Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Secret Gospel is No Gospel

Many Orthodox Christians in America have grown accustomed to the expression, “Orthodoxy is the best kept secret in America.” This phrase was made famous (I believe) by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory back in the 1980’s. Invoking the most positive thoughts we can understand that Orthodoxy has remained virtually unknown as a side effect of ethnic communities and immigration. We cannot ignore that for most Orthodox Christians who arrived as immigrants in the 20th Century, the Church was the only place they felt safe in what was a foreign world. By default most Church communities in America became ethnic enclaves within America’s cities. It was just a natural part of immigration. But as today’s Gospel lesson reminds us, the message is meant to be taken from place to place.

Without dwelling any more than is necessary on the past weaknesses of Orthodox Christian parishes, we can, or at least should, agree that the future is in our control in as much as taking the Gospel from place to place. Today’s Gospel lesson speaks volumes in guiding us to what God expects in terms of the Gospel. First, Jesus says, “Let us go to the next town, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” Second, He tells the man who had been healed of leprosy, “Go show yourself to the priest....for a proof to them.”

So what is our call? We MUST take the Gospel from place to place while we continually show ourselves to the Church as proof of God’s love and grace. The Great Fast is not only about fasting and prayer. It is also about reaching out the poor. That should also include the spiritually poor. It is much easier than one might expect. Orthodox Pascha celebrations often draw local media exposure. The Church should take full advantage of the exposure and make the conscious effort to reach out to those outside the Church to reveal to them, like the priests in today’s Gospel, the power and grace of God. Pascha is also a time when many non Orthodox visitors arrive at the doors of our Churches. We should invite them to return on another day after Pascha to discuss and learn more about the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel is “Good News” but it can’t be good news if it is kept a secret.

Here are Today’s Readings:
Epistle Reading: St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews 3:12-16 (RSV) - BRETHREN, take care lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end, while it is said, "Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." Who were they that heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses?
 Gospel Reading: Mark 1:35-44 (RSV) - At that time, Jesus rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, and they found him and said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out." And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean." Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him, "See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to a priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them."

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