Passages: Is. 36:1-9; 1 Thess. 1:1-10; Lk. 12:13-31
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ ԼԶ 1-9; Ա Թեսաղ. Ա 1-10; Ղկ. ԺԲ 13-31
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
During the seasons of Thanksgiving to the New Years, from about mid-November to Mid-January, what is one thing that is common for almost all of us? We share in a life of indulging. Whether it’s food, food and more food, or it is spending money on gifts, decorations, vacations, etc. those of us living here in the United States, Canada and the parts of Europe indulge during the festivities of this season. To some, it may seem selfish, commercial, wasteful,
or otherwise negative, especially when the world is evidently sick, sinful and darkened. However, what is it that we are indulging in? Delicious food, entertainment, time with friends and family, material goods, etc. In other words, we indulge in the things we enjoy, buy the things that give us pleasure; Yes, perhaps we make purchases that spoil us, but we also spend more time with family, reevaluate health goals, make resolutions, etc.
Certainly, there needs to be limits and boundaries placed on how much and in what we indulge in. After all Christ teaches us that it is not what we have or any other earthly titles, that define our true value, but, it feels good to give and get gifts, to share time together and be with one another. In today’s Gospel Christ teaches us, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” (vv. 22-23) Many of us understand this passage as, don’t worry God will take care of us. While this is true, St. Paul also teaches us in 2 Thessalonians, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” My dears, when Christ says do not worry, don’t be anxious, he never tells us to become lazy, to sit around and wait for God to do everything. Nor does Christ tell us to not enjoy this world with all its blessings that God has created. Rather, Christ reminds us to not devalue who really cares for us and gives us worth, by above all remaining trusting that God is with us in all times.
This sounds difficult especially when the world around us seems to be falling apart. From home life to work life, school life, politics, health, personal struggles, etc. how do we remain trusting and hopeful and not fall into anxiety? “Seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well.” (v. 31) When an athlete is preparing for competition, he or she does not get up on the stage and automatically succeed. Their confidence, their trust comes from years of dedicated work, effort, and care. An actor performs well and captivates the audience through the words they have learned after hours of practice and rehearsals. It is the same when it comes to our faith! Our trust in God, our knowledge and understanding comes from our time in Communion with Him. In this season yes, we indulge, we overindulge, we do things that bring us joy, make us well – yet, how much of it do we direct towards our faith in God? How much do we indulge in strengthening our faith so that we will remain confident in God when times get rough? When we are thrown in the furnace, face the lions or struggle under the weight of our cross? How much time to do spend seeking His kingdom, dedicating care, and effort, learning of who God is?
We renew gym memberships, plan out our vacations, schedule dinners and gatherings, spend time with each other – all well and good, yet, what about renewing our faith in God, planning out not only annual Christmas Badaraks but regular attendance of Church, Bible Studies, and faith education and purposefully scheduling time in our lives to spend with God. Why? Because those are the means by which we better prepare, we learn how to trust, how to face difficulties in life and how not to become anxious – we learn what it means to trust, have hope and faith in difficult times. Or else our faith in God becomes commercial and leaves us equally as unsatisfied overtime as the material goods we fill out lives with. Yes, my dears, we must be in communion with God to learn who God is and who we are with God. That is how we seek his Kingdom, build trust and remain in peace in times of anxiety and worry.
If we don’t spend time with loved ones, spend time on our hobbies and things we enjoy; if we don’t indulge in what brings us joy, if all we do is fill our lives with materials without true appreciation, whether it is people, food, exercise, travel, etc. we eventually burnout, feel unsatisfied, we become depressed, and depleted. It is the exact same with our faith – by not indulging, not spending time and learning, growing, understanding, asking questions, praying, fasting, our faith becomes a burden, a shiny toy which we eventually grow bored of; something we never learn to truly value or grow from, something that burns us out and depletes us no matter how much we say we believe in God.
The truth is, my dears, we don’t indulge in our faith because too many of us don’t find joy, we don’t trust God, nor do we truly understand our need for Him. Even for us here in Church, or following at home, our Christian faith, the teachings of the Church, and our communion with God has become like the material goods around us, a commodity we look to when it suits our needs. However, Christ calls us to a deeper reality and a life fully in the presence of God in all aspects of our life, material and eternal. But our understanding of that reality, of our Communion with God and the joy of life in Christ begins when each of us individually turn, repent, and purposefully indulge in knowing God. Whether that means we speak to the priest, or spend time in private prayer, these steps lead and pave the way to a better understanding of how God works with us in our life.
And that is my prayer and hope for all of us, as we prepare to close out 2021. Whether it is around a Turkey dinner, a Christmas tree, a potluck lunch, on the beaches of Florida, Mexico, or if it is in the cabin in the woods. Let us enjoy and indulge in the things that bring us joy in life and rejuvenate us. Let us also remember that this day God has given us is another opportunity for us to indulge and reach out to understand the joy of life in Christ Jesus, to be rejuvenated, and renewed both materially and eternally as we see that God is in all areas of our life, and has blessed us to enjoy this life. And when we live our lives in Communion with Him, that joy will help guide us in times of anxiety, struggle, and pain. Therefore, “seek his kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well.” (v. 31) Amen!