Seventh Sunday After Pentecost 2012

July 26, 2012

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

Your Grace, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ;

There once was a man that visited a village in the mountains. The setting was pristine; a clear mountain stream was going through the village. There was clear mountain air, green fields, the wild flowers in bloom, the snow capped mountains were in the background. In the village all of the houses were well cared for with fresh paint and very ornate trim work. This village was a gorgeous sight to behold. The man thought the people here must be very good people by looking at the way they cared for their village and its surroundings.

The man thought he would spend the night there. He thought he would give a precious gift to the people of the village and a special gift for the person he stayed with that night on the next day. He came to one house and knocked on the door. The person inside told him to go away without opening door. The man came to another house. This time when the door was opened the stench from inside drove him away. He excused himself and went on to the next house. This time he said no matter what he was going to enter and stay at that house. Well, while he was in the house the smell, the bugs and filth that was inside finally drove him out. The man left the beautiful village without ever giving his special gift.

This story is very representative of our relationship with our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. People look at us, seeing on the outside what appears to be good and righteous people. However our Lord knows something different. He sees our inside. He sees the sins that we have found a way to keep hidden from everyone else. Then we wonder why the Lord doesn’t work miracles in our lives like He worked in the Holy Scriptures and those recorded in the early Church. The reason more often than not, that we don’t experience miracles has to do with our sin and our lack of faith.

Today’s scripture readings deal directly with two points; our sin and lack of faith.

In the Apostle reading of St. Paul calls upon the Romans that the strong or the righteous live lives that will be an example for or edify the weak, that all may be of one mouth and mind glorifying Christ Jesus and the Father.

The Holy Gospel tells us of two separate healings by Jesus. The first healing is of two blind men that cry out to him. Jesus asks them if they believe before he heals them.

The second healing is of a demon possessed man who is brought to him for healing. This time our Lord sees the faith of those bringing the man to Him. He doesn’t ask for any other confession of faith, than the faith of those bringing the man, before He heals the man. Wwe also see in the Gospel that there are others that reject these healings.

The Lord gives all men a special gift if they are willing to accept it; as he did for those in the Gospel. However there are those that will always reject the gift; like the Pharisees that accuse Him of casting out demons by the prince of demons. They are like the people that wouldn’t answer the door or those whose houses were beautiful on the outside and filled with stench and filthiness on the inside in the village.

There is a condition to receiving the gift of healing or salvation from God. The condition is faith. We must believe in God. We must acknowledge the fact that we need Him for our very survival; that we need Him more than our career, family, friends and all other things. As it says in the Gospel of St. Matthew “He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,” (Matthew 10:37). This is what it truly means to believe in God. It does not mean these other things are not important but, God comes First!!!!! Then, everything else.

The gift of healing is the restoration of our being to all that it was ever meant to be. It is the healing and restoration from the consequences of death and corruption that entered into the world by the ancestral sin of Adam. The healing may be for physical or spiritual ills according to what is need for our salvation or glorification in God. For this to be accomplished we must first free ourselves from our sin. As we saw in the story of the village that God cannot live in a dirty dwelling place and impart His gifts, no matter how hard He tries.

We must do something to clean up our lives because God will not do it for us because He respects our free will to reject Him.

The only way we can clean up our lives and receive forgiveness of our sins is through Confession. As our Lord told us “Truly I say unto you, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18) Confession is where we can openly an honestly clean our house so that we can receive God into our being and receive His gifts.

The season of the Dormition Fast is coming upon us in a few short weeks. We should each prepare our confession to clean the house of our souls and receive the Precious and Holy Body and Blood of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ in order to be healed of all of your physical and spiritual ailments according to what is needed for our salvation.

O Lord our God we cry out to You, as the blind men and those that brought the demonic possessed man, to dwell in us so that we may receive Your gift of healing of all of our physical and spiritual ills for our salvation and not be like the Pharisees or those in the beautiful village that rejected Your healing salvation.

Amen.

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Midland, PA; the Seventh Sunday After Pentecost 2012.


Fourth Sunday After Pentecost 2012

July 1, 2012

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ we heard the Lord say “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” (Matthew 8:10) Our Lord says this in response to the Centurion saying “but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it.” (Matthew 8:8-9)

What is this faith that our Lord God is marveling at? Is it a belief or is it something more? In order to answer these questions we must examine the words belief and faith.

Belief is a word that expresses a concept of understanding. In a very real sense one could say that an unproven idea is a belief. A theory is a great example of a belief.

Faith on the other hand implies something that is known or proven. When I set the alarm clock at night I have faith that it will alarm in the morning at the time for which I set it. I have this faith because every time that I did this in the past it alarmed at the time for which it was set.

This is how are faith in God should be. We have faith in God because we have experienced Him; we have come to know Him through our relationship with Jesus, God incarnate. It is through this relationship that we obtain salvation. We confess our faith in this salvific relationship in the Creed or the Symbol of Faith.

It is interesting that the first words of the Creed have been translated into English as “I believe in…” in the Slavonic text these first words are “Vjeruju vo” or “Verujem u” in Serbian. In both cases the root word is “Vera” or faith. The first words of the Creed could be translated as I have faith in…We have faith in the God revealed and experienced in the Holy Trinity as expressed in this Creed, in history and our living experience of Him.

One of the most concrete ways that we experience God is through prayer. Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ tells us “whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13) Many of us question our faith because sometimes the things we ask for in prayer we do not receive. This is because God knows what we need. The answer to our prayers maybe “No, that is not good for you” or “not at this time, wait” or we may receive what we ask for in the manner we ask or in a different way. When we don’t get what we ask for our faith sometimes wavers because we forget what we say in the Lord’s Prayer “Your will be done.” (Matthew 6:10) Unwavering faith has nothing to do with our will. Unwavering faith has to do with seeking God’s will in all things.

An example of unwavering faith in the face of great adversity is seen in the Holy Prophet Job. Job lost his family, his lands and his health but remained faithful to God. Even his wife told him to “curse God, and die.” (Job 2:9) Job’s response to all his suffering was “shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10) Job did not want to experience the difficulties he had in his life. However he had faith that God would give him what he needs. Job surrendered his will to God’s will or Job emptied himself so that God could fill Job with Himself.

This self-empting is what we see in God in the person of Jesus Christ; especially at His passion. The person of Jesus shows that when we cut off our will or empty ourselves we become obedient to God. Jesus the God-Man is obedient to the will of God while Adam was disobedient exerting his will over God’s will bring the consequences of death and corruption into the world. Christ’s obedience to His Father brings us back to life and restores our natural relationship with God.

Thus, when the centurion speaks about obedience of those that report to him he equates that obedience to the obedience of all of creation to Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. The centurion says that I not only believe that my servant will be healed but, I know from the experience of You that he will be healed. The Centurion has faith because he knows how faith and obedience are related by others fulfilling his will and by being obedient himself fulfilling the will of others, as “one under authority” as it says in the Gospel (Matthew 8:9).

Christ marvels at this because the centurion is able to understand the relationship between obedience and faith; that obedience is and faith are about fulfilling the command or will of another. That faith and obedience are about freedom. When we fulfill the will of God we come free. We become free from death and corruption. When we turn our will and our life over to God He gives it back to us transformed. It is transformed because we no longer need to make choices about what is the right thing to do in any situation; we are set free. This is what it means to have great faith.

Saint Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic explains this wonder of great faith inhe following manner “Christ did not marvel at the beauty of the sea of Galilee, for what is such beauty compared with the beauty of the kingdom of heaven….Neither did He ever marvel at great human wisdom, wealth or strength; for all is nothing compared with the wisdom, wealth and might that are familiar to Him in the Kingdom of God….The great faith of one man is to be marveled at. It is the greatest and most beautiful thing on earth, for by faith a slave becomes free, a hireling becomes a son of God and a mortal man becomes immortal.”

So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ let us have great faith obtaining freedom and life everlasting by surrendering our self will to God’s will by being obedient to His commandments. Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at St. Archangel Michael Serbian Orthodox Church on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost 2012.


3rd Sunday After Pentecost 2012

June 27, 2012

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ in the Holy Gospel today we heard our Lord speak about the manner in which we live our lives.

The first thing we heared in the Gospel is about the eye of the body. Is it full of darkness or light? This question is speaking about our state of mind. Is the mind enlightened and full of the knowledge of God or is it empty, dark and separated from God. In order to live a Christ centered life we must have knowledge of God. This knowledge of God does not just come from books. Our St. Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic speaks about how we as Orthodox Christians have our minds enlightened by five candles of knowledge. These five candles are the following: our own minds, the Old Revelation, the New Revelation, the Church and the power of the Holy Spirit. He goes on to say with the guidance given to us by these five candles Orthodox Christians are given the most amount of light to come to the knowledge of God. He also states that when we fail and become dark, empty and separated from God we are also denied the most. This is the standard we will be held against at the final judgment.

When I think of these five candles I see them with the bishop when he is blessing with the Trikrije and Dikrije. At the start of Liturgy, the deacon hands these candles to the bishop and says “Let Your light so shine before men that they may see Your good works and glorify our Father who is in Heaven always now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen”. This is a call for all of us to shine forth as these five candles with the knowledge of God.

How then do we obtain this light of the knowledge of God? We obtain it through our experience of Him. Christ our God is our salvation. It is through our relationship with Him through prayer and communion that we obtain enlightenment and knowledge of Him. Our whole purpose in life should be to obtain the Holy Spirit, to live a Godly life, to be like Christ our God, to become divine as God is divine. When we live this way we realize that our whole life depends on God.

The Gospel speaks of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field and how God provides for them with all they need to survive. It also speaks to our human nature to worry about how we will be clothed, eat, or drink. The simple message here is trust in God and you will be provided what you need.

This is a simple message but, a difficult message. How many of us truly place our trust in God? Do we believe that God will give us the things we need to survive? We need to be clear here that there is a difference between needs and wants. Do I trust God enough that no matter what He will provide me with a roof over my head, enough food to eat and clothing to cover me? If we look at life these are the only things we truly need.

We can only do this if we act in concert with God by fulfilling his commandments. Another way of looking at it is that by being obedient to the teachings of God we are set free from the cares of this world; as Christ our God says in another place in the Gospel; “take up your cross and follow Me.”

How then do we take up the cross and follow Him? First and foremost we must work for the daily bread with the talents God has given us. Secondly, we must resist the temptation to take a short cut by lying, cheating, and the lust of power and money as we conduct our work. We must remember that we are Orthodox Christians in all of our affairs conducting ourselves in a Godly manner even if it is unpopular and difficult.

Why must we do this? Because we are obedient to those five candles of knowledge; the teachings of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ in the Old and New Testament, the teachings of the Church, the inspiration of the life creating Holy Spirit and the innocent mind that was given to us when we were created. All of these direct our lives to live in a Godly manner.

Obedience to these five candles of knowledge also has a direct bearing on how we conduct our lives within the Church. I ask you are we supporting our parish in a Godly manner? Is our parish involved in works of charity and mercy? Do we support the works of the Church and the Diocese for recognition, positions of power or do we do it out of our love for God? Supporting the Church in a Godly manner, caring for our needy brothers abroad and at home and doing the works of the Church and Diocese out of love of God is definitely the harder road but, it leads to living a Godly life.

It leads to living a Godly life because we are being obedient to those five candles out of love for God. When we give away our life to God, He gives it back to us in a new way. In a way in which we become truly free so that the cares of this world no longer tie us down so that we can embrace Him alone.

O Lord our God we ask that you receive from us Your servants all of our being that we may be obedient to all Your teachings in order to be set free from the cares of this world and care only for You our only True God. Amen.

Delivered on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Ascension Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngwood, PA


Start of Great and Holy Week/Vespers on Palm Sunday 2012

April 9, 2012

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

Your Grace, reverend Fathers and my dear brothers and sisters in Christ this has been a glorious weekend with the collision of the feast of the Annunciation, Lazarus Saturday and the Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem or Palm Sunday. As we prepare to enter into the Great and Holy Week we have been given a foretaste of the feast of the Resurrection or Pascha through the collision of these feasts. We have also had a foretaste of the life to come in the universal Resurrection through these feasts.

In the hymns of the feasts we heard the following:

“Today is the crown of our salvation and the manifestation of the mystery that is from all eternity.” (Troparion of the feast of the Annunciation)

“You confirmed the Universal Resurrection Christ God by raising Lazarus from the dead before your passion.” (Troparion of the feasts of Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday)

In the services of the Great and Holy Week we also hear the following dismissal:

“The Lord who is going to His voluntary passion on behalf of us men and for our salvation,…”

What we should see from these hymns is that the whole purpose of Christ’s life, death on the cross and resurrection are the eternal mystery of our salvation. When one asks the question “What is salvation?” we need to understand that salvation is a person. That person is our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.

We often see on roadside signs the words “Jesus Saves.” The questions that are often expressed are; who or what is Jesus saving us from? The Western Christian thought process is that Jesus is saving us from the wrath of God the Father by making a payment or an amends for the sin of Adam and for all of our sins. Our Orthodox Christian faith does not have this understanding of making a payment or amends for the sin of Adam and the sins of mankind.

What we believe is that man was created in the image and likeness of God. When speak about likeness we speak about our potential to become God like; in the sense to be God or using the Greek terminology we can undergo a process called theosis.

When Adam was created he had the potential to become like God. He was to grow in his relationship with God that he might become divine like God. However, he chose to exert his own will in place of God’s. The consequence of this exertion of will resulted in death entering into the world along with all sickness and the struggles that we incur in life. As St. Paul says to the Romans “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, in as much as all have sinned:” (Romans 5:12).

Death is not a punishment but a consequence of sin. The natural state of man is for the soul to be united with the body. As a result of sin God allows a temporary separation of the soul from the body. The separation of soul and body is unnatural and painful for the person that undergoes death and for those around the person. However, we should see death as something therapeutic because it puts an end to our sin and the struggles of this life.

When Christ suffers and experiences death on the cross He takes on sin and its consequences. On the cross He does battle with sin and its consequence death. Christ is victorious over sin and death by His Glorious Resurrection. This is how we should understand His Passion and Resurrection. This victory over sin and death is what is meant when it says in the Gospel of St. John “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The victory over sin and death by Christ’s death and resurrection is the restoration of all mankind to the image and likeness of God that Adam had in Paradise. The Resurrection gives us a pathway back to growing to be like God. Adam and all of mankind were created to grow to be like God by being in communion or relationship with Him. St. Maximus the confessor reminds us that if Adam had not sinned Christ still would have become man because God so very much loved mankind and wanted to be in communion or relationship with mankind.

We should see that Christ by restoring the image and likeness of God in us by His suffering and death on the cross and His Glorious Resurrection becomes our salvation. He unites us with Himself. We enter into communion with Him by being united to Him through the Passion and Resurrection.

Each of us must change our lives in the light of the Passion and Resurrection. In changing our lives we repent of our inclination to sin or exert our own will over God’s. This means for each of us that we live a life of repentance which can be understood as doing God’s will or living our lives to do the right thing.

In living a life of repentance we bring ourselves back to the image and likeness of God. Living a life of repentance is a life of joy. It is joyful because we do things that bring us out of conflict with the people, the world around us and God. This does not mean that we will not have struggles in life. It means that we will understand the struggles as the same struggles that Christ had on the cross. The struggles will bring us to a resurrection that unites us to God. Being united with God is what it means to be saved. It means that we are working in cooperation with God in the manner in which live our lives.

As we go through this Great and Holy Week together let us be mindful that Christ’s suffering on the cross leads to His resurrection which gives us a victory over death so that we may grow to be united with him resulting in our salvation.

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, Hermitage, PA at the Mission Vespers Palm Sunday 2012.


Sunday of the Cross/ Third Sunday Great Lent 2012

March 18, 2012

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ; today brings us to midpoint of the Great and Holy Lent which is also called the Sunday of the Cross.

In today’s Gospel we hear “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34) What we often think of when we hear these words is struggle and pain. When we think of the cross that our Lord was crucified upon, we think of His pain and suffering. As a result of the Western culture around us we look at Christ’s death as atonement for original sin and the sins world. We also look at this verse and think that our Lord is telling us that we too must suffer and atone for our own sins; with the ultimate punishment of our sins being death.

How then can we reconcile the thoughts we have with the words the Church puts before for us referring to the cross? Words like Holy, Most Precious and Life Creating or St. Paul when he says “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness…. God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:22-27) which seem to be at odds with this concept of atonement and punishment for sin.

The Western Christian view of sin and salvation is legalistic; for every sin there is a measured out penance. The greatest sin in view the West is the original sin, the sin of Adam, because it stole God’s dignity. The only way the original sin could be paid for was through the death of His Son; His suffering and agony on the cross for the sins of the world. This legalistic payment system for sin is referred to as atonement.

Our Orthodox Christian faith does not have this understanding of legalism and payment for sin. Our view of the sin of Adam is that we are not guilty of that sin; we merely live in the consequences of that sin. The term that we use to describe Adam’s sin and its consequences is Ancestral Sin. For us salvation and repentance are a healing process to restore us to the image and likeness of God that Adam had in the garden so that we may progress to be like God. We achieve a synergy with God; where divine grace and mercy and our human actions work together for us to achieve salvation.

When we look at the scene of the crucifixion in our Orthodox icons what do we see? We see Christ at peace. We see Christ depicted as the King of Glory in Extreme Humility. Why is Christ so serene while this terrible event is taking place? He is serene because he is doing the will of His Father and not His own will. He is showing His obedience to the will of the Father which is in contrast to Adam’s actions of exerting his own will against God. Christ’s death upon the cross shows that through God’s grace and mercy man by choosing to act in concert with God can come back into communion with God. It is our sin that breaks communion with God.

In our hymnography and as St. Paul says “as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men” (Romans 5:12) we see that the breaking of communion with God through sin results in a consequence of death. For us death is seen as something merciful that God gives us to put an end to the sins that we commit and the resultant suffering. Man was never created to experience death but as a consequence of the Ancestral Sin man suffers a temporary parting of the soul from the body; which we call death. At the resurrection of all men during the Second and Glorious Coming of our Savior the soul will be reunited with the body. Those that have lived the life of repentance or healing of their souls and bodies will be in the kingdom of God. Those that have chosen not to receive the healing grace of repentance will suffer in the” outer darkness weeping and gnashing their teeth” as it says in the Gospel. (Matthew 25:30)

When we come to the holy mystery of Confession we should keep in mind that what we’re doing there is repenting and receiving healing. We are stopping the struggle of our own will, our sin, and receiving healing so that we may draw closer to God, to become more like Him, to be in communion with Him. Through the healing grace of repentance we will live our lives in humility and peace amongst all of the turmoil of this life in the same manner as Christ was able to experience the crucifixion. This healing grace of repentance will also bring us to be with Christ in the General Resurrection and we will truly be able to say “Oh death where is thy sting.” Amen

Delivered by protodeacon fr. Milan Medakovic at St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church, Steelton, PA on the Third Sunday of Great Lent 2012


Sunday of the Last Judgement (Meatfare Sunday) 2012

February 19, 2012

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ today is the Sunday of the Last Judgment.

In today’s Gospel we hear of the dread and final Judgment of God. The Gospel describes for us the criteria by which each of us will be judged. That is that we will be judged by what we have done to our fellow man. Specifically, the criteria is feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and being a friend to the stranger, clothing those that are naked and visiting those that are sick or in prison. The Gospel makes it clear that there is no salvation without helping our fellow man.

Many of us would like to ignore this Gospel because it makes us uncomfortable. We would like to believe that all we need to do is believe in the Lord Jesus and we will be saved. We must not only have belief but, we also must have action or works. In the Epistle of the Holy Apostle James it says “What does it profit, …though a man say he has faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? …Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead,… show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:14-18)”

Our faith is tested by the Lord by those that we encounter that have needs. This is a great struggle for us should I help the person or should I continue on my way. In Proverbs it says “He that has pity upon the poor lends unto the Lord, and that which he has given will He pay him again.” (Proverbs 19:27)

In these encounters we are reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37). In this parable we are asked what or who is our neighbor. The Samaritan is the neighbor in the parable because he stops what he is doing and helps the injured man. This parable brings the great commandment to our attention “Thou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all you soul, and with all your strength, and with all you mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

The great commandment shows us that our love for God is demonstrated by being a neighbor to our fellow man or that through helping our fellow man we receive our salvation. If we fail to be a neighbor to our fellow man we have failed to love God. There are consequences for this failure to love God above all else through our treatment of our fellow man. Saint Basil the Great reminds of the permanence of these consequences in his treatise On the Last Judgment, “If there is any end to eternal torment, then it follows that there is an end to eternal life. But, as it is impossible to image an end to eternal life, how is it impossible to imagine an end to eternal torment?”

God would have that all men be saved as it says in the Epistle to Timothy “God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4) but this Gospel makes it clear that our choices either save or condemn us. It is through our choices that we make our own hell or salvation.

The pain of sin is experienced in this life is a foretaste of the eternal torment to call us to repentance. The Book of Job reminds us of this foretaste in the passage “The wicked man travails with pain all his days…A dreadful sound is in his ears…. He believes not that he shall return out of darkness,…Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid;…For he stretches out his hand against God…” (Job 15:20-25).

The choices that we make to embrace our neighbor in order to embrace God or to embrace ourselves that results in eternal torment is often a struggle for us. The Teachings of the Desert Fathers has the following story to help us with this struggle. “They asked some great elder: ‘How, father, do you so patiently bear such labors?’ The elder replied ‘All my toil in this life is not equal to one day of torment.’”

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ my prayer for each of us is that we struggle with our service to our neighbors that we may serve the Lord our God and receive salvation so that we may eternally “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad” (Matthew 5:12).

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church, Steelton, PA on the Sunday of the Last Judgment (Meatfare Sunday) 2012.


Sunday After Theophany 2012

January 23, 2012

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

Bog se javi!

God is revealed!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In today’s Gospel we hear that Christ is leaving for Galilee upon hearing that Saint John the Baptist had been imprisoned. He then begins His public ministry in Galilee with the message “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Why does our Lord retreat to Galilee upon hearing of John’s imprisonment? Why does he not confront those that would persecute Him from the start? Saint John Chrysostom and the Blessed Theophylact provide the same answer to these questions. Our Lord withdraws to Galilee to teach us to protect ourselves by not going out to meet with temptations or to put ourselves into danger.

The Gospel says that Christ departed to Galilee, which means rolled down. It says that He dwelt in Capernaum that translates to house of comfort and consolation. The Gospel then states that this is in the region of Zebulon, meaning nocturnal, and Naphtali, meaning broadening. This shows that Christ not only came into the world for the Jews but, also for the Gentiles. Thus, Christ went to the Gentiles who were rolled down in sin by dark and broad ways of life that lead to destruction as a comfort and consolation to them.

Christ did the same for us. We need to ask ourselves do we want to walk on the narrow path to salivation by following God’s Law or walk on the broad path that will lead to our own destruction.

Saint Matthew says that Christ’s coming to this region was to fulfill the Prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 9:1) showing that Christ is the fulfillment of prophecies. This prophecy says that the people of Zebulon and Naphtali that were sitting in darkness saw a great light. The most oblivious understanding of this is that they see Christ coming to them. The deeper meaning of the great light is that the Law of God has been brought to them by Christ. This is a great challenge for us. We who have accepted Christ into our lives are also responsible for sharing that Great Light with others. At times we do not realize the darkness that exists in the lives of the people that are close to us. When we share our faith by the examples of our lives we help bring the Light of Christ to those around us.

It was not until Saint John the Baptist was arrested that Christ began his public ministry. This was because John was a prophet who prepared the way of the Lord by bearing witness to Him. Blessed Theophylact says that this is in the same manner as servants make preparations for their masters.

Christ’s preaching was that of a simple message “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance or the changing of one’s mind and being to God; is to change and live a life of virtue. Living a life of virtue is to live an angelic life. In living an angelic life the kingdom of heaven is made manifest within each of us. When the kingdom is made manifest within us and is made manifest to the world around us.

Repentance is probably the most joyous thing that we can do in our lives. This is because we become free. We are no longer enslaved to our own self-seeking, selfish will. Selfishness and self-seeking is at the heart of each and every one of our sins.

What we do through repentance is to return to our created image and likeness which is to be in the image and likeness of God. That means that we are in harmony with God and His Law. All that we do is in Harmony with God. We live in obedience to Him.

We no longer make choices based on ourselves because we know what the right thing is to do. There is no question in our minds to do anything else but that right thing; to act in harmony with God. It is through this obedience to God that we obtain joy, peace and serenity in our lives.

This simple message of repentance is given to us now by the Church to remind us that we are about to start the Great and Holy Fast, Veliki Post. It is hard to believe that in a few short weeks we will be preparing for Christ’s Resurrection. The first message that we receive to prepare for the Great and Holy Lent is repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

So my dear brothers in sisters in Christ-
Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Repent for Christ came into the world for the salvation of all men as a little child.

Repent for Christ was baptized by John in the Jordan that the Trinity was made manifest.

Repent for Christ came to those that sat in darkness that they might see a great light.

Repent for Christ is going to his voluntary Life Saving Passion.

Repent for Christ is crucified for us men and our salvation.

Repent for Christ is Risen to grant us eternal life.

Repent to end a selfish self-seeking life.

Repent to live in harmony with God.

Repent to bring joy, peace and serenity into your life.

Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Amen
Bog se javi!
God is revealed!

Delivered on Sunday after Theophany 2012 by Protodeacon Fr. Milan Medakovic at St. Stephen’s Serbian Orthodox Church, Lackawanna NY