In God’s creation story there is an interesting point to notice and to think it over. God said, “It is good” after creating the universe – sky, earth, water, sea, plants, trees, animals and so on. But He said no comments about the man and woman, He created. Instead, He blessed the male and female saying, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.” [Genesis 1:18] The reason may be this: The man and woman are not perfect, but they have the possibility left in them to grow into perfection, even to the last day of their life. That means, we should not underestimate and condemn a person as bad man or woman. There is always a chance for a person to change and grow in good character; there is goodness inside, because God’s image is within him/her.
We can make a person to look good or bad. There are two factors that lead people to the possibility of becoming a good one or a bad one. They are, 1. Love: 2. No Love. Love can awaken the source of goodness in a person. By loving the person whom we think he does not deserve our love will bring positive changes in that person’s life.
It is the great lesson that the resurrected Christ taught us for example that His disciples deserved some rebuke and scolding from Him because they behaved thankless and rude to Him. Jesus lived with them for more than three years and defended them against the critics and justified their weakness and shortcomings. Yet they left Him alone and ran away to save their life when Jesus was in trouble. One of the disciples betrayed Him. They turned to be thankless and without loyalty. They knew that they were wrong and feeling fear and guilt while they were sitting in the closed room. It was at that time the resurrected Jesus appeared to them. Instead of complaining and criticizing them Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you.” The love towards them really transformed their lives completely. Then they decided that they would stand for Him forever even if they have to give up their lives. Jesus showed so much love and trust in goodness of their hearts. That trusting nature of Christ would be the reason for Him to influence the whole world.
Jesus always looks who we can be, rather than who we are. Then He will transform individual life by being with them, like changed water into wine.
The problem with us is that we do not have sound mind and attitude to trust others. Trusting may not be acceptable for practical thinkers. Jesus Christ put His trust in Peter and changed him, entrusted to him the key of the Church. The history teaches us that Jesus was not at all wrong by trusting Peter and His other disciples. Later, the world said about them “The men who turned the world upside down”
Reprimands and punishments may make people obedient but in their hearts they may nurture a grudge. Only the people who love and trust others unconditionally can bring out the goodness in them and make them change their mind and lives. We make big mistakes when we guess and form certain negative opinion about others. Sometimes our opinion may be right, sometimes wrong. Our opinions may have been formed out of certain incidents in the past. We may say such people may not change. We may be criticizing with the intention to make them good. But this negative approach may not work.
What is the right way?
When dealing with children, parents should be aware of implications of scolding them. Many a time, issues can be resolved with a look or stance. Here I give an example story of Ryokan, a Guru and Spiritual Consult, for our attention and understanding. One day the mother of his nephew complained Ryokan about her son, “He does no work, squanders his father’s money in wild parties and is neglecting the estate. If he does not reform, we will be ruined.”
Ryokan visited his nephew who was genuinely pleased to see him. The two of them had spent many happy hours together. The young man knew why his uncle had come and braced himself for the scolding he was sure he would receive. But Ryokan said not a word in rebuke, the whole day. The next day morning when it was time for him to go, he put on his garments and then said to his nephew: “Will you help me tie the thongs of my sandals? My hands shake and I cannot do it.”
His nephew helped him willingly.
“Thank you,” said Ryokan. “A man becomes older and feebler day by day. You remember how strong and robust I used to be?”
“I do,” said his nephew, thoughtfully. “I do indeed remember how you used to be.”
It was the moment of truth for him. He suddenly realized that his mother and all those who had looked after him had become old and that it was now his turn to look after them and to take on the responsibilities of the household and the community. The boy gave up his dissolute life forever.
Rude way of reprimands and punishments may not be fruitful, even though we may do it sometimes, depending the seriousness of the matter. Advice wrapped in love may be very effective.
‘For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you.’ [St. Luke 17:21]
As per today’s scripture reading, we have the discourse of Lord Jesus Christ with His disciples, upon occasion of an inquiry of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God that is, the kingdom of the Messiah, which there was great expectation, should appear.
The Pharisees asked Jesus, ‘when the Kingdom of God would come on earth?’ Answering to this question Jesus said, the kingdom of God does not come with observation, it has already come in the world. Kingdom of God had commenced in this world through Jesus Christ who is the king of the kingdom. Jesus had told, whoever had seen me had seen My Father, God. But Pharisees could not realize that Jesus is the Son of God and Messiah whom they were expecting for centuries. Kingdom of the Messiah was to be a spiritual kingdom, and not temporal and external. At the birth of Christ, the wise men from the east, forecasted by seeing a special star in the heaven that a divine king is born in Judea. They came in search of the new born king, met Him in manger of Bethlehem and worshiped Him.
Kingdom of God is a spiritual reality present within the Christian believer and within community of the Church. “Within you” can also be translated “among you” or “in your midst”. The Kingdom of God is not a future entity to go after the death, but it is a present experience while we are living on the earth. Where there is Jesus Christ there is heaven.
According to the Holy Bible there are six conditions to enter into the Kingdom of God.
Due to limitation of time for the sermon I would like to limit our detailed discussion only on the first point in above conditions.
Desire to serve the people especially the poor. [Ref: St. Matthew 25:34-35]
The cited scripture reference is concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ, the Last Judgment and the end of the world. We have here a description of the process of the last judgment in the great day which talks of the separating between the sheep and the goats, and the dialogues between the judge and the persons judged.
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. The godly are like sheep – innocent, mild, patient, useful: the wicked are like goats.
Then the King will say to those on His right, ”Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world For I was hungry, and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.”
Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, the least of them, you did it to Me.’
Contextually I would like to witness you that there are many people in the world who are in same pathetic situation as Jesus described who need our sincere support and help in their helpless conditions. During my mission in Kerala I came across many such people in Vazhoor who needed sincere help from us. Their cry and tears was really a heart opening scene for me.
Jesus Christ was always seen as a service minded divine person, having mercy upon the sick, hungry and all the people in the community who were in need, not only poor but also generous rich. Serving those in need is a part of divinity. Wedding host in Cana (St. John 2:1-10) was possibly a rich man. Still He was the Lord of mercy there taking care of their needs. He is looking after every Godly while sitting in the right side of His Father in heaven. So being His disciples, we cannot and should not close our eyes towards those who need our help and support to sustain life.
In order to do noble deeds we need to have noble thoughts in our hearts. Noble thoughts become noble deeds as word became man, Jesus Christ.
Glory of the Kingdom of God does not strike men’s fancies, but affects their spirits, and its power is over their souls and consciences. The kingdom of God will not change men’s outward condition, but their hearts and lives. When it comes it makes those humble, and serious, and heavenly that was proud, and vain.
As per our Church liturgical calendar, today, September 14 is the day of the Feast of the Cross [Sleeba Perunaal] of which we commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus. It is also called as ‘The Exaltation of the Holy Cross’.
After the resurrection of Christ, the Jewish leaders buried the cross somewhere, so that the believers of Jesus would not make it an idol of worship. According to legends that spread widely, the True Cross was discovered in 326 by Queen Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, during a pilgrimage she made to Jerusalem. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was then built at the site of the discovery, by order of Helena and Constantine. Thereafter, every year September 14th is honored as the day of the feast of the Cross.
However, the gospel reading today is from Luke 21:5-28, where Jesus Christ talked to His disciples about the sign of the end of the world, and the destruction of the City of Jerusalem including the Temple of God.
Now I invite your attention to a question, ‘Why should we go to Church or what are the reasons for us to go to the Church?’
We all habitually go to Church on Sundays with the family. We were taught by our parents to do so. As per the commandment given to Moses, the forth commandment is to observe the Sabbath day.
The reasons for us to go to the Church:
Therefore, in short, it is important and unavoidable for us to go to the Church, the house of God, because it is the Commandment, there is promise of abundant blessings, Jesus Christ showed us example through practice and also the Apostles became model. For the believers in God, this practice of going regularly to Church had been there from Old Testament period through today.
Rev. Fr. Dr. Paul C. Varkey
Each poem of Rev. Fr. Dr. C.P. Varki is written with a candid end goal, which fit in our tradition, and so it should be for a wider audience. As each poem edifies a satirical message worth more than pages of an article or a sermon, they are to be considered as part of sincere participation of the author in a social and spiritual community.
The underlying central theme of most poems is the honest emotion against hypocrisy, which involves the deception and pretense of having a virtuous character or publicly approved attitude. Society thrives on lies and mass accepts them as so dear without knowing the consequences. Lord Jesus Christ rebuked and condemned religious hypocrisy. As per scripture, hypocrisy is an evil of conflict and division that rises from the evil within the heart. The poems expresses zeal for virtues what the author want to say from the heart in the best way possible choosing the fewest words in which to say it.
Many times, in general, what the authors are trying to say and how the reading/hearing audience interprets it may vary and so constructive criticism may not be taken so seriously. Your sincere comments are well appreciated. [EMail: firstname.lastname@example.org]
(Folk Music Rhythm)
The reading of Evangelion (Gospel) during Holy Liturgy on Sunday after Denaha is St. Matthew 4:12-22. We come across two central themes in this scripture reference – a call for repentance of sins and recruitment of disciples. These are the two fundamental requisites for the growth of the Kingdom of Heaven. St. Matthew usually used Kingdom of Heaven, while other evangelists used Kingdom of God that is the same as the former in meaning. The targeted audience of St. Mathew’s gospel was mainly the Jewish community who never took God’s name (Kingdom of God) in vain based on God’s commandment, so he used the Kingdom of Heaven, which is synonymous to the other. Kingdom of Heaven/God is the sphere where God reigns; repentance is the acknowledgment of God’s rule.
John the Baptist and Jesus Christ started their public ministry with a powerful message of REPENTANCE. “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” [St. Mark. 1:4, NIV] Jesus proclaimed, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” [St. Matthew. 4:17, NIV] His call was not addressed to the nation as a whole like that of in the Old Testament, but it was personal to each individual. Repentance is a golden key to Heaven, while the recruitment of disciples meant to prepare people how to use the key to open the door. When Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus promised him ‘keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.’ [St. Matthew. 16:19]
The first man in the Holy Bible to call people for repentance was Noah. Because of his righteous life he and his family were secured from the destruction by flood. Later on, many prophets stood firm for God calling people for turning away from their sins. A long line of such men of God may be presented here, as Isaiah [Isaiah Chapter 1], Ezekiel [Ezekiel Chapter 18], Jonah [Jonah Chapter 3], Joel [Joel Chapter 2] and Jeremiah [Jeremiah Chapter 31].
What is the practical side of repentance in Orthodox Christian perspective?
The church invites every one for repentance through confession. A true confession should have all the attributes of repentance as explained above. The church fathers were very mindful of the necessity of repentance/confession. St. Anthony said, “Ask for repentance during every moment.” St. Basil, the great Cappadocian father said, “It is good that you do not sin. If you do sin, then it is good that you do not delay repentance. If you repent, then it is good that you do not return to sin. If you do not return, then it is good that you know this is with God’s help. If you know, then it is good that you thank Him for the state that you are in.” Amen.
Since the beginning of Christianity Baptism has been considered and practiced as an essential means of Grace and Salvation. This article mainly deals with two topics – necessity of baptism for salvation and genuineness of child baptism.
Baptism is an initial step to eternal life and it is the last commandment of our Lord, Jesus Christ. When commissioning his disciples for a world mission, Jesus said to them, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (St. Mathew 28:19). Also, He said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (St. Mark 16:16). To Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit” (St. John 3:5). These instructions emphatically given by Jesus show how inevitable the Sacrament of Baptism is for the salvation of mankind!
The early church followed the Lord’s command and practiced it in their church life.
On the Day of Pentecost those who assembled in the upper room and spectators believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Immediately, St. Peter called them for baptism, and said, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2: 38). Three thousands were baptized on that day though it was a hard and tedious task that took a long time to complete. If baptism had not been of great importance, the Apostles would not have administered it. They would have said to the crowd, ‘brethren, since you have accepted faith, you have attained salvation; go now, this is enough and God’s blessing will be with you.’ Instead, they took time to baptize the whole crowd of believers.
The Ethiopian eunuch believed in Jesus Christ hearing the Words of God from the Apostle Philip. In the end of the Apostle’s speech, the eunuch asked Philip to baptize him immediately, which the Apostle did. The eunuch went his way rejoicing (Acts 8:36).
Saul of Tarsus (later St. Paul), after being called by Jesus in a vision, and believing in Jesus as the saviour, was baptized to wash away his sins. He heard the call for baptism, as the Biblical text indicates, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized, and wash your sins away, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).
The Jailer who guarded Paul and Silas in the prison at Philippi, happened to believe in Jesus Christ and was baptized immediately with his entire family without delay (Acts 16:23).
Lydia, the dealer of purple clothes, believed and was baptized with all her household (Acts 16:15).
When Cornelius accepted faith in Jesus Christ, St. Peter baptized him. When Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit came upon the hearers of the Word of God. Then Peter said to the people there, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:44, 47).
Child baptism is a disputed subject among the Christian denominations. The traditional churches, such as Catholic, Orthodox and Marthoma, practice infant baptism, while some protestant groups deny it for children. The protestant insist on the necessity of confession of faith prior to being baptized. They base their argument on the Lord’s words, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved”, (St. Mark 16:16). They say that faith is essential before being baptized, and children are not capable of accepting faith and understanding what goes on in baptism.
However, the traditional churches insist on baptizing children based on the following reasons:
Baptism is given to children because of a concern about their eternal life. Our Lord Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (St. John 3:5). Therefore, how can we prevent children from baptism since the Lord had not exempted them based on the age?
Baptism is an initiation into the membership of the church and thus as the part of the Body of Christ. By becoming a part of the Body of Christ through baptism, children are given the opportunity to practice church life and Sacraments, through which they derive God’s grace in their lives. Thus we prepare them practically for the life of faith. If we exclude them from the church life, we will be depriving them of the means of grace and faith.
Regarding faith children are still far from doubting, inquiring and reasoning which adults do. They accept every thing in faith without rejection or resistance. Nothing passive deprives them of the Kingdom of God. Baptizing them conforms to the principle of “Free Salvation” which the Protestants believe in and strongly proclaim.
If faith is a pre-condition for salvation and say children are of no faith, what will be the destiny of the children not baptized? Will they be saved without baptism, according to the Lord’s words, ““Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (St. John 3:5)? The question remains without answer.
It is unreasonable to think that all those families were without children. Further, the Holy Bible did not mention that there were no children among those who were baptized on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
Baptism of children was practiced since olden times as evident from the letters exchanged between St. Augustine and St. Jerome. They had a strong disagreement on the origin of the soul whether it is born with the human being or it is created in human after the birth. St. Augustine said it is born with the human being, whereas St. Jerome said it is created after. St. Augustine said, if the soul is created, it means that it does not inherit the sin of Adam. Why then do we baptize children? St. Jerome could not give an answer to this question. This is a credible reference to the practice of infant baptism in their life time of fourth century AD.
There is no single verse in the Holy Bible forbidding infant baptism.
A child is baptized according to the faith of his/her parents. This principle is well evident in many examples in the Holy bible:
The crossing of the Red Sea was another symbol of baptism. According to St. Paul, it was a baptism in itself. He says, “…that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the clound and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:2). The passage through the Red Sea was the salvation for Israel from the servitude of Pharaoh. It foreshadowed the salvation of the baptized from the servitude of sin, Satan and death, as the Apostle puts it.
The sea was crossed by grown up people. They were aware of God’s promise to Moses the Prophet; they knew how hard their servitude under Pharaoh was; they understood how they got saved from it and crossed the sea (i.e. baptism). But what about the children who were carried by the mothers or fathers across the sea? The children were certainly saved from servitude and were baptized according to the faith of their parents although they were not aware of what was going on.
A third example strongly points to the salvation of the children by the faith of their parents is the protection given to the first-born of the men (children) and animals of Israel from the rage of angel in Egypt. According to the commandment of God, Moses asked all Israelite families in Egypt to slaughter a one-year old male goat or sheep and put the blood on the sides and tops of the door frames of their houses. God told them through Moses, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 12:13). The blood of the Passover lamb was a symbol of the blood of the Lord Christ by which we obtained salvation. St. Paul says, “For indeed Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7).
Again, a question is asked – what was the role of faith of the children in their salvation through the blood of the Passover lamb? How far did they know about the covenant between God and Moses? No doubt, the children knew nothing, but they were saved from death by the faith of their parents in the power of the blood of the Passover Lamb and their obedience to what God told them to do through Moses.
However, those children of Israel, who were circumcised, and saved by the blood of the Passover lamb and saved by crossing the Red Sea, knew the meanings of all these events when they grew up. In their childhood they received salvation freely through the faith of their parents who believed in God’s promises and covenants with the people, and when they grew up they accepted their parents’ faith as their own.
Children are capable of realizing divine presence and receiving God’s grace. Example cited is the scene of the visit of Virgin Mary after the angel Gabriel’s message to her relative Elizabeth who was pregnant for six months. When, Mary greeted Elizabeth “the baby leaped in her (Elizabeth’s) womb” (St. Luke 2: 40). Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit; the fetus of six months in her womb also was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Looking at all these reasons the infant baptism is genuine and supported by the Holy Scriptures.
“Which kind of prayer do you need to practice more often – praise, petition or repentance?”
This is a question people ask very often. There are differences of opinion about the form of prayer to practice more often. The Pentecostal group insists on extemporary prayers only in all occasions, public and private, and they don’t like any written prayers. Other protestant groups may use short version of written prayers with more emphasis on extemporary ones. The Orthodox churches put more emphasis on liturgy and worship that the forefathers practiced and handed down to us for use. The Orthodox liturgy is filled with praises, petition and repentance. First, let us look at the definition of prayer.
We need them all. The Lord’s prayer is an example of the liturgy with right combination of praise, petition and repentance (St. Matt. 6:9-14).
Why is emphasis on praise and worship?
Repentance is the state of being sorry or regretful of the wrong doing, without which there is no acceptance before the Holy Lord. Come to the Lord not with the pride of the Pharisee, but with the humility of the Publican who had repented and returned to his home with forgiveness (Lk. 18:9).
Why do we kneel down when pray?
The Lord’s Prayer ends up with “Yours is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever, Amen” (Mtt. 6:13). “Heaven is Your throne and the earth is Your feet”. God is worthy of honor and we should kneel down to kiss His feet. Not only that all the creatures and elders in Heaven always kneel down in front of the throne of the Lord (Rev 4:11). We all need to kneel down when pray except the physically disabled.
(For the 16th of May, 2010, the 6th Sunday after the Easter or the Sunday before the Feast of Pentecost)
Gospel reading for Holy Qurbana: St. John 17:13-26 The St. John’s 17th chapter is well-known for our Lord Jesus’ high-priestly prayer. The whole chapter is devoted to Christ’s prayer.
The subject the prayer of Jesus were:
The Evangelion for Holy Qurbana comprises of the Lord’s prayers for His twelve Disciples and the universal church. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible was used for reference purpose.
Finally, the last day of Jesus’ life on earth had come. He knew that He was going to be arrested and crucified soon. His time with His twelve beloved Disciples was only a matter of few hours. Then, He prayed for them on the eve of His departure from this world. He prayed for them for three reasons:
Therefore, the Lord prayed entrusting them to the Father and asking Him to give them three-fold divine gifts to strengthen them and fulfill successfully the ministry given to them.
The prayer for their joy Jesus prayed for the Disciples, “… now I am coming to you (Father), and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world” (vv13-14). The world hated them not because they were wrong or criminal but because of their loyalty to Christ, and their refusal to accept the values and standards of the world; they were not of the world; they were different in their vision and values of life. Jesus knew that they had numerous challenges to face ahead in their mission; they had to ‘battle against the storm and struggle against the tide’ and face even death. So, Jesus prayed for them that the Joy of Christ in bearing the cross be filled in their hearts to rejoice in suffering. In practical life we may face troubles when we honestly adhere to true Christian principles in life. But Jesus asks us to be joyful in taking up the cross of trouble for the truth. We are asked to rejoice for we are not left alone at the time, and He is with us supporting the one end of the cross we carry. Besides, He always prays to His Father for us, when we go through the way of cross. The Pain and suffering for His sake will be compensated by the joy and victory of the Easter.
Thirdly for their sanctification. The Greek verb for ‘sanctify’ is hagiazein meaning to ‘consecrate.’ To consecrate means to set apart, make holy, separate, bring into God’s use. Hagiazein essentially indicates dual senses, (a) set apart a person or place for a special task, and (b) equip the person or place set apart, with the necessary materials and ornaments, qualities of mind and heart and character to make the person or place fit for the special task called for. For example, a church is consecrated for the special task of worship and spiritual activities. It has to be furnished or equipped with necessary things before its consecration. It has to maintain a cordial atmosphere for spiritual growth. God called Jeremiah and consecrated and appointed him as a prophet to the nations (.Jer. 1:5). God asked Moses to “Consecrate the sons of Aaron and sanctify them that they might serve in the office of the priests (Ex. 28:41). Jesus selected the twelve men, separated them from the world (sanctified) and sent them as Apostles (v 14). To be the president of a country, the person who has certain qualities and character should be elected by vote. Election itself is not enough. Elected person should be equipped with abilities for effective functioning of the office. Since God is holy, the person who serves Him also must be holy. At this time I remember what Barnabas Thirumeni said in a sermon, ‘you cannot be as perfect as God is; but you can be Godly.’ The person must have divine wisdom and spiritual qualities- the sense of call of duty and commitment and Godly character of love and righteousness. He has to be set apart from the worlds’ values and standards of life and lead a life of Christian principles and morality.
Jesus also prayed to God – “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one” (V 20). Actually this prayer is for the Disciples and the believers hearing the Lord’s sermons, but also for those in all generations and all nations yet to believe in Christ through the Disciples’ word. Certainly, this is a prayer for every one of us. There are certain lessons to learn from this prayer:
This prayer reveals Christ’s real character of His unshaken confidence in God and in His disciples. The Lord knew that the twelve were only a few to carry out the mountainous task of supernatural nature. They were given the authority to “Go…and make disciples of all nations; baptize them…, and teach them…” (Matt 28:19. He knew that they did not fully understand Him well who He was at the time; He knew that in a short while they would abandon Him when He needed them the most. Yet Jesus had a great confidence in the same feeble-minded men that they would work for the Kingdom of God on earth even at the expense of their lives. That is what He said in the prayer “… on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word” (v20. His prayer for them never went unanswered. Applying this to individual life, God puts His trust on us and has given us His divine plan of life and His grace to fulfill what God intended us to fulfill by witnessing through love, peace, patience, longsuffering, joy and self control. Christian life is a life of discipleship conditioned by the love to one another, bearing the cross and steadfastness in faith. No body is excluded from God’s trust, and each one is given according to the measure of his or her ability. We are the medium for God to work out His will and plan in this world. God depends on us, as He depended on the twelve disciples to promote His Kingdom on earth.
The purpose of love and unity among men is to witness that God loves and cares for all people in the world through Jesus Christ. But, now it looks as if causing divisions and disunity in society is more natural than making peace and unity. Also, it looks like it is more human for men to hate rather than to love. However, it is the divine will to make peace because “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matt 5:9). The hatred and disunity within the church and between the churches will only result in presenting an unreal Christ and a distorted Christian faith to the world. It is our individual duty to demonstrate divine character of love and peace with others for the Glory of God. Then, the Christ’s prayer, “they may all be one” will be meaningful to us.
Here is an example of air refresher made by the company known as Glade to kill foul smell in the houses or offices. On one of the air refresher containers made of Lilac plants and flowers, the company wrote the slogan “Provided by the nature, captured by Glade.” Similarly, God has prepared and provided every thing for our salvation, joy, protection, sanctification and unity, but we need to seize the God-given opportunity and provision to live a victorious Christian life and be useful to others as well.
The gospel reading for next Sunday, the eleventh Sunday after the feast of Pentecost, is from St. Mark 6:7-13, which describes Jesus calling in and sending out His twelve disciples for a great mission. The gospel passage contains the following details:
The disciples Jesus called were ordinary men, but their assigned task was extraordinary. They were men “with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). Being with Jesus they were trained, educated, transformed and empowered with divine authority and then sent out two by two for the mission.
The twelve disciples had two-fold functions: (1) be with the guru (master) and (2) be an Apostle (one who is sent) to work for the master. In St. Mark 3:14 it says, ‘Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have the power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons” (OSB). As it was mentioned prior, the disciples were common people for an uncommon calling. The common people like us who live with the Lord will be transformed and can perform uncommon task.
In this weekly devotional address I present to you the theme of discipleship. To explain the subject effectively I suggest discussions based on two questions: (1) Who is a disciple?; (2) How are we to become true disciples of Christ?
The Greek word for disciple is “Mathetes” which literally means a learner or a student. In the Sermon on the Mount, we read “When He (Jesus) was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them.” (St. Matthew 5-7). The Twelve Disciples learned many things by hearing what they heard from Jesus, their “Good Teacher” (St. Jn 3:2), seeing what Jesus did during the ministry, and imitating what Jesus showed them through life. In other words, they were always with Jesus hearing, seeing and helping Him.
According to the Holy Bible all Christians are disciples of Christ. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.“ (St. Matt. 28:19-20, NIV). Thus, a believer who believes in Jesus Christ as the Lord and savior and is baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, and follows the teachings of Christ and His Apostles is a disciple.
We become true disciples by obeying His commandments. “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mtt.28:20). Then the question is what the commandments are.
4. Any other.
It is said, ‘even if it should be a word coming out of the mouth of a sinner, it might be spiritually beneficial.’ An example is cited from the life experience of a highly venerable church father in fourth century known as, St. Ephram.
One day a woman looked at St. Ephram and stared at him so hard and for so long that he became embarrassed. He asked the woman why she was staring at him so long. Answering the question she said to him, ‘It’s natural that I should look at a man, because woman, when she was created, was taken from the body of a man. But as for you, you ought to look at the ground, because you were taken from the soil of the earth.’ The saint considered the woman’s words as a useful spiritual lesson, and from that time onwards he trained himself to look at the ground when any woman looked at him.
Christian church grew out of the sacrifices of martyrs and forefathers. Indian Churches prospered out of the blood of St. Thomas. It is said “The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church.”
There are many other qualifications of discipleship and Apostolate to be mentioned, but because of the length I conclude here. Are you a true disciple of Christ?
The gospel passage selected for reading in the Holy Communion is from St. John 6: 26-35. Especially V. 35 which says, “I am the bread of life.” is worthy of our attention.
Jesus said “I am the bread of life” (V.35). He also said “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (V.51).
Jesus asked his disciples, Peter and John, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” (LK 22:8). Jesus said, taking bread in his hands at the Passover table, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (LK 22:19). He also said, taking the cup, “The cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (LK 22:20).
All these statements of Christ shown above, point out to the one central theme which is Divine Liturgy. Obeying the Lord’s command the Christian church faithfully and with utmost respect has been doing it without any break from the first century A.D. The Divine Liturgy in our terms is known as Holy Qurbana or Holy Communion.
Holy Qurbana is one of the sacred Sacraments, one of the spiritual means to eternity. It has the deepest spiritual effects on life, and offers four-fold benefits to the faithful partakers of.
A covenant literally means a coming together, signifying a mutual undertaking between two parties or more, each party binding himself/herself to fulfill the obligation. Here the parties of the covenantal deal are God and men. In Holy Baptism we have individually committed to God agreeing to live under His lordship. At the time we have said, “I accept Christ and forsake Satan and his forces.” The same agreement to live under the lordship of Christ is renewed every time we receive Holy Communion.
Do you really remember and believe in this when your partake of the Holy Qurbana?
The next section deals with how should we make preparations for Holy Communion? Due to the question of time I conclude here.