Prelate's Sermon



Today on the ninth Sunday of the Feast of the Holy Cross, the topic of our Scriptural reflection is from St. Paul’s Letter addressed to the Philippians (1-1:11). As much as this letter has a pastoral character, it contains a unique personal seal of love and affection. The Apostle writes that he thanks God every time that he remembers them and constantly prays with joy for all of them. The wording of this one sentence is quite rich. It instructs us about how powerful Prayer is.

a. First and foremost, St. Paul teaches us that thanksgiving should prevail in all aspects of our life, including Prayer. We should thank God for the opportunity granted to us to communicate with Him. Most of the time we take prayer for granted. We don’t realize that it is a privilege, that we have free access to have conversation with the Creator in all circumstances, any time, and any place. Expressing our gratitude to God signals that even though our ties are invisible, yet we are conscious that it exists, it is as solid as visible and material things and, moreover, it is fruitful and beneficiary.    

b. The Apostle teaches us that Prayer has double dimensions: personal and collective. We pray for our personal anxieties, needs, welfare, successes, etc., but also we pray for others, not only for those who are in our close vicinity, or those who are relatives, friends, and colleagues, but also for those who spiritually are related to us. Prayer transcends even these human boundaries, for we pray for the entire world, the creation of God. Therefore, by remembering others in our prayers, we enjoy the power of the bond, the superb experience of oneness of collectivity. Whether we live in a city or in a desert or in a cave, by remembering others in our prayers we shower the blessings of God upon others.

c. The Apostle instructs us that prayer should be constant and not haphazard, based purely upon self-interests. Prayer is an uninterrupted source of renewal, relationship, conversation with God. It should not depend on external factors. No doubt that they may have severe impact, create an internal earthquake and confusion turning upside down all our thoughts, emotions, and outlooks.

Yet, despite all odds, Prayer means to go through all these, and to have confidence on God to come out of these havocs. Travelers who have experienced short or long turbulence in the air know what trusting the pilot means, who does not give up their hope until they come out of the danger and lands safely. Likewise, life itself is endless with its ups and downs and as such we should always be ready for expected or unexpected surprises which undermine our faith in God. Remaining steadfast means to be faithful to our Divine calling, which assumes to pay sometimes a high price, as foretold by our Lord Jesus Christ “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (Jn 15:20). Yet to sacrifice long term Promise, Life and Joy for shorter benefits, is not what we are looking for as rational beings.  

d. The fueling energy of these three aspects: thanking, remembrance, and constantly praying is Joy. Joy is the original and authentic status of our souls to enjoy all the Bliss of loving and caring Heavenly Father. In Eden, our forebearers were destined to live in ultimate happiness being constantly being in communication with God. Yet, instead of trusting Him they lost the sight of Divine guidance and lost that privilege, as the psalmist says, “mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like animals that perish” (Ps 49:21)  The Armenian text of the Scripture reads with a slight variance, as “Man was honored but didn’t recognize, he equaled himself with the irrational beings and identified with them.”

God did His utmost, which the entire universe cannot comprehend, to reinstate humans in their original glory by shedding His sacred blood on the Cross, the most tangible sign of the Way, the Truth and the Life.

I wish I could continue my reflection on the rest of this passage, yet I refer my fellow brothers and sisters to read themselves and discover the magnificence of its depth, beauty, joy and the message they get in their daily lives, and glorify the All Holy Trinity. Amen.