Passages: Is. 13:2-11; 2 Corinth. 7:4-16; Mk. 7:31-37
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. ԺԳ 2-11; Բ Կորնց. Է 4-16; Մկ. Է 31-37 

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

What is faith? Whatever it may be or however, we define faith, faith is not learned here in Church! This might be a startling or even upsetting revelation, but coming to Church on Sunday is not where we learn what faith is. Throughout the Gospels we read about how Christ taught in synagogues, and yet, he mainly taught on the hills, by the water, in the towns and in homes. We might argue that there was no formal Church back then, that is why Christ taught in all those places. Though this is true, what we see, not just from Christ, but also the Apostles in the New Testament, the Prophets in the Old Testament and even many of the Church Father’s and Mother’s, is that faith was taught out there in the streets, in homes, in conversations. This isn’t to say, stand out in the streets and yell about the end times, like we see in movies. But rather, when we want to learn something and have an impactful dialogue, we do it one on one, dedicating time and effort. Similarly, today, deep conversations and understanding of our Christian faith begins when we sit down and ask questions from our priests; when we read the Holy Scriptures, learn the traditions of the Church and invite the priest into our homes in order to be able to ask those personal questions, share our ideas and struggles about our Christian faith. When we dedicate time and effort. Then we come to Church to strengthen that faith we’ve learned, glorify and give thanks to God, acknowledge God’s presence in our lives by coming into Holy Communion with Him through the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus.

In fact, in Armenian the word Badarak means what? If we say Divine Liturgy, that would be short of its true definition. Divine Liturgy is the Roman Latin definition – divine meaning Holy and liturgy, meaning work of the people. So, the Holy work of the people. But what makes it Holy, and who are the people that do this work? The priest? The choir? The greeters? Majority of us sit at home and watch Badarak on a screen today therefore, what work is being done apart from a click of a mouse? In the Armenian mindset, Badarak is not only Holy but it is an acknowledgement of sacrifice – Holy Sacrifice, Soorp Badarak. But what sacrifice? Whose sacrifice? In Greek, what we do here is known as Eucharist, ευχαριστία – which means thanksgiving. But who are we giving thanks to and for what? The answers to these questions, therefore, needs to be learned before coming here, so that when we come to Church we understand why we are here, what is so important about coming to Church and praying together.

In the Gospel today, we read about “a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech…” We’ve all heard or read this story, about how Christ heals the man, saying “‘Eph′phatha,’ that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.” What is opened? His ears and tongue? Perhaps physically. However, God is not a magician nor a voodoo healer to only heal the physical ailments we have. Hearing aids can help a deaf man hear and speech therapy can bring an end to speech impediments. God’s healing, when God opens our ears and tongue means much more than physical limitations being lifted. My dears, when we read this story look at what Christ does, “and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said…” When else do we see that Christ, looks up to Heaven and sighs, groans or cries? At his crucifixion, “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.” (15:37) The Greek word used at the Crucifixion afeis which means to let go is rooted in the word aphesis which means pardon, forgive, released. This means that when we read about Christ Jesus letting go or opening the ears and tongue of this man, and when we ask God to heal us, God’s healing is not merely physical or superficial healing but it is a pardoning of us, a breaking of the power of sin in our life. When Christ healed this man, it was a foreshadowing, a revelation that Christ’s healing that is beyond the cures of this world and it is our spiritual eyes, ears and our tongue that is opened. Opened to what? Opened to begin understanding who God truly is, what is God’s love and why He desires communion with us. With this understanding, my dears, we learn what faith is and how we can grow in faith.

What is faith? A feeling? Perhaps a belief? No, my dears, faith means being open. Open to God, who knows us and seeks us; open to grow; open to be healed. And this is not done by our own efforts, but God is the one who heals us to be opened. What we must do is be willing to be opened. Opened to being opened. Because being open to being opened by God means learning and living His Commandments; being open to God means hearing and recognizing our sinfulness and trusting God to heal us; being open to God means trusting God. However, my dears, we will not learn how to trust God, what His commandments are, nor have a desire to be healed of our sinfulness unless we invite God into our lives, into our homes. We do this by opening up the Holy Scriptures, opening our homes, our hearts and minds to ask questions, face the fears of doubt, allow ourselves to shed tears and repent of our sin. Only then will we be healed, opened and begin to understand that through the grace of God that it is Christ who is being sacrificed in Holy Badarak, it is God the Father whom we are giving thanks to and we are the people, each one of us who through the Holy Spirit must do the Holy work of God. A work that is not merely limited to 2 hours in this building but grows from here into the streets, into the workplace and into our everyday life.

St. Mark the Ascetic teaches us, “Faith consists not only of being baptized in Christ, but also in fulfilling His commandments.” Meaning, it’s not enough to come to Church and do all this, but we must also live what God teaches us. We live by learning, we learn by opening our homes, our lives, ourselves up to being opened by God, who loves us and desires to be in Communion with each one of us. Therefore, ask questions, read, thirst and desire to be opened by God, to be healed. Thereby, we too will be the voice, the hands, the feet that bring God’s work, news of God’s sacrifice through Christ Jesus, the good news of eternal life to the whole world. Through us, will healing come into this world and together we will give thanks and glorify God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and always, Amen!

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