Passages: 2 Kings 2:1-15; James 5:16-20; Luke 4:25-30
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Դ Թագց. Բ 1-15; Յակոբ Ե 16-20; Ղուկասի Դ 25-30
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
In Armenian there is a saying, “silence is a sign of agreement” (լռութիւնը համաձայնութեան նշան է) This is most evident when we hear something about us we don’t like; when someone tells it like it is. Especially in today’s society, we are offended and so we either rebuke and fight back or we, as the saying says, silently fester unsure of how to react or justify our choice and actions.
In today’s Gospel, we see Christ rebuking or “offending” the Jews and Pharisees by telling them that in the time of their forefathers, the prophet Elijah and Elisha brought healing to those deemed unworthy and unclean by society and yet, the people of Israel, God’s chosen people, because of their sinfulness, did not receive healing. We see the reaction of those listening; “When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong.” The people became angry, and they wanted to kill Jesus because they didn’t like what they were being told which is that you are all sinners and must change your lives. By coming to a synagogue, or saying you are God’s chosen people and not living faithfully, you are in fact growing deeper in sin thereby growing further from God. By living and justifying our sin or the sins of the world for whatever reason, we are choosing to deprive ourselves of God’s presence and therefore, we are not being healed but rather we remain in our sickness.
Imagine if someone spoke to us in this manner today? Imagine if a priest said this to you? How would we feel? We’d probably be offended, choose to no longer come to Church or associate with this priest or that community because they did not make us feel welcome. Well my dears guess what? It is not a priest or a certain community that reveals our sinfulness to us, but God speaks to us. Whether it is the priest, a parent, teacher or a community member we may not like what we hear. We might not want to hear that we are sinners. After all, some of us may even think, sure I know I’m a sinner but at least I’m in Church. We sing in the choir, serve on the Altar, give a check to the Church; we are a priest, parish council or we are educated. Yet, none of those things matter if at the core we are self-centered rather than Christ-centered. “But Der Hayr I fast, I give money to the Church, and I read my Bible.” St. Moses the Black of the Ethiopian Church tells us, “You fast, but Satan does not eat. You labor fervently, but Satan never sleeps…” And St. James in his epistle writes, that “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.” (James 2:19)
My dears, how are we different then Satan or the demons? How are we any different than those Pharisees and other Israelites? Fasting, giving to the Church and others, praying, reading scripture, serving one another should all be a reflection of our deeper faith not the overall outcome. Contrary to what we may think, Christ did not come to make us feel welcomed or to fluff us up with nice words; Christ did not worry about offending. Christ came to crush Satan, to break chains, to be nailed to the cross in order to heal our brokenness and save us from sin. That is what our Christian faith is – a victory in war against the rebellion of evil. A faith that begins from accepting that yes, we are sinners and as a sinner only through Christ will we be saved. That is why St. Moses the Black continues, “You fast, but Satan does not eat. You labor fervently, but Satan never sleeps. The only dimension with which you can outperform Satan is by acquiring humility for Satan has no humility.”
Humility that is above the humility of this world. Humility that begins with understanding that our strength and our healing is from God and God alone. If that means that today we must swallow our pride, we must take a step back, we must reflect knowing and trusting in God, then so be it. That is what humility is – the ability to be rebuked, transformed and renewed. “Pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” It is interesting that St. James is telling us that for us to be healed, to be transformed and renewed, we must pray for others to be healed. For us to be fed, we need to feed others. Forgive to be forgiven. That is what Divine humility is – to understand our weakness, be transformed by caring for others and then we will be renewed. For Christ took on weakness, cared for others and renewed all creation. To be Christ-centered therefore calls us to be Christ.
Christ came to serve and likewise, our faith, our healing, our hope is in the same humility of how we serve others. This does mean we bend our necks out to be be abused, it means we bend our knee to God to be raised. Not necessarily by dying for another as Christ died for us, but rather to let die our egos, our pride, our arrogance, our selfishness, our hatred, our sinfulness. All those things we don’t want to hear because it’s true – let those things die. And if silence is a sign of agreement, let us silently love, forgive, show mercy and compassion. Give without judging and forgive without being apologized to first. Be humble and Christ who sees our humble hearts and minds, will renew and lift us up; Christ our Lord will bring us true healing and true strength; Christ will fortify our faith through His grace. A grace that takes our repenting heart and makes us into the light and hope of renewal for all others around us. May the grace of our Lord Christ Jesus, with God the Father and Holy Spirit reveal to us His love, and may we be humbled to accept it always, Amen!