The Prelate’s Sermon, Sunday, May 29
Today, on the seventh Sunday of the feast of the Holy Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Armenian calendar is known as the Second Palm Sunday dedicated to the entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into the Heavenly Jerusalem. Earthly Jerusalem has not justified its name as the city of Peace, but rather it has been the epicenter of recklessness, tribulations and wars. On the other hand, Heavenly Jerusalem, where Almighty Lord’s and our Heavenly Father’s Will reigns supreme, eternal Life, Peace and Joy prevail.
This feast is unique to the Armenian Church. We owe it to St Gregory the Illuminator. When he was sentenced to death in the pit for high treason by the Armenian king Drtad, the Heavenly King rewarded him by providing an angel to visit him every day to comfort and strengthen him to fulfill his mission. On the fourth day following the celebration of the feast the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, St. Gregory missed the visitation of the Good Angel. The next day when the angel returned to him, the angel told the saint that Jesus following His Ascension was welcomed by the Heavenly Hosts. The fourth day was reserved for the same rank to which the angel belonged, and therefore he was expected to be in heaven on that day. Traditionally transmitted, this valuable information makes us aware that the heavenly Hosts are part of the Divine Providential care and Redemptive plan.
The Gospel reading today is from John 12:12-23 describing the victorious Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem and the Epistle is from First John 5:13-21, which reads as follows: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the boldness we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of Him.”
From the Apostle’s message, there are two main thoughts which I would like to share which are pivotal in the life of each believer.
- The assurance delivered from our Lord Jesus Christ that He is the Resurrection and Life (Jn 11:25) and that He will give abundant life to all those who believe in Him (Jn 10:10) is refreshed by His beloved Disciple. Life is the most precious thing for each person, and to extend its length and quality unexceptionally is the longing and dream of all. The condition proposed by our Lord and repeated by His Disciple to enjoy not only temporary but eternal life is nothing compared with what we are promised. The Evil one through our base desires veils the priceless and incorruptible gift to deprive us from the incomparable offer showered upon us through the supreme and sacred Love in action on the Cross. As much as the Evil one has its negative impact on humans, yet the ultimate responsibility lays upon each individual to accept or to reject this offering which expires with our earthly existence.There is a great temptation that we should enjoy now what we have at hand, and later in due time we will consider this uncertain promise. But such an attitude is based upon a false understanding. First, we know that life is full of unpredictable happenings, and any time we may depart from this life and lose forever this opportunity. Second, by changing the track of our lifestyle from fleshly to spiritual life does not mean that we will descend into a pitiful life. Rather, the sooner that we open our hearts to the Life-Giver, the more our lives will be showered with abundant joy which will impact not only our lives but also the lives of others.
- The second promise which follows the first is that “if we ask anything of His will, He hears us…and we obtain the requests made of Him.” Again, it seems to be a bold statement, yet it is part of the promise granted to all those who believe in His name. The reciprocity of requesting and being granted most of the time is again misunderstood. It is common for people to complain that in prayer they ask for such important things, yet their requests remain unanswered. They start to doubt the validity of the Dominical saying, “Ask and it will be given” (Mt 7:7).Our Lord’s promise is very transparent; there is nothing hidden or tricky. Jesus solemnly taught us, “Ask and it will be given.” He also added: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given to you” (Mt 6:33). It is very important that instead of isolating a biblical verse and implementing it in our belief, we should have a holistic approach to appreciate the entirety of any commandment. Jesus Himself became a role model in this by referring first to God’s will.
The Apostle faithfully echoes the same truth by saying, “If we ask anything according to His will.” This is the master key to apply in all our requests directed to God. Through His faithful prophet Isaiah, God made it very clear when He said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Is 55:8). Therefore, it is imperative that we should always be attentive in all our requests to see that they meet our Compassionate Father’s will. A quick overview of all the Church Fathers’ prayers will convince us that their prayers were embedded with God’s will. If we dare to compare our prayers with theirs, we will discover how far away we are, not only from our Lord’s and His Disciples norms, but even from our patron saints who are the watchtowers of our faith.
Let us therefore with Saint Nerses Shnorhali kneeling down in our hearts pray and say, “In faith I confess and bow down to you, O Light indivisible, consubstantial Holy Trinity and one Godhead, creator of light and dispeller of darkness. Dispel from my soul the darkness of sin and ignorance, and illuminate my mind at this hour, so that I may pray to you according to your pleasure and receive from you the answer to my prayers. Have mercy upon your creatures and upon me, a great sinner.”
Let us follow the simplest instruction and enjoy the abundance of bounties, and praise the All-Holy Trinity. Amen.