(The Prelate’s Message, January 3, 2021)
Our Gospel reading on the 7th Sunday of Advent is from St. Luke 22:24-30, which is the description of the Last Supper. While our Lord Jesus Christ foretells of His betrayal, “a dispute arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” Jesus tells the disciples: “The greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.”
This reading has a great message within its own context, and I believe that our Church Fathers’ wisdom in designating it for this Sunday, which precedes the Nativity and Theophany of the Lord of lords and the King of kings, is indeed superb.
Led by Divine wisdom, let us explore the message of this short passage where we see the acute contradiction of Divine concern versus human worries.
God’s providential love is always outpouring to the advantage of His creatures. Since the good days in Eden, and throughout the subsequent centuries, God, with affection, has always prepared His servants and handmaids for the Divine Plan. He has adorned human beings with wisdom with the intention of filling in the blanks of this life, to enjoy the beauty and benefits of the larger picture which is Eternal Life. As a loving and patient parent, He has foretold and encouraged us to make the right choice, to take the right path to justify our free will, and to make the best use of our rational and spiritual gifts.
Within the context of our today’s Scriptural reading, we literally witness that Christ is foretelling that His betrayal is at the door, but His own chosen disciples did not fully realize the gravity of His prediction. Our Lord, as a true leader, was preparing His disciples for the great tragedy, to strengthen their resolve to face the ultimate turning point in their lives. Unfortunately, they fell into worldly temptation by renouncing the very Cornerstone of their group. Provided only with human wisdom and experience, they were unable to grasp the magnitude of the Divine road map which has started in a humble manger and was continued onward to Golgotha. They were not fully cognizant at that moment that eventually each would be crowned at the glorious, Second Coming of their Teacher, who said: “You may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Lk 22:30). As in Eden, God provided our fore-parents with the essential of enjoying the eternal life (Gen 2:16-17), so our Savior fulfills the promise of bestowing Eternal Life to all who believe in Him.
In the light of this teaching of Christ, I believe that the reading assigned by our Church Fathers especially on this Sunday, the last link which prepares us to celebrate the mystery of Theophany, is indeed marvelous. We do not find any commandment that our Lord did not first observe Himself, and not even an iota, “not one stroke of letter” (Mt 5:18) was left incomplete through His teaching and example. As the perfect human being, Jesus personally taught us how to follow the road of coming closer to the God of perfection. He emptied Himself from his glory and took upon Himself the form of a servant (Phil 2:7). Thus, Jesus equipped the disciples with the golden rule of exaltation which He went through and taught us that the Alpha of greatness is humility and the Omega of glory is only achieved through that humility. Knowing well that from a human perspective it is impossible to achieve true humility, He cautioned us saying, “small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life” (Mt 7:14), nevertheless with God everything is possible (Mt 19:26); moreover, those who are willing to carry His yoke will see that “it is easy and light” (Mt 11:30) when learning from His example.
Today, after welcoming the New Year, while we are at the doorstep to enjoy the glory of humility revealed in the Manger, we are all invited to contemplate God’s eternal Gift to the salvation of the world which is wrapped in swaddling clothes. The world always will distract our attention from the ultimate Truth, as it did with the Disciples, who even when enjoying the physical presence of the Savior, were unable to realize how privileged they were. Let us attentively hear our Good Lord’s caring instruction of true greatness, and embrace Him in our hearts, and ascending the stairway of humility, let us be elevated to meet the Lord who will descend for our sake, and praise Him forever. Amen.