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Aneede Sunday is to remembering all the departed believers. The Church wants the faithful to remember those forefathers and mothers who nurtured and maintained the true faith. Last Sunday the church remembered all the departed clergies. This Sunday is to remember all the departed faithful; our forefathers and mothers, brothers and sisters.
How blessed are we! How unique our faith is!
This is the only Christian faith where you are a part of the continuum; a continuum that begins with the birth to the second coming of the savior Lord Jesus Christ. Physical death is not a separation from the continuum and the departed believers are continuing their journey of salvation until the day of last judgment. We are so blessed because we are also in the journey where earthly life, death or anything is not going to separate us from the continuum so that we journey towards the final destination. This is the only faith where you can participate in the Holy Communion along with the departed, living and the heavenly beings.
Let’s come together this Sunday to remember all our forefathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, and connect with the creator God, who is beyond our human comprehension, through praise and worship…
Today is Kohene Sunday- A special day to remember all the departed priests. It’s good to remember at least once in a year our forefathers who helped us to sustain in true faith. Let’s take a couple of minutes to remember them. We have already attended countless holy Qurbanas. We have participated in Holy Communion numerous times. Just take a moment and try to remember the names of the priests, imagine their faces, and recollect the images of the holy altars where they offered the holy Eucharist for us. Especially, remember the priests who are deceased. You know they are with their master; participating in the worship and holy Qurbana along with their master in heaven. So they have better access and they can intercede for us.
Let this Sunday be a Thanksgiving Day to God for giving us the priests who are appointed to help us to imbibe and nurture us in faith.
Well, coming back to the today’s gospel reading. Today’s reading is from St. Matthew chapter 24 versus 42 to 51. And it’s about two metaphors regarding the second coming of Jesus and the need to stay awake. It says that no one knows what time the master comes to evaluate his servants. The parable of a master going for a long journey is similar to the parable of vineyard tenants, which is very familiar to us.
A master is going for a long journey. He is assigning duties to his servants. When he comes back he is going to evaluate what his servants did. The illustration here depicts two servants. One who is faithful and the other who thinks the master is delaying and does all wicked things. So the message is since you do not know when the master is coming you have to stay alert.
I’m not going to focus on the second coming of Jesus in today’s sermon. Rather I’m trying to elucidate why is the message stay awake is relevant in today’s context. For this I’m trying to find parallels between the gospel of Matthew and Mark. The same parable is depicted in both gospels.
In St. Mark the call to watch is replaced with a synonym- the command to “shake off sleep”. By commanding to shake off sleep Jesus is introducing a new theme. The struggle between staying awake and falling asleep.
Now I’m inviting your attention to what happened on Gethsemane. Jesus wanted his disciples to stay awake with him. But what happened, the tragedy is they will not stay awake with Jesus in Gethsemane. And they will sleep. They failed, because they do not understand the call to the cross; and the call to be awake with Jesus. We are failing to stay awake because we simply never understood the call and mission of Christian life.
I will make this theme very simple by telling a small story. Fiorello La Guardia was one of the most colorful and energetic and reformist mayor of New York City during some time after First World War. He was very active, he would ride the city fire trucks, and he takes the entire orphanages to the baseball games.
The story I am going to tell you was printed in New York Times sometime in 1935. Mayor LaGuardia turned up in a night court that served the poorest ward in the city. It was very late; so he dismissed the judge for the evening, and took over the bench himself. After he heard a few cases, an old woman was brought before him. She was accused of stealing a loaf of bread. She told the mayor that her daughter’s husband had deserted her; her daughter was sick; and her grandchildren were starving.
But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, insisted on pressing charges. He said, my store is in a very bad neighborhood. Therefore, she’s got to be punished in order to teach other people a lesson. The mayor was listening. He turned to the old woman and said, I have got to punish you. The law makes no exception. $10 or 10 days in jail. Remember in 1935 $10 was like $500.
But even as he spoke, LaGuardia was reaching into his pocket and pulling out a $10 bill. Here is the woman’s fine, he said. Furthermore, I’m going to fine everyone including me in this courtroom $.50. The reason he said, this is for being insensitive, for not staying awake, for not sensing the needs of others, for living in a city where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat.
Well, are you getting the link, the meaning of Jesus command to stay awake. Unfortunately, whenever we talk about staying awake it land up in the theme of the second coming of Jesus, and people think that it exclusively mean you have to keep praying all the time and be ready and alert for the second coming. But here stay awake has a different meaning. It means and commands us to be mindful, to be alert, to be vigilant, and to be sensitive to the needs of the needy. Not only the material or tangible needs, but also the psychological and spiritual needs; like for example- love, compassion, understanding and so on.
I was on a mission trip last year to India. We had a chance to participate in the community mission of Bethsada/ Guardian Angel society. The community mission team there tries to reach out, and address the needs of the community. For example, they are supporting 25 local families with rice, vegetables groceries and other essential food every month; they have a group of 25 students whose educational expenses are taken care on a monthly basis; they help homeless families to build a house and so on. I know this is not the new mission. But what I’m trying to say is, during the interaction with George achan and Julio’s thirumeni-the people behind this mission-they said, we can easily ignore these people, I mean the people who are in need in the community; and we can be busy with the parish ministry, church and diocesan administration, worship liturgy and so on. Community mission is a big burden. It’s a long-term commitment. For example, if you are supporting a student who is in a professional college like nursing, you have to support him or her for four years. Though it is a big we still want to do this, because we are supposed to be sensitive, mindful, and vigilant to the needs of the needy.
I hope the message is much clearer now. It’s the duty of a priest to stay alert and make sure that his parish members are staying awake, vigilant, and sensitive to the needs of the fellow beings around us. I hope today’s gospel reading and message help us to stay awake, and help us to be sensitive, open, and watch for the needs of the needy. Thanks again, May God bless.
“Follow me…” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
The disciples’ fishing nets represent their income, their sense of accomplishment and their identity as enterprising fish catching businessmen. They’ve probably handled these nets most of their lives. No wonder they find it difficult to let go of them.
How about imagining ourselves clutching the tightly woven cords of fishing nets- how familiar they feel, how secure? But remember, Jesus is standing near to us, gazing at us with a look of invitation that’s somehow irresistible. He’s asking us to let go of the nets and find our security in him. Jesus walks daily through our life, calling us to follow him. What is God asking us to let go of today? What do we need to relinquish in order to confirm our heart to the heart of our savior Jesus Christ?
Gospel Reading- Mark 1:12-20
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news[a] of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
Ma’ Altho is an important feast-day celebrating the presentation of infant Jesus to the Jerusalem temple. The presentation of infant Jesus is an analogy of “giving away” of children to God. They no longer simply belong to their parents, but they belong to God. In Orthodox tradition the sacrament of Baptism is a kind of a “giving away” of children to God.
This “giving away” of children in baptism implies that the parents/ god-persons are not just raising their own child, but a child of God. This is also an assurance that God will help in the complex process of child-rearing. So we have to trust that God’s hand is involved — often in ways that we can’t fully comprehend.
Acknowledging God’s mysterious involvement in human life is the crux of orthodox thought. Ma’ Altho is yet another feast-day to remind us to fully acknowledge and trust- that God is continuously involving in our lives, from birth till death and beyond.
Moreover, there can also be the comfort in knowing that we have been presented to and accepted by God as ‘God’s child’ through baptism. The world in which we live is not always kind or easy, but we are assured that we belong to God and he is well-connected with our lives.
Gospel Reading: Luke 2:36-40 (New Revised Standard Version)
36 There was also a prophet, Anna[a] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[b] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
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?
Farmers and other parishioners would arrive at Holy Qurbana with their seeds or seedlings for blessings. It was a way to recognize the power God has over creation and to place the following year’s growing season into His hands. In addition, farmers sought God’s help through the intercession of St. Mary, mother of God on this fixed feast day celebrated on January 15th.