The Reading from the First Epistle of St. Paul to St. Timothy. (2:1-7) and the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (4:16-22)
Today we celebrate the beginning of the Church new year. Now at the start of the new year, we are given an opportunity to reflect and make some resolutions. We have a chance to aim higher and desire higher things for ourselves and for those around us. In today’s epistle, St. Paul writing to his spiritual son, St. Timothy says “Timothy, my son, first of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.” St. Paul does not ask us to pray only for those of our particular political leanings, he asks us to pray for everyone, every leader. And He does this because that is part of what it is to live a quiet and peaceful life Christian life. You may not have noticed this but the world seems less quiet and less peaceful. Even this country which has received great riches and blessings is starting to show manysigns of disturbance. The fathers and teachers of the Church tell us that every division starts with sin and Satan seizes upon division and multiplies it whenever and wherever he can. As the one who is responsible for your souls before the Lord, it is important that I warn and implore and try to steer you away from things that are harmful to you and to our unity.
What we do as Christians matters and sets the tone for dialogue and conversations in the society around us. When we spend time either online or in public, sharing political articles and political opinions, we unknowingly push away many members of the body of Christ. As I mentioned in a previous sermon, about 2 months ago, I don’t want people to see me as a Republican or Democrat or a capitalist or a socialist. Those things should not identify me. What should identify me to others is my attitude of love and humility, and in this people can see the only thing that matters about us, they can see whether or not we belong to Christ. Our Lord says “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love is not forcing political opinions on others. Love is not demonizing the leaders or the politicians on either side. Love is not dismissing large portions of people as dumb or stupid or evil. Love is to be quiet and to pray that each and every human on earth would come to know the love of God in the face of Jesus Christ our savior. In fact, St. Paul says as much when he continues this epistle and writes,
“I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,” He continues saying “Who (God) desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a ransom for all”
What is the purpose of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ if it is buried beneath your political leanings and your opinions. You were not called to be ambassadors of certain politicians or parties. You were called to be ambassadors of Jesus Christ, and if you won’t do it…who will?
The country feels fractured. People are fractured. People are hurting. They are blaming one another but we should know better. Every fracture, every division starts with me. It starts by asking myself “what is in my heart? What do I love? What am I living for?”
In today’s gospel reading, given to us for the Feast of the new year, we hear the words of the Lord as He quotes from the prophet Isaiah and says “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor and to heal the broken hearted. 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,”
We are the poor, the broken hearted, the captives, the blind and the oppressed of whom the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking! We arein need of healing from the damage of our sins. We are captives toour wrong thoughts and misdirected ways. We are in need of sight, to look to God as our only help and only comfort in life, to walk in the right direction.We are in need of liberty from our sinful passions and crooked ways.
We should not help destroy our culture by entering into this toxic environment with human ideas and human arguments. The most powerful healing that has ever taken place in the history of creation did not happen through treaties or deals or new laws or charismatic leaders. It happened by the death of one innocent man upon a cross in Jerusalem. This is the God-man whom we praise and worship and claim to follow. Crowds and multitudes wanted to make Him a king! Yet He refused out of His love for us. He could only give us temporary comfort if He was an earthly king, but He desired to die in order to ensure that we could reign with Him forever, as members of the royal family. He gave Himself up for the life of the world. Healing requires love and love requires sacrifice, not force.
Healing does not come from arguing with others.It comes from genuine repentance and the healing that only our Lord can provide. Healing proceeds from Christ and moves through the human heart when we cooperate with Him.
As we begin this new year, I am encouraging you to be ambassadors of Christ with your words and your attitudes and your actions. Let us try to love all people with a powerful love, through heartfelt prayer, and sacrificial actions that bring healing instead of multiplying divisions. Then and only then, will they begin to know that we are the disciples of the One who is love. Glory be to God AMEN.