April 13, 2008

5th Sunday in LentFrgeorge

"Whosoever would be first among you, shall be servant to all."
Mark: 10:44

Hearing that phrase of the Lord from today's Gospel, may appear as a strange connotation, that is, "if you wish to become first, you must be a servant to all!" It is strange because according to the accepted norm, to become first, people strive and sometimes make use of any means to get to a desired position. Their mission is to become first.

The Lord's teaching of the necessity to become the servant of all, is not only an undisputed truth, but also, is a guarantee of our heartfelt fulfillment. This teaching is greatly related to the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, which we heard three weeks before Lent began, when the Lord said: "People who humble themselves shall be exalted, and those, who exalt themselves shall be humbled."

Unfortunately, many Christians do not heed these teachings, and as a result they spread the veil of their misery all around them, so that the usual observation is made: "how the world has changed, and how bad the conditions have become," and other similar remarks.

The excessive ambition, or better yet, the vain glory distorts the mind and the soul of an individual. A measure of this vain glory unexpectedly, we saw in the case of two of the Lord's Disciples, James and John. Their vain glory formed psychic cataracts in their minds and souls, to the degree that they were not able to discern their destiny, as was always pointed out by their Divine Teacher.
It appears that they were not moved by the Lord's foretelling them of His Passion, which after scourgings would hang Him on a cross. And while the Lord prophetically spoke to His devoted Disciples, what was to transpire in the immediate future, the sons of Zebedee, James and John, instead of expressing their concern and their allegiance to stand by their Master, they said to Him: "Lord, we ask of You a favor. When You come in Your glory we'd like to have one sit on Your right and the other on Your left!"

The Lord, who must have been embittered, gave them a vivid lesson on humility saying: "whosoever would be first, let him be a servant to all!" We cannot but notice, and of course be thankful to the Holy Fathers of our Church, who prescribed the excerpt of the Parable of the Publican and Pharisee three weeks before Lent, as an introduction of sorts to the spiritual period of Lent,---- and now, only one week away as an introduction to the awesome Holy Week, to again hear from our Lord an instruction about the divine virtue of humility.

The Lord's teachings on humility place Christianity on a higher level of all religions. Perhaps someone may ask, "why should we be servants to all, if we want to be first?" And also: "how is it possible to love your enemies?" However, we must never forget, that our Lord not only taught these virtues, but also. was the first to give the example of their application.

When the Lord emphasizes the virtue of humility, this by no means restricts a person in his or her endeavors to progress. It does not hold him or her back, so that higher steps cannot be climbed! For persons to progress, having as their motive noble ambition, is ideal, and most vital to the progress of society. Without noble ambition, it is impossible to experience progress.

For instance, when a person is elected President, or Governor, or Mayor, and does his or her best for the people, progress is guaranteed. When any citizen does anything to help or assist his or her fellow citizen, society is ameliorated. When a teacher is devoted to his or her calling, much is absorbed by the students for their future. When a Clergyman teaches by word and by example, his spiritual flock is enriched.

When a scientist believes, that the Lord gives the talents, and by using them, society is greatly benefitted. When a laborer, a merchant or an employer respect themselves and their position, automatically society is elevated and enriched. Finally, and most importantly, when a Christian makes Christianity his or her way of life, they become bright stars, shedding beneficial light all around them.

How unfortunate that so many Christians are so self centered, that they labor strictly for their own personal benefit and glory, ignoring all. Whatever they give--- if they give, is with calculations. That is, how much is to be gained, --- how will they personally benefit, and what are the advantages for making a gift?

Thus, while Christianity espouses the noble ambitions, it deeply condemns vain glory! A look in the pages of history, whether in the political or religious field, we shall see many examples of vain glorious people, who were the cause of great catastrophes. We shall see, where son turned against his father,--- a mother against her son, simply to gain worldly glory, but with tragic circumstances. However, have we not witnessed it in our day, when vain glorious leaders led to unbelievable bloodshed?

The vain glorious person is very harmful to himself or herself, but also to his or her family, to their work, to various organizations, to all aspects of society and also, to the Christian communities. He or she has no respect, or morals. Often, through devious means we see such persons in a position, which requires a person with a moral compass. Thus, in a position which requires men and women with great moral light power, we see midgets with very hazy light power. As a result, instead of being in the realm of light, we have nothing but darkness, so that people stumble and fall.

For this reason, my beloved, Christianity will always preach morality, to safeguard us from evils like vain glory and other evils, which distance us from God, and surely damage our soul.

We're reminded to be careful with our life, the physical, but no less the spiritual, so that we will not fall into the trap of the many catastrophic evils. Especially now, when after this week we enter the portals of the awesome Holy Week, to share in our Lord's Passion.

Our Holy Church invites us to cast off any works of darkness, and to put on the armor of Christian virtues. We spoke about humility, but what greater example can there be, than the Lord washing the feet of His Disciples, to emphasize the limitless measure of humility.

How happier people would be, if instead of seeking to be first, to make Christ first in our life. If we would permit Christ to reign in our hearts, we would have no real problems, because we would be filled with love, peace, and hope, for all that is noble and lofty in life. That should be our endeavor, if we choose to honor the supreme title we have, which is Christian. Amen.
+ Fr. George Papadeas

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

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