THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY: Nicodemus Visits Jesus

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Nicodemus was seeking Jesus under the cover of darkness because he has much to lose- his security, position and power. But Jesus asks him to be “born from above”; which was far beyond his comprehension.
We also find it difficult to understand many divine things as we are just another God’s creation. The plans and purposes of the creator are far beyond our comprehension. Orthodoxy is a way to make sense and connect with the creator God, who is beyond the human intellect and comprehension, through worship.

Gospel Reading: John 3: 1-12

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?

11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY: A personal invitation to “Come and See”

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“Come and see” is a personal invitation by Jesus. His disciples also invite others into discipleship saying, “come and see”. This phrase, in short has become a personal invitation to God’s dwelling and into discipleship with him.

Can we invite Jesus to come and see where we are dwelling? How about inviting him to our living space, kitchen and bedroom? How about talking to him as we show him around?

The imagination goes like this; if Jesus accepts our invitation ask him to sit with us. Show him those aspects of our home, collections, valuables, achievements and our possessions that delight us.

But if he asks, “where your sprit is residing”, how might we respond. Read this gospel passage, then meditate and write a conversation with Jesus about where we are “staying”. Be truthful and trust him. Pray through the thoughts and emotions we experience during the dialogue. Talk to your loved ones and share your experience.

Reading from John 1: 43-51: Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

 

 

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY

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To start his ministry Jesus left Nazareth (symbolic of leaving our old ways of living to start a new!) and began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Repentance is not only turning away from our sinful ways, but it also calls for turning towards God. As St. Paul says, a new creation is what matters!

Gospel Reading from St. Mathew 4: 12-22

Jesus Begins His Ministry in Galilee:

12 Now when Jesus[a] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Jesus Calls the First Disciples:

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Martyrdom day of St. Stephen

St. Stephen's Day

January 8th is the Martyrdom day of St. Stephen, the chief of deacons and the first Christian martyr. The word deacon is derived from the Greek word diakonos, which means “servant”. In the Christian Church, a deacon is believed to be a “servant of the church”. In the Malankara Syrian Orthodox faith, deacons assist the priests when they administer the Holy Sacraments.
The origination of this office can be traced back to the early church in the Book of Acts when seven men were selected to serve the church. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business” (Acts 6:2,3). When they were chosen, they set them before the apostles and when they had prayed they laid hands on them (Acts 6:6). Thus the apostles stipulated the following three conditions for nominating deacons: They must be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom; they should be appointed by the apostles through the laying on of hands with prayers; and they should carry out certain responsibilities in the church.
St. Paul also specified the requirements of a deacon, in I Timothy 3:8-9: “Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience”. In the Syrian Orthodox tradition, six ranks of deaconate are specifically assigned with particular duties. However, the roles and duties attached with the ranks are no more significant in the Malankara tradition. The ranks are of more traditional and in the modern church. A deacon’s responsibility is to help the priest or bishop during the Holy Sacraments. Usually, deacons sermonize the congregation. St. Stephen’s day is a special day where a full-deacon is also allowed to read the Evengalion (The Holy Gospel) during the Holy Qurbana or Prayers.

My dearest Ignatious Family, Special thank you to all

Once upon a time two disciples named James and John, they came to Jesus and asked for a favor; grant us that we may sit one on your right hand and the other on your left!

Jesus smiled at them and said “guys you don’t know what you are asking for. Can you drink the cup that I drink and be baptized with the baptism that I’m baptized with?

They do not understand what it mean by drinking the cup or being baptized; so they just said yes!
But Jesus continued, you guys are thinking like ‘gentiles’, like the rulers of ‘gentiles’; asking for the left and right position in the public. But here things are different; whoever wants to be the first shall be the slave of all; and whoever desires to become the great shall be the servant!

Two thousand years have passed; and we are thinking no different than James or John; whoever wants to be the first, try all means to be the first; and whoever wants to be the great, buy and market greatness!

But for me, an eleventh hour decision, at the age of 35 years as a family person, with wife kid and a profession, it was extremely painful to decide whether I’m eligible for this ministry. But now, after being a deacon and serving God for the last one and a half years, I really mean it; I am committed to the service; to serve the God and humankind and not to be served!

The Gospel reading on the day of ordination highlights Jesus’ mission statement prophetically from Isaiah 61, and He confirmed it in Luke 4 at which time He began His public ministry. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61:1, 2).

However, I am just like anyone else here, a human being with limited energy, limited resources, limited intelligence and capabilities. And I do not think that I am going to revolutionize the church society or the youths. Perhaps, I would be happy with the micro gains; if just one fellow being/ a small community/ an under privileged or minority group is getting something out of my service, I am contented and happy.

Please keep my ministry, my family and me in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you very much. May God bless!