mandag 10. januar 2011

Koptisk julepreik av Biskop Thomas

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…one God, Amen.

The New Year comes to us with a shocking human crisis that has shaken our hearts and emotions. Our inner thoughts, ideas, and feelings are in turmoil. We are feeling sadness, pain, and anger. This year comes to us in great pain and crying; like the mother delivering her baby with crying and love. The Christmas comes to us this year insisting that we go to the depth of the divine picture that God has created for us in order to become what God desires for us. Indeed, Christ was born to give us this divine model of humanity.
As you draw closer to the image of Christ that is in each one of you, you reach the completion of humanity that Christ was born for. God created man in His image and God desired him to be the likeness of God on earth. Jesus came to fully show us that likeness in order to recognize Him through our humanity. In order that we could understand what is beyond our human awareness to grow into eternity, He was born for us, in us, to carry us to the heavens. While we are in Him, and He in us, we carry the likeness of Jesus every day. We have this likeness and we must recognize it in ourselves.

1. The image of God's intention for us

Romans 8:28, 29- And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

God's intent in our lives is that we become the likeness of Christ. Therefore, when events occur in our lives, whether close to or far from us, each event follows the concrete and orderly path set by God so that we may reach our divine fulfillment. When we are able to understand this, our will can then conform to this vision in order to achieve God's intention in us. This vision is the salvation of all humanity.

2. The image of present pain

Romans 8:18-24- For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?

The divine intention of pain is to change people. Perhaps change will not happen to us in according to our sense of time. Instead, shocks/trauma that we are exposed to will leave an impression on us. Sometimes the response to shock is negative and people respond with evil. Sometimes the response to the shock is positive and people choose to respond with good. The rational/wise person will always choose to respond with good.
Christ carried the cross and shed His blood in order to give life to the world. Moreover, we carry the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, shock/trauma forces us to deepen our relationship with God to make an inner change. In addition, it forces us to go deep into our relationship with the other in order to make a human change. Shock/Trauma makes people more accepting and compassionate to each other. So, in the midst of shock/trauma, people can become closer. A strong situation of shock/trauma, like the shedding of blood, causes broad changes. The shedding of Christ's blood has been the greatest impact on people's lives throughout the ages and the shedding of blood continues to produce large changes in people. People become more open to repentance, open to returning to God, more accepting to the Word of God, and the divine intention of God. This divine intention that works within us sometimes causes us to go through pain. Nevertheless, we must trust that God is carrying us so that He is glorified in us. Pain is like the new birth that frees us to grow deeper in our relationship with God.

3. The image of Christ's life in us
The teachings of Jesus Christ were not only words, but by deeds, spirit, and truth. Christ taught wonderful principles that we all must keep within ourselves in order to grow. Christ changed the understanding of the world in regards to human relationships. For example,
• The image of loving your enemy
Matthew 5:44, 45- But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Loving your enemy might appear difficult or impossible. However, if you go to the depth of this command you will find life. Because, revealing forgiveness is the first step of healing. Revealing forgiveness to those who trespassed upon you does not remove the demand for justice. Instead, it is healing for the soul. Forgiveness is not a relationship between you and the other. It is a relationship between you and God. God, who has forgiven the whole world since He forgave you yourself, He also forgives them (the other).

Romans 12:17-21- Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20 Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Sticking to the love of the enemy, and forgiving those who trespass against you, is the strong foundation of the Christian life. Leave space for the divine justice and He will reward everyone according to his/her deeds. But remember, we must…

• Identify the type of the tension
When in crisis, people err when they blame one another. Listen to what Paul says.
Ephesians 6:12- For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

These forces that the apostle Paul writes about, they are the Devil and his soldiers who deceive people. Beloved, all humans, every single person who has blood and flesh, are exactly like us. We are in the circle of love, not in the circle of tension. We are not fighting people; we must love people. We care for their well-being, their salvation, and their good. That is why the command to love your enemies was delivered. Love all people in the spirit of the Christian commands. Forgiveness is the first step for inner peace and healing. Still, there must be justice and rights, but in love.
• The image of peace
John 14:27- Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

The image of peace that Christ gives is not like the world's understanding of peace. The world understands peace as being without problems or as a time of quietness. But, the peace that Christ gives, which is above all understanding, fills everyone with peace in the midst of the crises and most difficult problems. Today, let us carry the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ to the world.

The message of love…the message of forgiveness…the message of peace…the message of acting rightly towards all people, to everyone, without discrimination. We offer an open heart to society.

We pray for the souls of the martyrs who have arisen to heaven. We pray for the wound. We pray for those who are suffering in Alexandria and everywhere in the world. We pray for the protection of our country, Egypt, and of our society from every evil. We pray for peace, for good, and for the reformation of everyone. May the Lord be with you.

H.G. Bishop Thomas, Bishop of Il-Qosseya and Mer
January 6, 2011

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