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April 20, 2008

Palm SundayFrgeorge

"Blessed is He who cometh in the Name of the Lord." Just imagine the magnitude of what happened in Jerusalem on this day some two thousand years ago! The thousands of people gathering near the gate of the walled City of Jerusalem were exalted, thinking that at last, here was the King, who would free them from their Roman conquerers. They had dreams, that once they would be free from the Romans, the Kingdom of Judah would be spread all over the world. The King did come, and His mission was to free people; but not from their bondage. He was to free them from their burden of sin. His chief weapon was that of love,--- a weapon much stronger than the weapons of war. He came to preach, that all people are created equal and that no one had a higher standing in the eyes of God.

The Lord's fame was widespread, being that no one ever spoke like he did, nor performed any of the many miracles that came to pass. The miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead after 4 days, transmitted great enthusiasm amongst the people, who looked forward to seeing Him on His journey to Jerusalem. They visualized the Lord as King, coming on a Royal Chariot. Instead, they see Him riding on a donkey, which once again gave another powerful lesson on humility.

However, this didn't dampen their anticipation. When the Lord approached the Holy City, thousands lined the road waving palm

Branches, and even throwing their tunics in the Lord's path, so that He could go over them.
Thousands of voices repeated over and over again: "Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord." The Lord's entry into Jerusalem, lacked nothing of any Royal welcome. His entry was Royal in every way. However, the picture changes radically. Only a few days later, some, or many of those enthusiastic people were now waving their fists and shouting: "Crucify Him, crucify Him!"

Before I mention a few words about those people, who one day say one thing and the next day something else, I would briefly like to mention people, who belong to one of two categories.

Shortly before Jesus came to Jerusalem, He was graciously received in Lazarus' home, whom He had raised from the dead. While there, Mary the sister of Lazarus poured valuable myrrh on the Lord's feet. This was a foreshadowing of the Lord's burial, which happened soon after. The myrrh was very valuable, but her sacrifice proved the love and respect that she had for the Lord.

Thus, Mary represents those people who are totally dedicated without making any compromises.

In the Lord's drama, Judas the Iscariot played a major role. He lived with, and saw God before him, but he was unmoved. Love was a feeling he had only for himself. a selfish love, a very twisted love. When he sees that the precious myrrh was poured on the Lord's feet, he could not contain himself. Wrathfully he questions, why such a waste? He said hat the myrrh could have been sold for 300 dinarii, and the money could have gone to the poor. He said this, as a cover up, since he held the money collected by the Apostles. He couldn't care less for the poor. He cared only for himself.

Unfortunately, those types are not absent from society. They live only for what benefits them directly. Their acts are carefully calculated, so that all that is possible reverts to them. They are perhaps wealthy materially, but they are impoverished in their soul. With their opulent life style, they can never sense fulfillment. Consequently, they can never know what it means to be really happy, simply because all people were not created to live selfishly.

But, between the two categories mentioned, that is the people with Mary's love and dedication, and also the egocentric, selfish Judas, there is a third category, which does not measure up to the dedication of Mary, nor is if comparable to Judas' absolute selfishness and I may say inhuman.

In this category are those, who are easily influenced and change their opinion for known and unknown reasons. You see them being very enthusiastic for some plan or idea, and later against the very thing they espoused.

You may see them working for a cause, and later these same individuals express their opposition to that, for which they had labored. They are not firm on their convictions. Consequently it is easy for them to become part of a mob psychology. They are no different than the people in Jerusalem, who one day shouted "Blessed is He who cometh in the Lord" and the next day shouted: "Crucify Him, crucify Him!"

So many Christians do identify with all 3 categories, that were mentioned. Thank God though for the Marys, who bring a great balance in society, and how regretful it is, that the Judases are more than a few. But, what is sad is the fact, that we have a great number of those, who like the pendulum, swing back and forth.

Our Churches around the Country will be filled especially the latter part of Holy Week and Pascha. Truly, many will be touched, and even moved to tears with the Lord's Passion. They may say to themselves, "truly it is worth it to sacrifice, being that the Lord paid the Supreme Sacrifice for our salvation." But, soon after the glory of the Resurrection, they will forget the discipline they had imposed on themselves, and will fall back to the old routine.

The Lord wants true and firm believers as was Mary. The decision though, always rests with the individuals. I'll never forget the conversion of Svetlana Stalina, Stalin's daughter.

She grew up in a very atheistic society, but, she felt the voice of the Lord inviting her to the Christian Family. It was a decision she had to make, and she did make it. She later confessed, that if you want a fulfilled life, you cannot live apart from God.

The Bolsheviks tried for 70 years to impose atheism, but the system collapsed and became ashes. Orthodox Christianity is again vibrant and Russia now is a healthy part of our Faith. Is this not also a great miracle of God?

The Lord will always keep knocking at the door of indifferent or unbelieving people, to bring them back to their original destination. Of course, it is up to the individual to open the door, and let Christ enter. What a fulfilling feeling one can sense, when he or she wholeheartedly receives the Lord, just as the multitudes did in Jerusalem, and to exclaimt: "Blessed is He who cometh in the Name of the Lord."
 
+ Fr. George Papadeas

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“Therefore brethren stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word or our epistle.” - Thessalonians 2:15