Gospel Message & Recording
IIn the Gospel Reading today, taken from St. Matthew 1:18-25, we hear about the Angel Gabriel visiting St. Joseph, and announcing to him that St. Mary, his betrothed wife, is pregnant with child and will give birth to the Son of God, who will bring salvation to all mankind. This news was not easy to “stomach” for St. Joseph. In all honesty, he had to make tough decisions that went against the conventional wisdom and tradition of his time. He should have, and could have, according to the Jewish Law, had St. Mary stoned for having a child without him. But rather than doing that, he kept everything secretly in his heart, knowing that there is a greater purpose for what is happening.
This portion of the Gospel greatly involves St. Joseph, and for the most part St. Joseph’s involvement in the Gospels ends here, with the exception of a few other honorable mentions. He basically appears and disappears. We don’t hear much of him in the Orthodox Church, unless during the Nativity Season. Even when we look at the Christmas nativity scene, which is so popular in the American Christmas story, St. Joseph is always in the backdrop. It seems that the other figures such as the three kings, wise men, and even the animals take a more prominent role in the Christmas story that St. Joseph. Rather than seeing this as an injustice to St. Joseph, we should see this as a representation of St. Joseph genuine character. That is, St. Joseph was a person, who worked in the background in humility and faithfulness, knowing that, even though he is not in the limelight with all the attention, has a meaningful contribution to the great work of God through Jesus Christ who was to be born into this world.
In many ways, many of us are like St. Joseph. Meaning, we are not in the limelight or getting all the attention in terms of our contribution to the parish, but our work is just as important as the Achen’s. For example, the body needs every part to work; of course, the heart and brain get most of the attention but the liver and kidneys are just as important and vital for body. Similarly, in the parish, the person working in the “background,” not getting all the attention, is just as important as the Achen. Everyone works together for the glory of God. But just imagine if St. Joseph became prideful and thought to himself, “why don’t I get any attention or recognition.” He could have, in some ways, ruined his contribution in the work that God wanted to do.
In order for us to be like St. Joseph here in this parish (I speak in general terms now), working in the background, that is, behind the scenes, we need to imbibe two Christian concepts into our lives:
1. Channel of Peace:
There is a famous prayer written by St. Francis of Assisi (Saint of the Catholic Church) titled, “Make me a channel of your peace.” (Due to the lack of space here in this paper, I will direct you to find the prayer on the Internet.) In addition, the prayer has been versified into song. The main idea of the prayer is to bring a strong awareness to someone about his or her potential to bring peace, love, and grace in the midst of life’s sorrows, struggles and pain.
St. Joseph was a channel of peace. He was person, despite immense struggles, stayed calm and made sure the peace of God was present in all situations and circumstances.
In the Orthodox Church the Priest on numerous occasions says, “Peace be unto you all.” The Priest, being the Icon of Christ, is the one who brings peace to the people. This peace is given and accepted by the people to share with each other when the deacon comes out to the people and shares the “peace” that he received from the priest.
As leaders, and helpers, who participate in the parish in various capacities, we are called to be “channels of peace. “ In other words, we are called to bring peace to each other. Do you bring peace to others? Are you a channel of peace here in this parish?
As a parish, let us all strive to become “channels of peace.”
2. Servants of Christ:
The word “servant” has a negative connotation, because in our society a servant is a person who has no value or “full” rights. A servant is almost seen in the same light as a “slave.” But in the light of Christ, when we Orthodox Christians speak of being a servant, it is in regard to loving and caring for others. In others words, putting others needs before ours.
As people who work in the church, which includes the Achen, we have to see ourselves as servants who are in the work of bringing love and care to others. Remember our primary goal as parishioners here at St. Luke is to lead others to Christ, and or help others to see Christ in their struggles and trials. Also, we have to remember in Orthodoxy Church is analogues to a “hospital;” that is, we are all sinners, working together to become more Christ like. Christ can only accomplish this in and through us if we submit to becoming a “servants.”