St Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church
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/ Weekly Message / 10-30-11: Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost
10-30-11: Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost

Twentieth Sunday

Long before our Lord appeared in the flesh among us, the Old Covenant prophet Isaiah tells us, "Our God has said, `Encourage my people! Give them comfort, speak kindly to Jerusalem and announce your slavery is past; your punishment is over. I, the Lord, made you pay double for your sins.' Someone is shouting: `Clear a path in the desert! Make straight roads for the Lord our God. Fill in the valleys, flatten every hill and mountain. Level the rough and rugged ground. Then the glory of the Lord will appear for all to see. The Lord has promised this!"' Isaiah 40: 1- 3.

The Old Covenant prophet Isaiah promised a Messiah who would heal the blind, grant hearing to the deaf, heal the lame and the mute. The gospels attribute many such miracles or signs to our Lord. These were miracles of healing, divine acts of a Messiah who used his power for the benefit of others and to primarily reveal God's glory. They reinforced the prophets' vision of a deliverer who would repair what was broken, heal the wounded and restore the lost.

Yet, there were times when Jesus was not able to do miracles. He pushed back against those who simply wanted a sign in a show; they wanted entertainment that was astounding, much like a magician's tricky efforts. They were looking for a gimmick designed to impress them into believing. There were even some places where, according to the gospel message, Jesus could not perform many miracles because the inhabitants lacked genuine faith. The working of God is consistent and associated with a genuine living responsive faith first inspired by God's love of mankind.

Nevertheless it was Jesus' miraculous activity -combined with the authority with which people around him take notice and realize this is no ordinary human being living among them. It resulted in gathering followers and offering hope to observers and witnesses.

So it becomes obvious to us that Jesus leads by serving. He teaches by example. Again Isaiah encourages us to think and live in the correct upright way: "Here is my servant! I have made him strong. He is my chosen one; I am pleased with him. I have given him my spirit; and he will bring justice to the nations" Isaiah 42: 1; "The Lord cares for his nation, just as shepherds care for their flocks. He carries the lambs in his arms, while gently leading the mother sheep" Isaiah 40: 11.

So the Church today, just like Lord, as his faithful Bride and Body, uses stories to confirm our faith and sustain it. In St, Matthew's gospel the disciples of the Lord came to him and asked "Why do you use stories to speak to the people? Jesus answered: `I have explained the secrets of the kingdom of heaven to you, but not to others. Everyone who has something will be given more. But people who do not have anything will lose even the little they have. I use stories when I speak to them because when they look, they cannot see and when they listen, they cannot hear nor understand. So God's promise came true, just as the prophet Isaiah said, `The people will listen and listen, but never understand. They will look and look, but never see. All of them have stubborn minds! They refuse to listen; they cover their eyes. They cannot see or hear or understand. If they could, they would turn to me and I would heal them.' But God blessed you because your eyes can see and your ears can hear! Many prophets and good people were eager to see what you see and to hear what you hear. But I tell you they did not see or hear!... Matthew 13; 10 - 17.

How blessed are we who trust in the Lord, who profess faith in him and who come to glorify his name at worship and praise, who live after his example and mandate.

We are all going to be part of the procession we hear about in the gospel narrative in the obscure little hamlet of Naim. Even today it is but an insignificant grouping of mud hovels, but at the time of the Lord it was a thriving community. We would not know of this piece of geography had it not been the site of an astounding demonstration of God's caring and sensitive love. Amazing and wonderful are descriptions in contrast to the physical place.

So in the seeming obscurity of what we so many times think of our own living, our God is present just as realistically as He was in Naim today. We can be separated from him just as surely as was the widow from her recently departed son. We can be similarly overwhelmed by the circumstances of our own life as she was, feeling alone and forgotten. We can experience the pain of loss, of separation, of illness and apparent defeat. We can know the dashing of our hopes, but we can never be so separated or alien to the sustaining faith and subsequent joy which the Lord provides finally in all our daily encounters with the misery life so many times afflicts us with.

So as we live it, let us make life count. Let us accept all the trials and difficulties which cross our path, knowing they will lead to our salvation as we deepen our commitment to Christ. We must be about our Father's business as the Christ Child was in the temple when his parents thought He was lost. We must be doing God's work, living Christ's life in perseverance and dedicated faith. We must never forget that in darkest of our days, the comforting and consoling light of Christ Still shines through!

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