The Prelate’s Message: June 6, 2021
Today, according to the Armenian Church Calendar, on the third Sunday of Pentecost, we celebrate the feast of the Mother Cathedral of the Armenian Church, Holy Etchmiadzin. Our Gospel reading is from Saint John 10:22-30, where we read that our Lord Jesus Christ attends the festival of the Dedication of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. While He is walking in the portico of the Temple, the Jews ask Him if He is the Messiah. Jesus deplores their resentment, for in spite of all they have seen and heard, still they do not believe because they do not belong to His flock. He concludes His response by saying, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand…”
We have discussed earlier the metaphor of the Shepherd. In this passage, Shepherd is used with a richer understanding. Let us enjoy it by highlighting the following points.
- There is a live and direct communication between the sheep and the shepherd, that is between a believer and Jesus. In this world there are many voices, opinions, and councilors. It is very crucial to whom we pay attention, listen and follow. The Bible warns us that since the Creation, the greatest tragedy to befall humanity is that like our fore-parents, we hear and follow the Deceiver, who by every cunning falsely promises Comfort, Welfare, and Glory, but ultimately leads us to Fall, and ensnares us in Misery and Disgrace, as the author of Proverbs says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov 14:12). Therefore, it is critical to hear the Voice of our Master and to always ask, like the Psalmist, “Let your Good Spirit lead me on a level path” (Ps 143:10).
- The Shepherd knows those who hear His voice because He has humbled Himself, He has carried our sinful nature, and has redeemed it. Like the false mother who did not care when Solomon gave the verdict to cut the baby into two pieces, the Evil One pursues after us and rejoices our loss. However, like the true mother, Jesus cares for the lives of all whom He has born anew through His salvific Passion.
- Two Promises are laid in front of us: the pre-Cross and post-Cross promises. The Satan presented a coded promise to our fore-parents, “to be like gods” (Gen 2:5), and they were deprived of their glory which already was bestowed upon them, as it is written “you are gods, children of the Most High, all of you” (Ps 82:6). Jesus constantly reminded us about our Divine identity by saying, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), and again “Is it not written in you law, ‘I said you are gods’?” (Jn 10:34). Jesus eventually promised eternal life by giving up His own life as a ransom. That life is unperishable, for being in Christ, the Eternal Life, endlessly we enjoy the fullness of life, known only to Him, the Source of life.
- The guarantee granted to us that “no one will snatch them out of my hand” is blissful peace for our mind, heart and soul. It transcends all fears caused by loss, separation or even death. This is neither an emotional nor rhetorical statement, but well experienced by the earthlings whose hearts are kindled by the love of the One who loved us first. The saints of all ages, from the Holy Virgin Mary and Saint Stephen, unanimously testify of this life-giving promise, which is granted to us and to the generations to come.
Therefore, let us be always alert to hear His voice and to follow Him only in order to be partakers of the eternal life, praising the All-Holy Trinity. Amen.