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.
Sometimes we get stuck with our blinders on during important functions in the Church. Sometimes we forget the needs of those around us who need time with God for healing and peace. When we take to the streets with special Church services, or just going about our day, we need to remember our purpose is to bring God to the world. There are too many around us who need His help. We must open our eyes to their needs.
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.
Today is the Feast of Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle. Saint Andrew was called to follow Christ while he was still a disciple of John the Baptist. After Jesus called him, he immediately turned to his brother and said, “We have found the Messiah!” (You can read the entire passage below). Then Jesus called Philip who turned to his close friend. Over and over again the Good News of the Messiah spread not through strangers, but though people who had a close bond.
With the “holiday season” in full swing, each day our attention is being begged by many commercial vendors promising to sell love and happiness this year for Christmas. Then there is the ever-popular “KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS!” mantra that increases to a daily rage in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Through all this commercial chaos, the Church invites us to spend more time actually IN Church.
When a group of religious elites attempted to silent the disciples of Christ because they were rejoicing and praising God, Christ said, “If these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” Take a moment and read today’s Gospel passage.
There is a popular army slogan, “Be all you can be.” For more than twenty years, this slogan was used to recruit the finest men and women to join the United States Army. It strikes a chord in your heart that creates the desire to prove yourself to others, not just in your strength but by your attitude as well. The United States Army is known throughout the world for bravery and skill. But I’m not recruiting your to join the US Army.