Imagine you are walking down Tarpon Avenue on January 6th during the Epiphany Procession and a stranger stops you and asks, “What’s all the commotion? Who is the guy in the gold robes?” There you are with a few hundred of your fellow Greek Orthodox Christians, walking the same path so many hundreds have gone before for over one hundred years. Suddenly a homeless man calls out, “HELP!” Now imagine someone from the Church steps out from the procession pushing the homeless man back into the crowd so the Archbishop could walk without interruption.
Does this sound unrealistic? The same story is told in today’s Gospel lesson, (Luke 18.35-43) only instead of the Archbishop and Epiphany Procession, it was Jesus Christ walking between cities. But the basic story remains the same. A complete stranger who is suffering, after hearing that someone important was walking past, is buffeted by his followers to mind his own business. Does this still sound unrealistic?
As you know I often walk down the streets of Tarpon Springs wearing my robe headed for a meeting. It isn’t strange for a car to honk its horn and for drivers to call out, “Hi father!” You may be surprised to hear that almost as often, I am approached by strangers who want to know who I am. Then a typical conversation begins as we discuss the struggles of life. I hear about sick family members and friends out of work. The streets around our town are filled with many suffering people.
The truth is we have a chance to have these sorts of interactions every day as Greek Orthodox Christians. We may not be able to offer someone a miracle as Jesus did in today’s Gospel lesson, but we are walking down the street with Christ. In our baptism and chrismation, we have been united to Christ, and as we walk through town, so does our Lord.
The challenge isn’t whether we can expect people to ask us for help, but if we will offer them hope. It is very easy in our busy lives to walk past those in need, or to tell them to leave us alone. The difficult choice is for us to stop, spend a moment or two with someone in their suffering, and bring the hope of a new life in Christ.
Many who surrounded Christ tried to silence those in need, but Christ listened. Many tried to send others away, but Christ said, “Come to Me.” Everyone had a choice of what to say. What will you say?