Archdiocese News - EIGHTH SUNDAY OF LUKE [English/Arabic]


[Arabic Version]

EIGHTH SUNDAY OF LUKE
The Unity of the Spirit

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift
of Christ” (Ephesians 4: 1-7)

St. Paul, while writing his epistle to the Ephesians, was imprisoned at Rome: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you…” He was thrown into prison, not because he had participated in some protest march, nor because he was against the civil authorities, but because he preached the Gospel of Christ. He was arrested at Jerusalem, where the local authority accused him before the Roman authority of being opposed to the law, against the State, and of going so far as to permit Greeks to enter the Temple: “Men of Israel, help: This is the man that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and hath polluted this holy place” (Acts 21:28). The Jews, having arrested him, began beating him, intending to kill him: “For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him” (Acts 21: 36). Paul made an appeal to the Roman commander who had come out to investigate the disturbance, revealing that he was a Roman citizen. The commander feared that the Jews would murder Paul in a frenzy of religious fanaticism, and that he would then be held responsible for the illegal death of a Roman Citizen. Therefore he, another Pilate, washed his hands of Paul, sending him to Caesarea, the Roman provincial seat of authority for Palestine. There Paul remained in prison for two years. At last, the time came for his defense. Paul defended himself, and appealed the case to Caesar himself in Rome: “Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: “to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar. Then Festus answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? Unto Caesar thou shalt go” (Acts 25: 10-12). Paul was not concerned for himself, he did not worry concerning the outcome of his trial; rather, his thoughts, and indeed his soul, were with the Christians of the communities which he had established. One thing concerned him: the unity of all Christians in Jesus Christ. Therefore, he took pen and ink and wrote to the Church of Ephesus: “Endavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). The greatest need of the church is her unity in Christ. For this reason, our Lord and his apostles speak concerning the unity of the Christian people. Our Lord, just prior to his Passion, prayed to his heavenly Father for the unity of his church: “That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me”(John 17:21). The Apostles wrote to the early Christians, begging for their continued unity. For division brings with it destruction and desolation, as Christ said, “… Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt 12:25).

Of course, the mystical unity of the Church shall never be destroyed, but alas for those persons who cause strife within the Church, and divisions among Christians. The fathers of the church speak with cautious wisdom in regard to the unity of the church. One of the early Fathers, St. Ignatius the God-Bearer, devotes an entire epistle to show the good fruits of Christian unity. Being and old man, and Bishop of Antioch, he was taken in military custody from Antioch to Rome, to be food for the beasts in the Roman arena. When they arrived in Troas, he found some little time in which to write an epistle to the Philadelphians, begging them to remain united around their bishop, with their priests and deacons. Furthermore, he adds that this is not his own personal advice, but the revelation of the Holy Spirit: “But He is my Witness, for Whose sake I am in bonds, that I got no information from any man. Do nothing without the bishop; keep your bodies as the temples of God, love unity, avoid division; be the followers of Jesus Christ, even as He is of His Father”. He writes also the following: “Wherefore, as children of light and truth, flee from divisions and wicked doctrines; but where the shepherded is, there do ye as sheep follow. For there are many wolves that appear worthy of credit, who, by means of a pernicious pleasure, carry captive those that are running towards God; but in your unity they shall have no place”.

Close your ears to those who would dissolve the unity of the church, the family, the community, this congregation. Close your ears to those who present themselves to you as the saviors of Orthodoxy. They are empty people, without love for Christ, and for His Church.

St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, saying: please, “Put on the new nature, crated after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4: 24 RSV).

 Amen

From our Late Metropolitan Paul


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