Passages: Is. 63:18-64:12; Titus 1:1-11; Jn. 7:37-52
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. ԿԳ 18-ԿԴ 12; Տիտ. Ա 1-11; Յով. Է 37-52

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

It’s almost over. We’ve come this far but it’s almost over. The journey was not easy and at times it hurt. But the goal remained the same. We just need to push a little further, try a little harder. The whistle will soon blow and the time will be over. Today is Superbowl Sunday my dears, for those of us who follow football. It is the final game of this year’s American football season; and regardless of if we watch or not, all of us have experienced other sports and the final moments of a hard-fought game. Hockey, soccer, baseball, the Olympics, the final seconds in which players and fans hold their breath hoping their team wins. All the hard work, energy and effort invested coming to fruition. As fans when the game goes overtime, though we become nervous, we also get excited because we get a chance to enjoy more of the sport that we love. More time with our friends drinking beers and eating wings. I remember when I was a teenager back in Vancouver watching hockey, my team went into 4OT, which meant an additional 78 minutes on top of the already 60 minutes of regulation. And even though it was almost 1 a.m. when the game finished, I loved each moment. Not once did I look at my watch or worry about the next day, as I enjoyed that moment. This is true not just about sports but also concerts and other events. We shout encore for our favorite performance or applaud loudly for the show to continue. Yes, we love our sports, concerts and fanfare and we love when it goes overtime.

Yet, my dears, if Church goes overtime, if a sermon is longer then 10-15 minutes, if the singing is bit slow or if there is a special occasion and so service is a bit longer, we complain. The cheapest ticket to attend the Superbowl is $5,000, and we’ll pay it. A regular season game could cost a few hundred dollars and rain, snow, lighting, or sunshine, we will stand 90 minutes for the entire game. Even if there is no room to stand, just to attend a concert, a sporting event, a show, we will make an effort to find a way to get there and participate. Yet, my dears, God’s gift of salvation, of faith, hope and love in the Church is given to us freely and we’ll complain. The sun is out, or the rain and snow is too much and so we don’t go and we’ll complain. The pews are uncomfortable, or we have to stand for periods of time or drive some distance to Church and so we complain. No, there is nothing wrong with loving and desiring to watch sports, attend concerts or other such events. There is nothing wrong when we love an encore or when our favorite sport goes overtime. Yet, look at how we treat our earthly desires vs. how we treat our time with God.

St. John Chrysostom writes, back in the 5th century, “We run eagerly to dances and amusements. We listen with pleasure to the foolishness of singers. We enjoy the foul words of actors for hours without getting bored. And yet when God speaks, we yawn…Most people would run rabidly to the horse track, although there is no roof there to protect the audience from rain, even when it rains heavily or when the wind is lifting everything. They don’t mind bad weather or the cold or the distance. Nothing keeps them in their homes. When they are about to go to church, however, then the soft rain becomes an obstacle to them. And if you ask them who Amos or Obadiah is, or how many prophets or apostles there are, they can’t even open their mouths. Yet they can tell you every detail about the horses, the singers and the actors. What kind of state is this?” (Homily 58 – Gospel of John) The truth is my dears, that our disinterest or under appreciation and desire of time with God is nothing new. The question is therefore, when will each of us learn? When will we understand and pause to give thought to this reality? What reality? That as hard as the gridiron is for a football player, they keep fighting knowing that the clock will run out. That even with our favorite events going overtime, the clock will run out. That one day my dears, our clock will run out and show will be over. 

An athlete fights to overcome the difficulties in order to rise up as a champion. They don’t make excuses that the weather is too much, the game is too long, or the work is too hard. The musician dedicates hours to practicing regardless of the tireless nights and days invested in mastering their art. They do so because they love the art, the sport, and craft. Like it or not, life is difficult; rain and snow, sun and wind, exist in our lives as well. And unless we are willing to combat the difficulties in our life, unless we are willing to “run the race” as St. Paul says, we will not rise up. Because whether we like it or not, life doesn’t always give us an encore or overtime. Each one of us here today has questions, struggles, anxiety, fear and heartache; we don’t need to be an athlete to know the difficulty of overcoming challenges. However, every athlete, actor, performer, etc. utilizes every means to grow stronger and be better at their craft. As Christian’s, as children of our Heavenly Father, the Church, the Holy Scriptures, the priest and everything we are taught are the tools, the means through which we are equipped to overcome life’s difficulties. These tools are given freely to all of us because God loves us and desires for us to be in Communion with Him and know who He is.

Why? So that we each will then become a source of hope, love and healing for others. That is why Christ says, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” (vv.37-38) If the purpose of actors, performers and athletes is to entertain us, if the purpose of sporting events and concerts is for us to come together and enjoy music or time together, then know that the purpose of each one of us who is a Christian is to come together and bring others together for Christ – to share light in darkness, hope in suffering, love in the face of hate and compassion in times of sorrow. Yet, how many of us will find a reason to not attend? How many of us will choose to not listen and utilize the means, the blessings that God provides? Next week we begin Great Lent; an opportunity for us to learn, to pause, to reflect not on food, or drinks and what we can give up, but on what God gives us. Yes, fasting is important and necessary for the life of our faith but the greatest faster is who? The devil who has no need for food or drink; who fast non-stop. Meaning my dears, it’s not the food or drink but the time we spend with God, in prayer, in reflection, in learning and sharing His love. So yes, enjoy the big game, the movie, the concert and enjoy the overtime and encore. But give the same love and care to God because one day, in this life the easy or hard, the whistle will blow and our time will be over.

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