From Fr. Nick Kotsis - May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ guide us, protect us, and heal us. May He drive away all fear from our hearts and strengthen us with confidence in our faith in Him.
Part of today’s Old Testament reading comes from the Prophecy of Isaiah (9b-11):
If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
The wisdom of the Church never ceases to amaze me. The way our services are constructed, how they flow, the richness of the hymns that are written to describe the events or people, the beauty of the prayers that are offered, the depth of meaning of the liturgical movements; only through the gifts and activity of the Holy Spirit could people develop such splendor.
Even the way in which the daily readings are selected show the power of the Spirit at work. Take for example, the portion of today’s reading cited above. We are now at the end of the Great Fast and are about to enter Holy Week, the most important week of the year. This particular section, on one level, tells us exactly the work that Christ is going to do. Jesus is about to remove the yoke of sin, the yoke of the law, the yoke of the false teachings of the Scribes and Pharisees. Those same Scribes and Pharisees pointed their fingers in various accusations against Jesus. In return, Jesus confounded them (and on a few occasions, harshly rebuked them for their insolence towards God and the spiritual cruelty towards the faithful) No wickedness ever poured from His mouth; only healing, comfort, teaching, and exhortation. Christ gave His whole being so that those who were spiritually hungry and thirsty would never need to be satisfied again. And after He was betrayed, mocked, tortured, and crucified, the light of His resurrection illumined the world with His Grace, Love and Life.
At another level, we have a meaning that we must take to heart ourselves. We must remove the yokes, the oppression, the repression, and the enmity we have against our brothers and sisters in the world. Our fingers should not be pointed towards others, pointing out their flaws, their imperfections, their blemishes. Instead, we must focus on our own faults and failures, beating our breasts as the publican while saying to ourselves, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” As well, our fingers should be used to help up the one who has stumbled instead of wagging it in shame. Instead of gossiping, speaking ill of others, or outright seeking one’s demise, our mouths should be used to praise God and help strengthen the brother who needs encouragement. Our love for Christ needs to pour out of us in the form of good works to those in need. Then, the light of our faith will shine, even in the darkest and most difficult of times, as testimony of the power of Christ.
My friends, of course we all know the way in which we participate in the services this year will be different. Watching the services online is different than being together as a family, side by side and face to face. Thank God that we have the ability to have the services anyway, offer them to our homes, and still participate in the richness, beauty and glory that comprise our holy and sacred observances. The Light of the Resurrection will come! Amen.