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  • Sunday ,23 May 2010

The Ministry (20)

Pope Shenouda III

Pope Shenouda Article


Sunday ,23 May 2010

The Ministry (20)

 The Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor (Isa 61: 1)

   The prophecy says regarding the Lord Christ, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." (Isa 61: 1) Who then are those poor for whom the Lord came to preach good tidings?
   The whole Mankind is meant in the first place, for they were sentenced to death because of sin and needed redemption. Therefore the Lord came to seek and to save that which was lost (Lk 19: 10). He came to proclaim to them the redemption, which He was going to give them, so that "whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (Jn 3: 16) Therefore, the angel announced to the shepherds the Lord's birth, saying, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Lk 2: 10, 11)
   The Lord Christ came with good tidings of salvation to the righteous of the Old Testament who died in hope, for, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." (Heb 11: 13)
   He came to announce to them that the gate of Paradise which had been shut since the sin of Adam would be opened after the crucifixion, and that all those righteous people would enter Paradise, and with them the thief on the right hand of the Lord (Lk 23: 43). 
   He came to the humanity misled by the scribes and Pharisees who were blind guides (Mt 23), to introduce to them the sound teaching, which would deliver them from the literality proclaimed by those who sat in Moses' seat and shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. They neither went in themselves, nor did they allow those who were entering to go in (Mt 23: 13). That is why the Good Master sat on the mountain and said to the multitude His wonderful Sermon in which He repeated the words: "You have heard that it was said to those of old …, but I say to you …" (Mt. 5)
   He came for the humanity which lost the divine image in which they were created (Gen 1: 27) to restore that image to them.
   He left them an example of virtue and righteousness, so that they might do as he had done to them (Jn 13: 15), as St. John teaches us saying, "He who says He abides in Him, ought himself also to walk just as He walked." (1 Jn 2: 6)
   The Lord came bringing good tidings to the poor, who had been the object of His care since the olden times. He said to Moses on calling him to the ministry, "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them." (Ex 3: 7, 8) Again He raised up judges for them … and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies … for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them (Judges 2: 18).
   He supported Jacob in his humility against the violence of his brother Esau who said, "I will kill my brother Jacob." (Gen 27: 41) The Lord appeared to him in his flight and comforted him with the vision of the ladder reaching between heaven and earth, and said to him, "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land." (Gen 28: 15)
   On the other hand, God resisted the cruel hearted and the tyrants; He said to Cain the first murderer of Mankind, "The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground." (Gen 4: 10) Indeed, for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (Jas 4: 6)
   He supported Elijah the Prophet when he was fleeing from the tyranny of Queen Jezebel and saying, "The children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life." (1 Kgs 19: 14) The Lord also supported young David when he was fleeing from King Saul who pursued him from one place to another. However He punished King David when he used his power and cruelty against Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam 12: 9- 12). He also supported Leah whose eyes were delicate and who missed her husband's love, so He gave her offspring more than the loved and pampered Rachel (Gen 29).
   The Lord came for the Gentiles who were scorned by Israel and were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise (Eph 2:12). He drew them to Him and grafted them into the good olive tree (Rom 11). He said, "Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness." (Mt 8: 11) He praised the Gentile Centurion, saying, "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" (Mt 8: 10) He likewise praised the Canaanite woman.
   He brought good tidings to the poor humiliated sinners who repented, and condemned the arrogant righteous people who were righteous in their own eyes, as He revealed in the Parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. He did not accept the prayer of the proud Pharisee who said, "God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess." He rather accepted the tax collector who was standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" This man went down to his house justified rather than the other (Lk 18: 9- 14).
   He did the same for the sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears (Lk 7), announcing His forgiveness for her, saying, "Your sins are forgiven ... Go in peace." The same happened to another sinful woman who was caught in the very act and was brought to Him in humiliation by cruel people to be stoned according to the Law. He delivered her from their hands and drew their attention to their own sins, saying, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." To the poor woman He said, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." (Jn 8: 7)
   He said expressly, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Mt 9: 13)
   He brought the good tidings of salvation to all of them who repent, saying, "There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Lk 15: 7) In the same Chapter, the Lord gave three Parables on the Lost Son, the Lost Sheep, and the Lost Coin. In His compassion on the restored lost sheep He said, "When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders rejoicing." (Lk 15: 5)
   Among the poor to whom He brought the good tidings were the sick and the epileptic. He went about, "healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people, and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them." (Mt 4: 23- 24) He had compassion especially on the incurable diseases which physicians were unable to remedy or which lasted long, like that of the man at the pool of Bethesda who had infirmity thirty-eight years and had no man to put him into the pool, and He healed him (Jn 5: 2- 9).
   It is a lesson in compassion on the sick. If we are unable to cure them or contribute to their medication, we have at least to visit them according to the command of the Lord in (Mt 25: 36), to comfort them, to cheer them up, and not forget them in their sufferings.
   This also applies to the depressed who lost hope of salvation. Those need good tidings of salvation, as the Lord said to Zacchaeus the tax collector, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham." (Lk 19: 9) See also the work of the Lord after His resurrection: He comforted Peter who wept bitterly because of his denial of the Lord at the time of crucifixion (Mt 26: 75), saying to him, "Feed My lambs … Tend My sheep." (Jn 21: 15, 16) The Lord likewise came for Thomas in his doubts to restore to him his faith (Jn 20: 27).
   How beautiful are the Lord's words to the poor, "The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out"! (Jn 6: 37)
  He comforted the needy, saying to them, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." (Mt 7: 7) By this He gave us an example in giving the needy, assuring us that by this we give the Lord Himself: "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." (Mt 25: 40)
   It is good to remember this on feasts, and remember the words of the Lord, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Mt 11: 28)
   Let us do like Him and try with all our power to comfort such people, and at the same time not to be a burden on anyone or condemn anyone. Let us have compassion upon the desperate, who lost hope because people say to them, "There is no help for him in God." (Ps 3)
   To those the Lord says, 'Do not be afraid'. He supports them and says to each one of them, "I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you." (Acts 18: 10) The apostle also advises us, saying, "Comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all." (1 Thess 5: 14)
May the Lord be with all of them, strengthen them, and lead them in triumph proclaiming salvation to them! Glory to Him for ever and ever; Amen!