The Prelate’s Sermon – October 31, 2021
Today, on the eighth Sunday of the Feast of the Holy Cross, our Scriptural reading is from the Gospel of St. Luke 8:17-21. One day while our Lord was preaching, His mother and brothers wished to join the audience, but because of the crowd, they could not reach Him. When He was told that “your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you,” He answered them and said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God, and do it.”
This reading does not record a miracle or parable, but it is in line with those episodes which carry a powerful message for the ages. Let us explore the gem presented to us by our Lord.
- The reference to the brothers of our Lord Jesus Christ has been a subject of discussion, especially among the Apostolic Churches. For the Apostolic Churches (including all the Orthodox and Roman Catholics), the perpetuity of the virginity of Saint Mary, the “Asdvadzadzin” Theotokos, after giving birth to Jesus, is indisputable. There is a received tradition that the brothers of Jesus might be Joseph’s children from a previous marriage; Joseph was apparently a widower and much older when he married Mary. Nevertheless, the common ground of these two different approaches, which has more important value within the theology of soteriology, is that Saint Mary was a virgin, as prophesied by Isaiah (Is 7:14), when she gave birth to her son (and only child).
- With the first impression, our Lord’s response may sound awkward. Was He alienating Himself from His relatives or disregarding them? Both explanations absolutely are far from being fact. For we know that before commending His spirit into His Father’s hand (Lk 23:46), our Lord’s last, earthly concern was the welfare of His mother whom He henceforth entrusted to the care of His beloved Disciple (Jn 19:27).
- Through the statement regarding His mother and brothers, Jesus was delivering a great message that as much as biological relationships which constitute the basics of a family are important, yet as the children of God we should transcend the material and narrow concept of family and grasp its universal dimension. In this regard, it is crucial to be reminded of an earlier statement of Jesus when He said to Nicodemus that “what is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn 3:6). Having been born from our mother’s womb as flesh, we become part of biological family; but when we are born of the Holy Spirit, we become member of God’s spiritual Family which has more universal character.
- Thus all those who hear the living Word of God take the essential step in welcoming God into their lives as St. Paul also says that “faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of God” (Rom 10:17). Hearing God’s word brings awareness, knowledge, and enlightens us as Isaiah says, “the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2).
- As much as hearing the living Word of God is important, yet it constitutes the first phase, which should then be followed by action, as Jesus declares: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” In all aspects of life, this is an unchangeable truth. Hearing without acting upon what is heard remains futile and is subjected to condemnation (Mt 7:24-27; Jn 12:47).
As conscious children of God, let us all be attentive to hear the Word of God, as preceding every Gospel reading the deacon invites us by saying, “Broskhoomeh!” (from the Greek “Proskhomen”, meaning “Let us be attentive”). And let us also joyfully put what we have heard into action according to our Lord’s words, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11:28), and thereby praise the All-Holy Trinity. Amen.