In the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen!
In 2016 of April, the Armenian people, like today, faced a war with Azerbaijan. This war lasted roughly 4 days, during which time many lives on both sides were lost. Along with the loss of life, the countless wounded and injured began there journey of recovery. Some more severe than others, but each one on their own process of rehabilitation. A young soldier, who had lost his leg, began his sessions of therapy, learning to stand and walk again, something we all take for granted. In an interview a
reporter asked him, now that there is another war happening and he being disabled is not able to fight alongside others, what does he fill his day with? The young man answer, “I enjoy planting flowers and watching them grow. There is something special about seeing that which you’ve cared for and tended to go through the process of budding, growing and flourishing.” When asked about the future, he answered, “Before the war, I had many plans, but today whatever I can do I will do.”
My dears, not many of us know what it is like to live directly in war. Even less of us know what it is like to see death and even personally be disabled by the atrocities of war. Yet, we all know what it means to question and wonder, what will we be able to do, have, and achieve in the future. Especially in times of failure, adversity, and challenge we have all questioned our future. Even if, we have not seen war and we have been blessed to live in a place where we have countless opportunities, we often ask, what can we do, what should we do, and ultimately what’s the point? In the Gospel of Luke today, we read of how Christ Jesus, in the synagogue, read from the scriptures and made an astonishing announcement. He read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (vv.18-19) And then Christ Jesus, rightfully of course, declared that those words were fulfilled through Him. He is the anointed one, who must preach, proclaim, heal and set free.
To say that Jesus Christ knew what His future was in this earthly life is obvious because Jesus was born for one purpose – to set us free from sin. Yet, for the rest of us, our future plans are not so concrete, and we don’t know what purpose we have in life, especially, when we face constant failure, devastation, sickness, pain, war and loss. We know by reading scripture, that Jesus Christ came into this world to suffer, die and be raised from the dead – that is what Christ came for. However, my dear brothers and sisters, what we all fail to do, is to understand that when we read scriptures, we not only see Christ’s purpose but also our very own. As Orthodox Christians, we are taught, that when we read scripture, we see God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – throughout. All the individuals, the events, the history, etc. – from creation to revelation is our story and our communion with God. However, the key is in the details. The prophecy in Isaiah, fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, mentions that he was anointed to fulfill His purpose. Just as Jesus was anointed at his baptism and revealed to us as Christ, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to begin his ministry, guess what? We each likewise, are anointed at our own baptisms.
Either as babies or as adults, when we come to the Holy Font and the priest pours that Holy Oil (Myron) out and chrismates our forehead, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, heart, back, hands and feet – we each, become Christ, which literally means anointed. So if we read scriptures in this light, anytime Jesus proclaims that He must do something – we must begin seeing that it is “WE” who are called to do the same. We are called to preach the Gospel with the lives we live, proclaim God’s truth, heal the sick and through Christ Jesus set free. Our purpose in life, whether we are priests, doctors, homemakers, or teachers, cooks, or soldiers, musicians or actors, disabled or able bodied, young or old, male or female, black or white, Armenian or American – every one who believes in Christ Jesus, who has been baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit is given the same task and purpose.
That is why St. Paul in Galatians teaches, “through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir. (v.7) [who has received the same Spirit, that came down upon the Jordan at Jesus’ baptism].
All those distinctions we have here in this life, such as jobs, age, geography etc., merely enhance how we fulfill our purpose. As a priest, it’s relatively simple and straightforward; As parent, it is to raise our children with the love and fear of God in their hearts; As a soldier, it is to desire to live in peace and answer the call to defend; As a teacher, it is to educate and foster creativity and beauty in the hearts and minds of your pupils; As an artist, it is to create that beauty to share it with the world; As a lawyer, business owner, accountant, etc. it means to be fair and sound when judging and not taking advantage of people. And if and when we face limitations, when we face pains and sickness and all forms of darkness, it is for each of us to never lose sight of God’s love and light, who continues to light our path.
My dears, we may have plans for the future, and perhaps they will workout, perhaps they may not. Yet, when we realize that our true purpose in life is do what Christ did, then no matter what we achieve or when we achieve it, as long as we answer God’s call each as anointed ones – we will succeed. Just like that brave soldier, we will see the seeds that we have planted throughout our life, bud, grow and flourish. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit, may we always plant good seeds, may we always bring love, healing and hope in our actions and choices into this world. Amen!