"Being Transfigured, Enlightened and Empowered to Go Forth"
"BEING TRANSFIGURED, ENLIGHTENED AND EMPOWERED TO GO FORTH"
Fr. Luke A. Veronis
June, 8, 2008
In the past year, three beautiful new icons have been donated and placed on the back wall of our Church Sanctuary. The purpose of these icons is not only to beautify our Church, but more importantly to remind us of important lessons of the faith. In fact, today on Missions Sunday, I want to draw attention to the relation that each of these icons have to our own call of missions! From now on, every time any of us walk out of the Church, I hope that we will look up at these three icons - of our Lord’s Transfiguration, of our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven and His giving of “The Great Commission”, and of the Feast of Pentecost - and think about what they teach us and how they challenge us to live out our Christian mission and faith in the world!
OUR LORD’S TRANSFIGURATION
The feast of our Lord’s Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9) reveals to His disciples Christ’s true nature. Jesus was a great teacher, prophet and miracle worker, but the Transfiguration showed that our Lord is much more than a great man. He is God Himself! When Jesus is transfigured, He shines like the sun and radiates divine light. In fact, He reveals to His three chosen disciples the uncreated light of God’s divinity. This icon should remind us that we follow and worship Jesus Christ, the Word of God become flesh. No matter how our modern society tries to trivialize Jesus as just one of history’s many great figures, we know better. No one else in history can compare to Him. He is divine love incarnate. He is the resurrection and the life. He is the bread of life. He is the way, the truth and the life. He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. He is the One who is, and was, and is to come, the Lord Almighty. Jesus is God Himself! The Transfiguration also teaches us another significant point. When we reflect upon Jesus’ transfiguration, we realize how He calls each one of us to open our hearts and lives to His Spirit, so that He can “transfigure” each one of us, and in fact all humanity, into “a new creation.” No matter who we are, or what we’ve done in life, He is ready to transfigure us. He longs to dwell in us and lead us on an eternal journey of deification. Here is our first step in Missions, and it begins with us. We must be touched and transformed by Christ, so that we can then go out and share Him with others! Every Sunday we come to Church to receive Christ, to unite with Him through the receiving of His Body and Blood. After we receive Holy Communion, we sing, “We have seen the true light. We have received the heavenly Spirit. We have found the true faith…” Now as we walk out of the Church, we offer to the world a witness of our lives transfigured. As we walk out of the Church, Jesus calls us to go out into the world during the upcoming week, and to shine forth His love, His light, His mercy, His grace and His truth onto all those with whom we have contact.
OUR LORD’S ASCENSION
Following Christ’s Resurrection, and right before His Ascension into heaven, Jesus said to His followers, “All authority in heaven and on earth have been given to me. Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have taught you. And remember, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:18-20) This final command of our Lord is often called The Great Commission. It wasn't simply a suggestion or a proposal, but a command. And if we want to be faithful disciples, we must strive to fulfill this command! As followers of Jesus Christ, we have the great privilege and responsibility to reach out to the world around us and share the treasure of our faith. We must be witnesses here in Massachusetts, throughout America, and even throughout the world. Whenever we walk out of the Church and see this icon, let us never allow any parochial spirit to limit our vision of faith. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is for all people everywhere, and each of us are called to become instruments in sharing His love to the world around us. How are we being such a witness of God’s love here in Webster? Are we getting involved in the Webster Food Share? In the meals on wheels? In visiting those lonely in the nursing homes? What are we doing locally to share our Orthodox faith in concrete forms? And what about nationally or globally? I hope we all realize that by sending some of our parishioners to PROJECT MEXICO this summer, this is one way in which we are participating in our Lord’s global mission. I still hear some people questioning why we’re sending a group to Mexico, and I try to help these people realize this is what it means to be the Church! A healthy Church MUST be involved globally in a variety of ways. Project Mexico is one way. Getting involved and supporting the OCMC and its missionaries is another important way! Even though we are a small church with a small budget, we still have a global responsibility, because we are the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ!
THE FEAST OF PENTECOST
Following His Ascension into heaven, which we just celebrated last Thursday, Jesus promised His disciples that He would not leave them as orphans, alone in the world. Sure, He gave them an unbelievable commandment “to go and make disciples of all nations,” but He also assured them that coming the Holy Spirit would comfort, guide, and empower them in this mission. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Next Sunday we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples 50 days after His Resurrection, and transformed these cowardly, illiterate fishermen into fearless and wise preachers. It was Pentecost that started a revolution - a revolution of divine love that changed the world. The early Christians boldly faced every type of persecution and threat, and responded with love and forgiveness. They endured ridicule and hatred, and offered back blessings and mercy. Their witness of faith and courage often transformed their enemies into fellow followers of Christ. Look at the example of the Apostle Paul, pictured in the center of the Pentecost icon. He fiercely persecuted and hated Christians, only to become the greatest proponent and apostle of the early Church. When we look up and see this icon of Pentecost, let us remember how God has filled us with His Holy Spirit, and now empowers us to go out to all nations, speaking in their languages, and sharing the Good News of salvation with everyone! As we look at this icon over the doorway, let us offer a prayer to our Lord Jesus, asking for Him to fill us anew with His Holy Spirit, and thus, transform us into bold disciples and fearless witnesses of God’s love to the world all around us! The Transfiguration, the Ascension and Pentecost all have a clear message for us in relation to our call in missions!!!