We will hear a great deal about John the Baptist in the next few days as he is a central player in the Baptism of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. His Feast will be celebrated on Sunday, the day after Epiphany (also called Theophany). It always astounds me what a profound example of humility John the Baptist offers to us for our Christian journey. His mission given by God, was to make straight the way of the Lord. He is called the Forerunner, and his entire mission (on earth and in Hades according to his apolytikon) was to prepare people to see Christ.
Throughout the day yesterday on social media, I kept reading wishes for prosperity in the New Year. It got me to thinking. Prosperity in what? As Christians we are told by God to deny ourselves. We are told to die in order that we could live. We are told to not worry about where our food was going to come from since we were more important than the birds. So, every time I see a Christian wishing prosperity upon someone, it makes me wonder.
Most of us enter the New Year making promises for a better life, but normally our promises are based upon the physical blessings of life rather than the spiritual. This year, take the lead from St John the Baptist, who Christ called the greatest man ever to be born of a woman. St John the Baptist understood just how unworthy he was of the blessings that God had for him. Focusing in the New Year on our soul and growing closer to God rather than on the physical blessings will be a worthy resolution indeed.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
On the Sunday before Christmas, the Church reminds that God is good for His word. We hear the ancient genealogy of Jesus Christ from Abraham to Christ, as a reminder of the historical promise that God had made to His people to send a savior. On Christmas we celebrate the arrival of the Savior and God keeping His promise. Now we can look ahead to the last promise that God made, to return to rescue us from death once and for all.
With God as our Father and the Church as our mother, we are all invited to gather in the Church for the banquet which has been prepared. As a Greek Orthodox family, we have been invited to be in Church every Sunday. If some make excuses, then we must reach out to the rest of our family, those who God wants in His Church. God wants His family gathered for the banquet in His Church. Set your mind… “If it’s Sunday, I’m in Church!”
Each year, on the second Sunday before Christmas, the Church commemorates the earthly ancestry of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ with special attention being given to the Patriarch Abraham to whom God first made His promise that he would be the father of many nations. The Gospel lesson for today is the Parable of the Heavenly Banquet to which we have all been invited. There is a beautiful image that comes to my mind when I think of a banquet, Christmas and ancestry…...FAMILY.
“You broke the law! You should be kicked out!” While we don’t normally hear people use this exact language when discussing the Holy Canons of the Church, the attitude is quite common. Many of us get worked up about whether OTHERS are following the letter of the law, that we neglect to remember the love that God had in mind when He created the rules in the first place. In the Gospel lesson found in Luke 13.10-17, we hear about a woman who was healed by Christ on the Sabbath.
In the Gospel According to Luke we hear of a woman bent over, barely able to walk, for many years. Not being able to handle it any longer, she approached our Lord. “He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.” (Luke 13.13) On the surface, this sounds like a good thing, right? There were some, however, who were angry that Jesus healed her. They were angry because all this took place on the Sabbath day.
In the early days of the Archdiocese, especially as immigration increased, the majority of Church members chose to live near enough to the Church that they could even walk. This was practical not only since most did not own their own cars in those days, but because the Church was the center of their lives. It was where they could “be who they really were” in this foreign land. It was where they could learn from those who had arrived before them, the ways of the New World. It was much more than learning how to be Americans; it was where they could live as Greek Orthodox Christians.