an impolite guest: "Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" This word, "friend", seems rather odd. In fact, it means that this impolite guest, the one who refused the wedding garment (that is, refused the vestment handed out by the king's servants at the door) in a gesture of disrespect, was in some way beloved of the king. That is what it means that he was called "friend" (ταρος, hetairos). The same word is used later in this same Gospel (Matthew) when Jesus addresses the traitor Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane.

“And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him (Matt. 26:50).”

What could better demonstrate that the Impassibility of God is consistent with the fact that God is love? (I John 4:8, 16) He does not change. Jesus loved Judas, even knowing that the man was a devil, the traitor, for whom it would have been good had he never been born. Jesus was not changed toward Judas, though Judas had renounced him, had abandoned his apostolic office to betray him to the death. "Friend, wherefore art thou come?"
          The king casts the impolite and contemptuous guest out of his palace because that man had placed himself beyond the reach of the king's generous and gracious nature. The man did not need to buy some expensive garment, because it was the host of such a feast who provided these garments, outer garments or vestments, at the door. And, in polite society it was expected that a guest would put the garment on over his own clothes.

“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof (Rom. 13:12-14) .”

We are told to "put on Christ." But, first we are instructed to cast off the works of the flesh. Everything is provided for us. We put on Christ by hearing the word of God, remembering that in Hebrew the word for "hear" is the same word as "obey." We put on Christ by staying within his Church. We put on Christ by hearty repentance and true faith. We put on Christ by the sacraments that are generally necessary to salvation. We put on Christ by cooperating with the Holy Spirit who forms within us the virtues, above all charity. This is the life of faith, belief in what God has revealed as true.        
          All the parts of the life of faith are gifts of God, provided like the wedding garment given to each guest. We are invited and granted mercy and grace, to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, to be partakers of the divine nature having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. We are given everything we need so that we become behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. As you are called in Christ, to become saints in Christ, so live in Christ, having been baptized into his death unto sin, and in whom you live unto righteousness.
          If you refuse the invitation, or if you come to the feast but refuse the gracious provision of the king, it is your choice, never understanding the heart of one who calls you "friend." Above all, from the cross he has called you "friend." Do not turn from his love. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.