The Prelate’s Message (June 20, 2021)
Today, according to the Armenian Church calendar, is the fifth Sunday of Pentecost. Our Gospel reading is from Matthew 12: 38-42, and describes an episode when Jesus was challenged by the Pharisees to indicate a sign by which people should believe in Him. Having witnessed so many miracles, the Pharisees still asked for more evidence to believe; this was indeed malicious on their part. Jesus, in His turn, answers them harshly, saying: “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth”. He lamented their blindness and explained that while the people of Nineveh repented, and the queen of the South made the arduous journey to meet Solomon and to benefit from his wisdom, here the Pharisees are renouncing Jesus who is greater than both Jonah and Solomon.
Once again, we are faced with a scene full of tension. I would like to draw three messages from our daily reading:
- These two, bitter adjectives, “evil and adulterous”, were not used haphazardly. Most probably some critics would question whether it is befitting for a sanctified tongue to utter such blasphemous words like these. Nevertheless, the loving and merciful Lord, in response to the hardness of their hearts, did not insult the Pharisees but reproached their attitude as intolerable sin.The Pharisees, who are the scholars of the Scriptures, were well aware that the two words characterize the Evil One: the Evil One was created as good, yet because he was not faithful to the Creator, which is exactly what is meant by “adulterous”, he became the Adversary. The mechanism of the Evil one is of endlessly tempting his victims until he succeeds in striking his target. In the wilderness, the Tempter was unable to succeed for forty days and nights, but remained undeterred in his attempts to divert the Lord from His mission. Even after the Resurrection, the Evil One used the device of denialism in his attempt to demolish the Divine Plan. Likewise, the Pharisees, instead of thanking the Almighty Lord for becoming the privileged witnesses of the fulfillment of the Scriptures in reference to the Messiah, unceasingly tempted Him not in order to believe in Him, but with the hope of trapping and destroying Him.
- Our Lord, through the example of the prophet Jonah, foretold the greatest sign of His salvific Passion, Burial, and Resurrection. Throughout His earthly mission, Jesus tried to acquaint his audience with the supreme plan of Divine Mercy. He repeatedly taught them not to be captivated by the awe of physical healings and temporal miracles, but to realize the heavy price to be paid on the Cross to release mankind from the captivity of sin and to have access to the heavenly Kingdom and enjoy eternal blessings.
- Our Lord Jesus Christ should not be compared with any creature. Nevertheless, He refers to Himself in the context of the earthlings who symbolize the Prophecy and the Wisdom, and on another occasion, He referred to the Temple (Mt 12:6), to teach them that if all these are so dear to our hearts and venerable, how much more should the incarnate Word of God, the source of Wisdom and the Holy of all Holies, be venerated?
Jesus directed many warnings to His contemporaries which are equally addressed to believers of all ages. With infinite love, patience, and forgiveness, the Almighty Lord is inviting us to respond His Call positively for our own sake. He is inviting us to share eternal life, honor and joy as His beloved children, and not to suffer as an evil and adulterous generation the eternal damnation. As Paul reminds us, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). Let us consciously welcome the life-giving invitation of God, and plant worthily on this earth in order to reap immeasurable bounties in the life yet to come. Let us joyfully walk in the Holy Spirit with a renewed life (Eph 4:23), to hear the blissful voice saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your master” (Mt 25:21), and praise the All-Holy Trinity forever. Amen.