Passages: Acts 20:17-38; I John 3:2-6; John 9:39-10:10
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Գործք. Ի 17-38; Ա Յով. Գ 2-6; Յով. Թ 39- Ժ 10
Krisdos Haryav I merelots! Christ is Risen!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
There is a Spanish Proverb which teaches, “Self-knowledge is the beginning of self-improvement.” Basic behavior psychology would argue that without understanding the basic levels of ones strengths and weaknesses, without setting goals, human development would be impossible. Knowing who we are provides us with the insight as to how we can better ourselves and define ultimately what our purpose is.
For example, as Armenian’s who are descendants of Genocide survivors, living here in America, we define ourselves by examining our choice of religion, music, cuisine, poetry, language, literature or even look to our roots; where did our families come from? As refugees or immigrants, or as 1st, 2nd, 3rd generations, we look at our families and our upbringing, our life experiences to define who we are. We seek self-knowledge to understand who is it that we are in order to understand our purpose. However, self-knowledge is not a philosophical or psychological teaching only. It is part of our Christian faith. St. Anthony the Great, one of the desert fathers, teaches us that the key to knowing God is to first know ourselves. For this Church father, self-knowledge is the road to an intimate understanding of God – Holy Communion. After all, Christ in John 6:56 says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” Meaning, being created in the image of God, and being baptized and communicants of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ Jesus, we understand that we are a revelation of God; God reveals Himself to us, through us. Therefore, as self-knowledge is key to knowing God and our purpose, let us ask, who are we?
In 1 John 3 we read, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (vv. 2-3) We are God’s children, and we are to be like him. To be like God therefore, to be a revelation of God to ourselves and to those around us is our purpose, but this purpose and how this is done begins from self-knowledge which leads to self-improvement. In the same way as, behavioral psychology teaches us that once we identify our weaknesses, we set goals and develop, learn, and advance, likewise, this is true for our faith.
Our weakness, is our sin, our improvement however, is different. We don’t self-improve, rather we must be transformed through Christ Jesus. We learn what is good vs. evil from a young age. We learn right and wrong and we work, we strive to do good. Additionally, we try to self-improve through prayer, fasting, charity, forgiveness, and many other ways of choosing to do the good, which in turn strengthens our faith and by the grace of God we are changed or improved. We cannot say we are Christian, we cannot identify as a child of God and live a life contrary to Him. That is why, for example, in the letters to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells the faithful there to “flee sexual immorality” and to be a new standard of integrity in their communities. Why? Because knowing that they are God’s children, their self-knowledge, God revealed to them, reminds them that they are temples of the Holy Spirit and they must bring glory to God in all ways, words and deeds. The Gospel, St. Paul, St. John, St. Anthony and the Church are teaching all of us this same clear message – the message of Christ Jesus. Know that you are God’s and know what that means.
We are the children of God; we are the revelation of God to ourselves and to others. In Acts today we read “You yourselves know how I lived among you all the time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which befell me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance to God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” “You yourselves know how I lived…I did not shrink from declaring Christ Jesus.” My dears, our purpose is that we are the revelation of God to this world. That we teach about our faith to all those around us; to our children, our neighbors, our friends, our spouse, our family members, our communities, etc. regardless, of our title or age. So many times I hear, that I am the priest and it is my “job” to teach about God. My dears, it is my calling as it is the calling of each one of us to teach about God, to live and reveal God to one another but in different capacities. To light this darkened world and heal its brokenness. Yes, as a priest I have certain responsibilities that come from me recognizing who I am and we must all recognize who we are – we are children of God.
Once we recognize this fundamental truth, just like in psychology, we can move towards transformation and our true purpose. How is this done, therefore? We look and examine ourselves. Like the tax-collector in the parable, we acknowledge that we are sinners, and we need saving. From priest to poet, lawyer, doctor, political leader to beggar; black, white, Asian, American, Armenian; no matter what language we pray, cry or sing in! We all need saving, we all need healing! Only then can we truly begin to be transformed and be healed by coming to God. In the same way, when we realize we are sick, we seek medication and a doctor, likewise, when we realize we are grave sinners, will we begin the process of healing by coming to God. Self-knowledge thereby must lead us towards repentance, towards turning to God and therefore, love for God and a transformation. The more we turn towards God, the more of God is revealed to us. The more of God is revealed to us, the more we know His love. The more of His love we know, the more we understand ourselves. The more we understand ourselves, the more we love our neighbor. And the more we love our neighbor, the more we turn towards God. It is a circle; an indivisible chain. That is why in Christ says in today’s Gospel (v.9) “I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
To enter my dears, we must know who we are, recognize our sinfulness and our need for God who will transform us into who we are meant to be. His children, called to love and reveal God’s love to the world. Who are we? God asks us to examine ourselves, to grow in our self-knowledge, to turn to Him and become fully who He created us to be. God calls us to turn to Him, purify ourselves, be as He is by being in Communion with Him. Let us put aside our hatred, our ego, our arrogance, and our pride. Let us recognize our brokenness and need for God. Let us recognize His love for each one of us, no matter who we are, how we identify, what struggles we have. And the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, with our Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit will transform us, Amen!