On the Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost, the Church commemorates the Sunday of the Holy Father of the 1st Ecumenical Council which was dedicated to the unity of the Church. Shortly before His crucifixion, Christ prayed for us to be one as the Trinity is one. If we are going to be like God, then we must be committed to unity, not just in the name we call ourselves, but in the way we think about God. We must be committed to the oneness of mind with the Church.
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My brothers and sisters, we just heard a very important prayer of Jesus Christ. In the gospel this is called the High Priestly Prayer, and it follows the tradition of the ancient Jewish temple where right before the sacrifice, the priest would offer a prayer to God that was related to the sacrifice as an example, right? And here we heard in this morning’s gospel, a portion of that prayer that Christ himself offers to the Father before going up on the cross. He gives glory to God the Father, and the Father gives glory to him, the Son.
But he says something very important in this morning’s gospel that I want us to focus on, not just today, but for the rest of our lives. Christ says … Oh, I lost it. Wait a minute. There it is. “Now I am no longer in the world. Christ says,” he’s speaking to the Father, “but these are in the world and I come to you. Holy Father, keep them through your name, those whom you have given me,” now, listen to this, “that they may be one as we are one.”
The prayer of Jesus Christ before he goes up on the cross is for us to be just like the Holy Trinity, not divine. We’re not going to become God. We’re not going to become the Holy Trinity. But he wants us to be just like the Holy Trinity. He says that they may be one as we are one. And now we have to remember all the way back to Genesis. We are created in His image, and the image of God Father, Son, Holy Spirit is a trinity of oneness. One love, one mind, one agenda we could say, using today’s terminology.
And if we remember in the garden, the devil trying to trick Eve, the devil says to Eve, “He doesn’t want you to eat from that tree because he doesn’t want you to be like him.” But that’s exactly what God does want for us, to be like him, to be unified with each other like the Trinity is unified. In the divine liturgy, and I want you to listen for this today after … actually before, I’m sorry, before we recite the creed, I’m going to come out and I’m going to say, let us love one another that with oneness of mind, we may confess. And you are going to pray and the choir is going to sing, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Trinity one in essence and undivided. And then we are going to recite the creed, the Pistevo.
You see, my brothers and sisters, the church is training us to be just like God. We pray that we have oneness of mind. It’s not good for us to say, We’ll just have to agree to disagree when it comes to our life with Jesus Christ. Agreeing to disagree is what brought the world 45,000 denominations of Christianity. Does that sound like a Christian people united to each other like God? Unity is from God, division is from the devil. There’s a reason we call him diavolos because he divides us. He divides us one from another, husband against wife, children against their parents, church against church. All these divisions in the world are not what God wants for us.
And this is why on this Sunday, the Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost, the church brings to our mind the Holy Fathers of the first Ecumenical Council gathered in Nicaea in 325. It was so important for the church to remain united, that the emperor brought all the bishops together so that we as Christians could be in oneness of mind. When we are divided, we are nothing like God.
And so my brothers and sisters, as we continue today’s divine liturgy and as we eventually walk out those doors and continue with our daily life, here is the challenge. It’s a difficult one this week, unite yourself in your mind to the church. Not just where you put your name, not just a list of names, but unite yourself in the way you think with the way the church thinks about God. Because as we celebrate next week, the coming of the Holy Spirit, God promises that the Holy Spirit is going to give the church the truth.
And the first ecumenical Council and the second, all the way down through the seventh, the Holy Fathers gathered for one purpose, to remain united, not politically, but united in faith, united in belief, united in worship. That ultimately is what is going to be heaven for us, to love being oneness of mind with each other and with God. It’s not an easy challenge, but it’s the most important thing that we can work on for our eternal salvation depends on being like God.
Let’s start with casting away our own agendas and solidify our unity as a family in Christ, solidify around the gospel, around the sacraments of the church, around Orthodoxy. Because as the world continues to get more estranged from God, the devil will continue to try to convince us, “God doesn’t really want you to be like him.” Don’t fall trap to the devil. Be like God. Unite yourself in the way you think, in the way you believe, with the beliefs of the church, which have been given to us by Jesus Christ, which you celebrate today in commemorating the fathers of the First Council. Glory to God for always.
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