The Prelate’s Sermon Sunday, May 8
Today, on the fourth Sunday of the Holy Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, our reading from the Epistle is from I Peter 5:1-14. The Apostle first instructs the elders to take care of their flock, and then cautions the believers by saying, “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in the entire world are undergoing the same kind of suffering…”
Within this passage, the Apostle eloquently describes the challenges a believer should expect and the actions that the believer has to undertake. I would like to share a few thoughts from the pragmatic message of the Apostle.
- Discipline is a virtue, which could be earned by commitment through continuous effort and be blessed by the heavens. In all aspects of life, it is a condition for success. Moreover, in religion, it is highly recommended for we are called upon to fight not only against visible struggles in the flesh but against invisible and often dark powers. The Apostle urges his fellow believers to discipline themselves and to be alert. Through his own experience in Gethsemane, Peter is keenly aware of what it means to remain alert, to be watchful, and to resist any type of temptation. In order to do this, discipline is mandatory to prepare ourselves toward all kinds of allurement that surround us.
- It is true that the Apostle is presenting the adversary in a very figurative form, a lion; yet it is just to alert us about how powerful the adversary is, and how ready he is to devour his victims. In reality, the Evil one, being spirit, is more dangerous for its snares are very subtle and can trap any person who is not anchored in Christ, who knocked the Evil one down by revealing its deceits. As much as the lion is described as a ferocious animal that devours its prey to satisfy its hunger, in greater contrast, the Evil one is insatiable. Just as drinking the salty water of the sea makes you thirstier, likewise, pride never allows the Evil one to stop its objective to mislead and separate us from God, and eventually condemning to death our souls.
- Resistance is part of the self-defense mechanism in all creatures, whether within the botanic world, in the animal world, or in humanity. Thus, the Apostle urges us never to give up, but to resist. Taking into consideration the character of this fighting, the Apostle commends resistance which is not self-centered but rooted in Christ. Peter was so sure of himself, that after his Master’s betrayal failed to resist to the smallest temptation (Lk 22:54-62). Jesus Christ constantly teaches us this discipline of resisting against evil while He was praying in solitude on the mountain or when performing miracles and in the midst of agonizing experiences before His betrayal and even on the Cross. Paul the Apostle does not hesitate to use military terminology to be steadfast in our faith by saying, “above all carry the shield of faith” (Eph 6:16), thus making us aware that we should seriously be armored for this spiritual warfare. In this regard, the Desert Fathers’ vitae are the best literature to acquaint with their expertise unveiling the subtle traps of the Evil one, in order to challenge them.
- With the closing remark, the Apostle reminds that those who are suffering or going through all kinds of tribulation, should know that “brothers and sisters in the entire world are undergoing the same kind of suffering.” This reminder is very important to know that we are not alone, but rather by identifying ourselves who are suffering for our Faith, Justice, Peace, Righteousness and other values for His sake, it proves that truly we are His Disciples, and that we are following in His footsteps.
Let us welcome the Apostle’s positive prescription to overcome the enemy through our trust in the Almighty Lord to whom befits glory, dominion and honor. Amen.