2 November 2014

posted 31 Oct 2014, 03:06 by C S Paul

2 November 2014

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Koodhosh Eetho (Sanctification of Church)

Gospel Reading for this Sunday - Mark 8:27-33
New King James Version (NKJV)

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

27 Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?”

28 So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

29 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

30 Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 

32 He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 

33 But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

Koodosh Eetho And Memory Of Saint Gregorios

by Rev. Fr. M.K. Kuriakose, Philadelphia

The Liturgical Calendar of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church begins with this Sunday that is called Kodosh Eetho or sanctification of the Church. We know that every year the Koodosh Eetho and the memory of St. Gregorios of Parumala are very next to each other. I thought it is an appropriate time for us to think about the sanctification of the Church in connection with the saintly life of St. Gregorios of Parumala.

The passage for this Sunday is the well-known confession of Saint Peter that 'Jesus is the Messiah the Son of the living God'.

Jesus Christ and the non-Jewish world:

The setting of the confession of St. Peter is in Caesarea Philippi, a pagan land, is important. Maybe the Lord was wondering as to how He is known to the people in the gentile area also. In the pagan land or the non-Jewish land, the concept of Messiah was not much known. Thus, the confession of St. Peter is important that the Lord is the Messiah for the pagans as well. In the Jewish tradition, the hope for the Messiah is only for the Jews. When St. Peter makes the confession, "the Son of the Living God" it did mean that God is the God of all creation and not just the God of Jews. In Acts of the Apostles, chapter 11, we see the vision St. Peter had that enlightened him of salvation for the non-Jewish people. Even those things that the Jews considered unclean were asked to be eaten.

Sometimes we should rethink what we think of our present day Church as the Body of Christ. Do we think we are a community that is existing as a witness to the non-Christian world? When the Church was serious about its mission to the outside world, this awareness helped us to have a mission to the gentile world. That is how, with the help of St. Paul, the Gospel was spread to the non-Jewish world. These days it seems that we don't have such a vision or mission.

Jesus was trying to prove Himself to the disciples that He is the messiah of the gentile world also. At present, we have hardly such an outlook of mission. We are so satisfied with what we are and what we do. When I look at the American situation of the Malankara Church, we are a community that is just meant to serve the Malayalam speaking Orthodox members. Very recently that was slightly shifted to the English-speaking children of the Malayalees! We have practically no mission outside our language! The only exception was the Spokane Mission that His Grace Dr. Mar Makarios Initiated. We are afraid that if we allow other Americans (Black or White) to be our members, it will destroy our culture and our children may intermarry with other people. The fact of the matter is that in spite of these worries, our children are being inter-married with non-Malayalee persons. This may not be the way our Lord meant for our existence in any land. No matter, whether in India or overseas, we have lost this mission outlook. If only we had time to settle the matter within our own home that we can worry about the world outside our Church. We have so much to deal within our Church's present day life. By the time we finished our disputes related to our physical existence we have hardly any time to be aware of and do our mission to the rest of the world.

Importance of the Confession of Faith:

'What one believes is that which one does' is a common saying. Every religion, every organization or even a club has its own "Mission Statement" which will explain their 'goals and objectives'. If we ask privately each and every so-called believer we know what he or she believes. A vast majority of the people do not, at heart, believe that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. In the plurality of religions and multiplicity of philosophies, the modern tendency is to think that Christianity is "one of the ways to God".

I am not denouncing other religions or philosophies. There is place for all religions in the world. But Christianity came to the world with a new world view and humanity (Maanaveeyatha) which proclaimed to the world the words of the Lord, "I am The Way, The Truth and The Life", proving in practice that the Church is that body which will fulfill the requirements of the New Humanity.

Where are we? We do not have any courage to confess Jesus as the Living Son of God because then we will have to live accordingly. Unless our faith is fixed we cannot claim that we are Christians. Like Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the great philosopher and former President of India, once commented on Christians, "Christians are ordinary people who make extra-ordinary claims." What we have is just the claims and not the faith or its confession. It is very interesting and amusing to the non-Christian world how true this is.

Our ostentatious witness has become the greatest impediment to our mission. Are we afraid of becoming truly Christians in our life and practice? Yes we are. We are all worried about our physical existence, money, property, institutions, material gain etc. Even when we speak in high tone that 'material wealth and riches are temporary' we still do our best to fight for that (material wealth). Just imagine how far away we are from the Early Church that confessed Jesus as their Living God and confessed Him without hesitation, even though they had to give their life for that faith. Today, nothing that is a loss is part of our mission or Christian witness. Thus we have already destroyed the True Church of Christ. But we should never forget that it is possible for us to witness the Lord in real life. "What is impossible with man is possible with God" Luke 18:27. Are we with God?

Confession Leads to Cross:

It was clearly noticed that in spite of the confession by St. Peter, he also tried to define the confession in human terms. The Lord tried to convince him that his confession is not an ordinary one, it was revealed by the Father God and that the Church, the visible symbol of the Kingdom of God, built on the faith of St. Peter, is constituted only through suffering and death. But St. Peter was unable to contain or accept the message of the Cross. St. Peter, like most of us, only thought about the comfort of following a God who is willing to "give 'everything' we ask" and never thought of the price that goes with it. In addition, St. Peter also attempted to dissuade Jesus from the suffering and death. Indeed St. Peter being an older and mature person did not want to lose the opportunity to counsel Jesus, the young man, about what He could achieve as the Son of God. This is similar to a typical lawyer, MBA or IAS trained person's advice of today is in terms of worldly matters.

It is in this context that we look at the life of the saintly persons like St. Parumala Thirumeni whose life became Christ-like. His Grace lived only 54 years but HG left a heritage that will last to the end of the world. Was HG's name built on any materials gain, or power or authority? Not at all. It was through simple means like fasting, prayer and simplicity in life that the confession that became reality in the life of a saint. Those who truly confessed did live truly. This is what Jesus told the rich ruler who approached Him for eternal life, "sell you riches and give to the poor"! For that man his riches were priceless than eternal life!

When Jesus learned that St. Peter was unwilling to understand Him, he replied, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." What will Jesus call today those of us who just live for human concerns such as material comfort, money, position, authority etc. ? The answer is ours!

Sanctification of the Church can happen when the Confession, the Faith and the Life of the Church coincide. May the Lord bless us and sanctify us on the Day of the Sanctification of the Church.