Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2013 New Testament Challenge – Day 5 (Matthew 13-18)

Every year I participate in a special effort called the New Testament Challenge sponsored by a priest of the Orthodox Church in America. He encourages Christians to spend the Christmas Fast, also known as Advent) reading the entire New Testament as a preparation for Christmas. Each year I have done this, it has been blessing to me and I pray this year will be no different. As part of the New Testament Challenge, I endeavor to blog a bit about the reading for that particular day. I may miss a few, but I pray for those who follow this blog (NOW ALSO ON FACEBOOK) it will be a blessing.

“Let us pray to the Lord, that we may be made worthy to hear the Holy Gospel.” This call, heard immediately prior to the reading of the Matins Gospel, has been on my mind the past few weeks. It is also said during Paraklesis, which we celebrate each Wednesday evening in Florence. My question is, “Aren’t we all worthy?”

Today’s readings for the New Testament Challenge begin with several parables from the Lord. When asked why the Lord teaches in parables, He said, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (Matthew 13.11) I believe, taken in context of several other passages today, confirms that the Lord will not allow “just anyone” to understand His Gospel.

“But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Matthew 13.16-17) “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.’” (Matthew 13.34-35) “He who has ear to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13.43)

If the Lord openly has declared that not all people will be honored with understanding His Gospel, we should be fervent in our prayers to “be made worthy to hear the Holy Gospel.” This has a double urgency, in my thoughts. If we HAVE been chosen by God to hear, and therefore understand, the Gospel, but we choose to ignore the message of hope, we are all the more in danger of eternal torment.

“The Son of Man will send out His angles, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 13.41)

Don’t you want to be worthy of hearing the Gospel? The flip side of the coin is that we will hear the word of God and not comprehend its blessings and continue to live in darkness until God chooses to shed His light on us. But even to this, though not a part of today’s readings, God has already prepared. “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.” (Romans 9.18) If God has chosen to hide the truth from your heart, it is God’s will, and therefore Saint Paul comforts with these words of hope. BUT we should WANT to understand God’s word so that we can be saved. It would be our condemnation if He chooses to count us worthy to understand the Gospel, and we respond with unbelief! To quote Saint Paul, “Μη γένοιτο – Certainly not!” (Romans 9.14)

Until tomorrow….pray for worthiness!

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