Product of Repentance

Passages: Is. 36:22-37:11; 1 Thess. 4:1-11; Lk. 13:1-9
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. ԼԶ 22 – ԼԷ 11; Ա Թեսաղ. Դ 1-11; Ղկ. ԺԳ 1-9

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Der Hayr, we understand and accept that we and those around us are sinners, therefore, should we be receiving Holy Communion? Der Hayr, the Church doesn’t get involved in politics, in social movements, or it isn’t clear on many of the issues that are spoken about around the water cooler, on the news, or at the dinner table; issues like abortion, same-sex, BLM, left or right politics, vaccines, etc. Shouldn’t we address these issues?

Why are we not like some of the Roman Catholic Bishops who say that individuals like President Biden, speaker Pelosi, or others like them should be barred from receiving Communion because of their political convictions? Der Hayr, when will the Armenian Church be more vocal on the hot topic matters?

It has always intrigued me, my dears, that when people say they don’t come to Church or struggle to believe in God, it is usually fueled by one of two things above all else: the behavior of other in or out of Church, the Churches response to those people, or the Churches response to the hot topic issues. Whether it is the behavior of those here or the behavior of others out there, we tend to focus on those matters when it comes to our faith and communion with God. This is completely understandable because we generally surround ourselves with people like us, who think and act like us and who have things in common with us, and we disassociate, we don’t connect with almost everyone else. Although, it is not necessary to agree with everyone on everything, yet, when it comes to our relationships with one another and how we must look towards everyone, St. Paul makes it very clear, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God; that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we solemnly forewarned you.” (vv. 3-6)

Look at the pronouns that St. Paul is emphasizing, “that each one of you know”, “that you abstain”, “your sanctification”. In other words, my dear brothers and sisters, St. Paul is saying, forget the hot topics, or the behavior of others and look at yourself first, look in the mirror, at the life you, we each, live, rather than focusing on the behavior, choices, decision or disagreements of others because there is noone without sin, and everyone needs God.

However, if we care about whether or not this or that politician should receive communion or if this or that individual in or outside the Church is the reason why I don’t believe in God, then we have become distracted by the same lies that distracted Adam and Eve from the Word and love of God. We have shifted the focus from us and God to the “them and the world”. That is why in the Gospel today, Christ asks about those whose blood is mixed with their sacrifice or of those who died in Siloam. Do they need God any more or less than us? “No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (vv. 3, 5)

My dears, the Church does not voice political views because the voice of the Church is the voice of God who calls us each to repentance not division. The calling of the Church is not to speak on how we must condemn the sin of others, but to call us to reflect and condemn the sin in us by repenting, meaning turning to God and coming into communion with Him. Everything else is a distraction. Are the issues of abortion, same-sex, left or right political leaders, medicine, vaccine, pronouns, gun-control, etc. are these important? Absolutely yes and these issues impact our lives daily. But Christ’s message, the Churches teaching regarding all of these begins with you, with me, with each of us individually. Meaning when we repent, confess, and live in Communion with God, then these issues and even the sins of others will not be a distraction for us but rather through our love and prayer, we will become a healing source and the presence of God to the world.

My dears, God loves us so deeply and cares for each of us, even the greatest sinner among us and God gives us time and time again the opportunity to repent and blossom in our communion and faith. That is why the Gospel message concludes with the parable of the fig tree. Christ is the vinedresser, who gives us the opportunity to produce fruit. “Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” (vv. 8-9)

Christ is telling us, we still have a chance, an opportunity, to repent and produce fruit. What kind of fruit? “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal. 5:22-23) When St. John Chrysostom teaches us that to find Christ here, we must find Christ even in the beggar in the street, this is exactly his point, we must see Christ’s love, light, care and compassion in others by also reflecting Christ’s love, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness into the world. But be warned my dears, that it is a limited opportunity, it is this life, every day, every moment, every choice, every decision, every person we meet, each is an opportunity that we have been given in this finite life to repent and live a life of faithfulness through God or else, if we focus on others only, if we continue to live a life void of God, justifying sin, being distracted and turning away from God because of our own ambitions, shortcomings, or arrogance, then we will be cut down and thrown in the fire.

Take this opportunity, my dears, take every moment of this life, to love, forgive, reflect, seek His Kingdom first, as we read last week. Let us not be distracted by focusing on if others should receive sacraments or not, but rather, let us reflect how we each must live sacramentally. Only then can we truly understand our need to receive the precious body and blood of Christ Jesus – the Holy Communion by which we are rejuvenated and driven to Godliness and virtue. Only then will we hear the true voice of the Church, of God speaking directly to each one of us guiding our ways and helping us grow. Take this moment, pray, repent, and ask for clarity of heart, soul and mind so that by coming into communion with God we will begin to live a life that reflects His presence. We will live a repenting life that constantly turns to Him to help us produces real faithful fruit. Fruit of hope and love, forgiveness and joy that brings glory to our Heavenly Father, with the Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!

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