Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Sunday After Christmas - Jesus Christ: The Eternal Victor


The Gospel Reading is from Matthew 2:13-23

When the wise men departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt have I called my son."

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more." But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead." And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaos reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, "He shall be called a Nazarene."


JESUS CHRIST: THE ETERNAL VICTOR

The Gospel reading of this Sunday describes the flight of the infant Jesus to Egypt, the slaughtering of the infants by Herod and the return of Jesus to the city of Nazareth. This briefly says that the story of the God-man is tragic from His first days. What is more tragic, however, is the condition of the chosen people who give chase to their Savior. Nevertheless, God interferes and directs the steps of Joseph. Does this alleviate human responsibility? Of course it doesn’t.

The position of Joseph is that of every spiritual person

The beginning of the life of the Lord on the earth teaches us many things. It teaches us that we must expect temptations and plotting from the beginning. What does this mean? It simply means that when someone is deemed worthy of undertaking a spiritual ministry, he should expect tragedies and perils. He should not, however, be upset. He must accept everything courageously, knowing that this is exactly the course of the spiritual life. It has temptations conjoined to it, because these “good” temptations weave the life of the righteous.

St. John Chrysostom says that the temptations are not met with the strength of the body, but with the disposition of the soul. This is why the sky is not as bright with its captivating reflections and colors, as the souls of those persons who endure their temptations by the grace of their Lord and transform them into joy and spiritual life experiences. The road towards sanctity is not inhibited by any temptation or human obstacle. This is because we are not alone, but have God inside us and around us, who opens the way of Divine knowledge. This is the road that leads to the beautiful Gate of Paradise.

The position of Herod is that of every unjust person

St. John Chrysostom, interpreting the rage of Herod on account of the mockery of the Magi, says that when a soul is ungrateful and incurable, she does not retreat before anything and especially does not accept that she seeks after unfeasible things. Human beings, when they reject the faith and remove from their souls the fear of God, not only dare, but put to practice everything. An ungodly human being becomes a wild beast, and for this reason, woe to them who may fall into the hands of ungodly persons.

Since Herod acted unjustly, why did God allow this? In the Old Testament, Israel is the son of God, whose position has now been taken by Jesus Christ. In the last analysis the chosen people of God is now restricted to the one and unique Person, Jesus Christ. It is from Jesus Christ that a new people will be born, whom God will lead out of Egypt, according to the prophesy of Hosea, which now finds its full meaning. God, then, allowed this because the plan of the Divine Economy is never aborted.

When the righteous is treated unjustly, then, we ask, why does God allow this? The answer is given by St. John Chrysostom: “Whatever we may suffer unjustly in the hands of another, God will count this injustice either to cover some of our sins or to give us a reward.” In other words for all the injustices which we endure, we either wipe out sins, or earn brighter rewards if we have no sins. This is why we never put such questions to God, especially if we want our faith to be like that of Abraham, and to have the privilege to serve actively the will of God.

In the Person of Christ there is everyone who is treated unjustly

Jesus Christ was pursued from the very beginning and he had to flee from his place because of the murderous fury of Herod. The one who left was He who would save His people according to the order that Joseph received from the Angel. What does this mean for us? It means that we must never be anxious, when what is done to us is contrary to what we expect. God often fulfils His plans by contradictory events, giving us in this way the greatest proof of His power. Let us never forget the saying, “Mine is the retribution. I will recompense, says the Lord.” In other words, to God belongs both the retribution and the recompense (Heb. 10:30).

Our Lord Jesus Christ, by becoming man and going through all the events of the Divine Economy “came out as a victor to accomplish victory.” In other words, He was given the crown of victory, and departed as a victor in order to accomplish new victories. One of these, which is the most substantial, will be the one in which God will come to dwell among the people for ever, and will wipe out every tear from their eyes (Rev. 21:3-4). “O Lord may Your kingdom come.” AMEN!

Translated from the “Voice of the Lord” of the Apostolic Ministry of the Church of Greece, by Fr. George Dion. Dragas
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