“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)
Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate – The Church of Alexandria

St. Mary & St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church
Reaching out to Somerset and Hunterdon Counties in NJ

Weekly Gospel Contemplations

2nd Sunday of Tobe

Weekly Gospel Readings
2nd Sunday of Tobe

Today (1/22/2023) is the 14th of this blessed month of Tobe and today’s gospel reading is from Luke 11:27-36. In this passage, the Church reads of the blessings that Mary received not only for conceiving and giving birth to Christ but also for hearing the word of God and keeping it. Also in this passage, Jesus preaches about how that generation seeks a sign that they will not receive. It also teaches about what the lamp of the body is.

Mary giving birth to Jesus was not the only reason why she received blessings. She received blessings because she heard the word of God and kept it. According to St. John Chrysostom, he states, “His birth would have profited her nothing, had she not been really fruitful in works and faith. This shows that without your own faith, no blessings would be received, thus explaining how blessings and faith go hand in hand.

The lamp of the body is the eye as the Lord said, “When your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34). What this means is that we need to have our eyes set on a goal and that goal being to obtain eternal life with our Savior in paradise. According to St. Cyril of Alexandria, we have to seek Christ first and not the world which has been filled with darkness.

Let us strive to have the faith of St. Mary with our eyes focused on all that is good with the ultimate goal of eternal life in Heaven.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+11%3A27-36&version=ESV
https://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf114.iv.xxiii.html?scrBook=Luke&scrCh=11&scrV=27#iv.xxiii-p31.2
https://www.tertullian.org/fathers/cyril_on_luke_08_sermons_81_88.htm

1st Sunday of Tobe

Weekly Gospel Readings
1st Sunday of Tobe

On this Sunday (1/15/23), the first Sunday of the blessed month of Tobe, the Church reads the story of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fleeing to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-23).

King Herod was intimidated by the presence of a so-called King in his territory, so he threatened to kill Jesus. Joseph was warned in a dream of this and was told by an angel of the Lord to take his family and flee to Egypt. While there are many aspects of this short Gospel we can focus on, we will focus on the obedience of Joseph as a servant of the Lord.

Joseph was a man of faith and he displays this faith through his obedience to the Lord. Although the trip to Egypt was not an easy journey, especially for a newborn, Joseph did not question the angel of the Lord. Even if all logic would tell Joseph to stay near home to take care of the infant, he reasoned using faith instead of logic. As St. John Chrysostom explains, “Joseph did not stumble on hearing this, and did not say that it was too difficult…Joseph said nothing of all this because he was a man of faith.” In a similar manner, St. Mary did not question the angel of the Lord when he told her that she would be the Theotokos (Mother of God). In both these scenarios, Joseph and Mary displayed the strength of their faith through their unceasing obedience.

Meanwhile, Joseph’s actions display the essence of a truly pious life: a blend of hardships with joy. Joy came to Joseph through the birth of Jesus yet many hardships followed this moment of joy. As Father Tadros Malaty explains, “With hardships, we are perfected before God, and with joy, we are filled with hope in God’s protection and constant care.”

Let us strive to be like Joseph, a true servant of the Lord who let his faith guide all his decisions in both moments of hardship and joy.

Sources:

  • Bible, English Standard Version
  • Commentaries on The Gospel According to St. Matthew by FR. Tadros Yacoub Malaty

5th Sunday of Koiahk

Weekly Gospel Readings
5th Sunday of Koiahk

On this Sunday (1/8/23), the fifth Sunday of the blessed month of Koiahk, the Church reads the introduction to the Gospel of St. John (John 1:1-13). In very poetic writing, St. John reveals Jesus Christ as the eternal Logos of God and describes God’s plan concerning our salvation. As Father Tadros Malaty explains in his commentaries on the Gospel of St. John, this short introduction reveals eight essential truths about our Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. He was and continues to have an Eternal Nature [v. 1].
  2. He was and continues to be distinguished from the Father [v. 2].
  3. He was and is the Word of God, the Logos [v. 2].
  4. He was and is the Partner of God for Eternity [v. 2].
  5. He created the world [v. 3].
  6. He is the one and only source of all life and light [v. 4, 5, 9],
  7. He is the true God and reveals himself to the fallen world [v. 10].
  8. He came into the world and was rejected by many [v. 11]; however, those that accepted him had a new birth [v.12, 13]

Rather than jumping right into the story of our Lord’s life, St. John intends to give an overview that allows us to understand the nature of Christ truly. Without adequately understanding that Christ is the eternal Word of God, we cannot understand how Christ grants us salvation. St. Gregory the Theologian beautifully describes our salvation, writing, “Light shines in the darkness, and in this life, and in the body. At the same time, darkness pursues it, yet it will not defeat it. I mean that the opposing power continues its shameful attack against the actual Adam but it collides with God and gets defeated. Hence by tearing darkness away, we get close to the light and consequently become fully light and the children of the perfect Light.” As we conclude the celebration of our Lord’s Nativity, let us remember the nature of Christ as the eternal Word of God. The Logos has existed for eternity but became incarnate to grant us salvation. With this knowledge, we can strive to become “children of the perfect Light” and eventually experience eternal salvation with Christ.

Sources:

  • Bible, English Standard Version
  • Commentaries on The Gospel According to St. John by FR. Tadros Yacoub Malaty

29th of Koiahk

Weekly Gospel Readings
29th of Koiahk
The Visit of the Wise Men

Today (1/7/2023) is the 29th of this blessed month of Koiahk and today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew 2:1-12. In this passage, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, the wise men travel to Jerusalem seeking the King of the Jews, and Herod sends the wise men to follow the star in order to find Jesus. When the wise men found Jesus, they fell down and worshipped Him and presented their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. After this, they were divinely warned in a dream to not return to Herod (Matthew 2:1-12).

In the birth of Jesus Christ, we observe the faith that the wise men had in the Lord and the fulfillment of this prophecy compared to the rest of the people of Judea. St. John Chrysostom takes note of this and says, “One may ask, why did He not reveal this to all the wise men of the East? Because all would not have believed, but these were better prepared than the rest.” Here, St. John Chrysostom is giving a reason as to why all the Jews did not believe even though God showed them all His signs: they were not prepared to receive Him. St. John Chrysostom gives another example of the crucifixion of Christ when there were two thieves next to Jesus on the cross and only one was saved. Both thieves knew of the prophecy that Christ had fulfilled and saw the signs proclaiming the Divinity of Jesus, but only one was prepared to accept Him and receive Him in his heart.

Let us learn to be prepared for the coming of our Lord with open minds just as the wise men and the thief on the cross so that we can accept God in our hearts and welcome Him into our lives.

Sources:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+2%3A+1-12&version=ESV
https://earlychurchtexts.com/public/john_chrysostom_homily_vi_on_matthew_2.htm

4th Sunday of Koiahk

Weekly Gospel Readings
The 4th Sunday of Koiahk

Today (01/01/2023) is the Fourth Sunday of the Blessed month of Koiahk, and today’s Gospel reading is from Luke 1:57-80. In this passage, St. John the Baptist is born, Zechariah is able to speak, and we read the prophecy of Zechariah. In this prophecy, Zechariah talks about what St. John the Baptist will do in the future. 

In the contemplation from the first week of Koiahk, we noted that Zechariah was made unable to speak because of his lack of faith (Luke 1:20). Zechariah was only unmuted after St. John the Baptist was born and Zechariah declared that his name shall be John–as the archangel had said. With that in mind, it is important to remember that God’s word will be fulfilled in its own time.

Additionally, after Zechariah was unmuted, he started to prophesy (v. 67). St. Ambrose of Milan comments on this. He says, “See how good God is, quick to forgive sins: not only does He return what He has withdrawn, but He still bestows what we did not expect. This man, who has been silent for a long time, prophesies: for it is the height of God’s grace that those who had denied him pay homage to him.”  Zechariah was punished for his lack of faith, but when he realized God’s glory, He surprisingly gave him the gift of speech so Zechariah can tell others about what God has done. Likewise, as Christians, it is important to tell others about God’s glory and His grace and what God has done for us. 

May we always come closer to Him so we can see His glory and tell others about it. 

Sources: 
Ambrose on Luke 1 – Patristic Bible Commentary (google.com)

3rd Sunday of Koiahk

Weekly Gospel Readings
The 3rd Sunday of Koiahk

On this Sunday (12/25/22), the third Sunday of the blessed month of Koiahk, the Church reads about St. Mary’s encounter with St. Elizabeth (Luke 1: 39-56).

After hearing of St. Elizabeth’s pregnancy, St. Mary went “with haste” to minister to her. As soon as St. Mary greeted St. Elizabeth, the baby in St. Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy and St. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately feeling the Holy Spirit dwelling in her, St. Elizabeth praised St. Mary saying, “and why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:43-44 ESV). St. Mary responds to this praise by magnifying the Lord, thanking God for granting her the gift of bearing Christ.

There are many lessons we can take away from this passage. First is the importance of being a humble servant of the Lord— even during difficult times. As a woman who was pregnant without man, all human logic would indicate that she should remain at home in hiding until giving birth to Christ. However, St. Mary did not concern herself with protecting her image; rather, because of her humility, she went out and ministered to Elizabeth. As the scholar Origen explains, “The privileged go forth to the less privileged.” Instead of basking in the glory of being the Mother of Christ, St. Mary put her ego aside and remained true to her foundation of ministering to those who need help. Even during difficult times in our lives, let us always remember that our duty as Christians is to minister to others, just as St. Mary ministered to St. Elizabeth.

Another lesson we can learn from this passage is the importance of spiritually edifying one another during interactions. By coming to St. Elizabeth, St. Mary brought Christ to her, allowing both the baby John and St. Elizabeth to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As St. Ambrose explains, “The blessings of St. Mary’s visit, with the presence of the Lord, was instantly apparent…The woman felt the presence of the woman, but the fetus felt the presence of the fetus. And while the two women spoke of the grace, the two fetuses were fulfilling inside, the work of the divine mercies…” When we interact with those around us, let us strive to edify one another and let the Holy Spirit guide the conversations we have.

Sources:

  • Bible, English Standard Version
  • Commentaries on The Gospel According to St. Luke by FR. Tadros Yacoub Malaty

2nd Sunday of Koiahk

Weekly Gospel Readings
The 2nd Sunday of Koiahk
Annunciation to Mary

This Sunday (12/18/2022), the 2nd Sunday of the blessed month of Koiahk, the Church Gospel reading is from Luke 1: 26-38. In this passage, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to Nazareth of Galilee, to go to a virgin named Mary. When the angel came in, the angel said to her “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you1 (v. 28)!”.The angel continued and told Mary how she would conceive a Son and she will call Him, Jesus, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.” (v. 30). Mary became troubled and wondered how this can be since she is a virgin. But when the angel gave words of comfort and promise, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (v. 35), Mary replied to the angel and said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word(Luke 1:38).”

In the Annunciation to Mary, we can see Mary being troubled at first when she had seen the angel and heard of this news not knowing what is being said to her, but then also faithful and obedient when she understood the facts. In Luke Luke 1:31 the angel says to Mary that “You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus”. St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “While the expectation of child-birth strikes a woman with terror, the sweet mention of her offspring calms her, as it is added, and you shall call his name Jesus. The coming of the Savior is the banishing of all fear.” Along with this St. John Chrysostom also explains how the angel did not appear to her in a dream but actually in person. This is because Mary needed an extraordinary visible manifestation in order to believe that she will give birth to Christ.

St. Mary’s comfort and trust of her own purity fortified her answer to the Angel: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34)As St. Gregory of Nyssa said, “Hear the chaste words of the Virgin. The Angel tells her she shall bear a Son, but she rests upon her virginity, deeming her inviolability a more precious thing than the Angel’s declaration. Hence, she says, seeing that I know not a man.” Mary has also shown great faithfulness and obedience in (v. 38) when Mary says “Behold, I am the servant2 of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Not once did Mary deny this blessing. Not only did she accept it, but she also offered herself to the Lord and put all her faith in him. As St. Irenaeus of Lyons said, “So Mary, by the word of an angel received the glad tidings that she would bear God by obeying His Word.” (Against Heresies 5.19–20)

In telling the story of the Annunciation, we are exposed to many of St. Mary’s virtues: faithfulness, obedience, and purity. We ask the Lord to put it in our hearts to learn from St. Mary, to try to adopt her virtues, and to follow her example by putting Him in the center of our relationships and navigating our lives to always be with Him.

References:
1Some Bible translations add “Blessed are you among women”
2 “handmaid” in some bible translations” 
Patristic Bible Commentary
Bible, English Standard Version

1st Sunday of Koiahk

Weekly Gospel Readings
The 1st Sunday of Koiahk
Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

On this first Sunday of the blessed month of Koiahk (12/11/2022), the church’s Gospel reading is from Luke 1:1-25. While we read about the purpose of writing the Gospel of St. Luke in (vv.4) we also notice the primary focus of the Gospel passage is the annunciation of the birth of St. John the Baptist to his barren mother Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah* the priest, whom both were elderly.

In verse 6, we read “And they [Elizabeth and Zechariah] were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). Further on, we read that Elizabeth was barren and elderly (v. 7), which implies that she could not have a child. Yet God uses Elizabeth‘s barrenness to bring forth the miraculous birth of a holy person, just as he did for Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Hanna. But the Archangel Gabriel says, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (v. 13). And she eventually successfully bore St. John the Baptist. This is a powerful example of how God hears and answers the prayers of those who are faithful to him. Zechariah and Elizabeth were devout, and their prayers were heard. 

This fact is even more evident later in the passage. The Archangel Gabriel says, “And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:20). The Archangel Gabriel said that the prayers of Zechariah were heard (v. 13), but only after he showed doubt (a lack of faith) was Zechariah silenced. As St. John Chrysostom says, “considering his own age, and moreover the barrenness of his wife, Zacharias* doubted; as it is said, And Zacharias said to the angel, whereby shall I know this? as if he said, “How shall this be?” And he adds the reason of his doubting; For I am an old man. An unseasonable time of life, an ill-suited nature; the planter infirm, the soil barren. But it is thought by some a thing unpardonable.”

In multiple ways through this passage, there is the message of God hearing and answering the prayers of those who are faithful to him, a recurring theme in the Bible. May we continue to grow in faith so we may become closer to Him. 

References:
Patristic Bible Commentary
Bible, English Standard Version

* Through this article, the name “Zechariah” appears as is the spelling of the name in the English Standard Version. Other translations might use “Zacharias,” or “Zachariah.” But all these names refer to the same person (the husband of St. Elizabeth). 

Resources:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1%3A1-25&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1%3A4&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1%3A6&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1%3A7&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1%3A20&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1%3A13&version=ESV
https://sites.google.com/site/aquinasstudybible/home/luke-commentary/catena-aurea-on-luke/chapter-1

4th Sunday of Hathor

Weekly Gospel Readings
The 4th Sunday of Hathor
The Lord & The Rich Young Man

On this Sunday (12/04/22), the fourth Sunday of the blessed month of Hathor, the Church reads the conversation between a rich young man and our Lord Jesus Christ, found in Mark 10:17-31. The rich young man approaches Jesus seeking how to inherit eternal life. He supports his case by saying that he follows all the commandments and is surprised by Jesus’ assertion that following the commandments of the Old Testament is not enough. Instead, Jesus tells him to “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). Rather than being encouraged by this message, the young man walks away sorrowful as he was too tied to his riches.

The message of this passage connects directly to the theme of the year at St. Mary St. Athanasius; “do not love the world nor the things of the world” (1John 2:15). The rich young man was focused on his temporary satisfaction rather than the promise of treasures in heaven. As St. John Chrysostom explains*, “It was well to say to him, ‘You will have treasure in heaven’, and not ‘eternal life’, as He is speaking about the issue of forsaking wealth, to confirm to him, that he would enjoy something far greater than what he sells, as much as heaven is greater than earth.” The young man was so attached to his material possessions that he passed up the opportunity for something of much more value— eternal life in God’s presence.

Another important distinction can be seen in the New King James translation of the Bible between verses twenty-three and twenty-four. In Mark 10:23, Christ exclaims saying, “how hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” However, in V 24, Christ clarifies by saying, “how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!” By making this subtle clarification, Christ is explaining how the problem is not merely having material possessions; rather, the root of the issue is when we trust in riches for comfort and satisfaction.

St. John Saba*, of the Syriac Orthodox Church, explains how “those who tasted the greatness of His sweetness, have become haters of all luxuries.” Let the love for God in us eliminate any desire to be attached to our worldly possessions. Let us all say with St. Peter the Apostle, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28)

References:
* FR. Tadros Yacoub Malaty; The Gospel According to St. Mark
Bible, English Standard Version
Bible, New King James Version

Sunday, November 27th 2022

This Sunday (11/27/2022) is the 3rd Sunday of Hathor and the Church Gospel reading is from Luke 14: 25-35. In this passage, great multitudes were following Christ and He turned to them and began to preach. Our Lord uses several parables to describe how His followers (Christians) should act. He begins by saying, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). He then goes on to say in Luke 14:28, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Moreover in Luke 14:31, He continues and says, “Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?”. Christ then concludes this sermon in Luke 14:35 by saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”.

Christ uses these parables to emphasize the importance of having zeal, conviction, and determination in our lives with God. First, we must always put God first and not love anyone, including ourselves, more than God. We must not be distracted with the affairs of this life nor with any tribulations that may come our way by “carrying our cross”. In Luke 14:28 He says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”.  According to St. Cyril of Alexandria, Christ uses the parable of the builder to instill great zeal in us. How will one be able to reach a goal, in this case building a tower, if he does not have great zeal? The builder needs to plan and think deeply about what he is doing to be successful. According to St. Gregory of Nyssa, we must learn to bring every aspiration to a conclusion. When we are completing the work of God, we need to do it through His commandments. St. Gregory of Nyssa continues to say, “One stone does not make a complete tower, nor does one commandment bring the perfection of the soul to its desired measure”. This means that we cannot only follow one of God’s comandments, but we must follow all; in order to have a good foundation, we must lay our soul “on a foundation of gold and precious stones”. These stones are God’s commandments.

As Christians, we are called to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” and to not place anyone or anything ahead of Him. With this comes zeal, conviction, and determination in loving Him and following Him, no matter what, while we bring it to fruition in eternal life. We build our eternal life by first laying down a strong foundation which comes from following God’s commandments. After having this strong foundation in our soul, we need to keep building on it throughout our lives.

Sources:
https://thedivinelamp.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/st-cyril-of-alexandrias-homiletic-commentary-on-luke-1425-35/
https://catenabible.com/com/5735dfb2ec4bd7c9723ba0d0
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+14%3A+25-35&version=ESV

Sunday, November 20th 2022

Today (11/20/2022) is the Second Sunday of the Blessed month of Hathor, and today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew 13:1-9, which is the Parable of the Sower. In this Parable, Jesus tells us about a sower who while seeding his field, the seeds fell on four different types of grounds: a walking path (Verse 4), a rocky ground

(V. 5), thorns (V. 7), or good soil (V. 8). Only the seeds that were planted on the good soil produced grain.

It is worth noticing that last week (the first Sunday of Hathor), we heard the same parable but from the Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 8:4-15). So why then is the same parable repeated in two consecutive weeks? In reading Matthew 13 we will find it contains a series of seven parables, all of which focus on the kingdom of God theme, but the church fathers wanted to emphasize that this parable is at the center of Jesus’ message of the optimism of the kingdom and of our being as Christians. Even Christ addresses the importance of this parable where He says, “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:9), and further explains the meaning behind this parable in Matthew 13:18-23.

It is important to understand the sower in this parable, he is just freely throwing seeds. He knows that seeds that grow where there is rocky soil, the wayside, and where there are thorns do not grow well. Yet, he planted them there. The Lord is not careless but generously spreading His word to all types of inner hearts soil, knowing that even in good soil the harvest differs, “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:8). As St. John Chrysostom says, “For as the sower makes no distinction in the land submitted to him, but simply and indifferently casts his seed; so, He too makes no distinction of rich and poor, of wise and unwise, of slothful or diligent, of brave or cowardly; but He discourses unto all” (Homily 44 on Matthew).

Let us remember that His message is open to not only those who believe Him but also those who do not. He invites everyone to be one with Him. How it affects people is a matter of what is the landscapes in the human heart. As Christians, may we always be the good soil to produce thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and or even a hundredfold and live the word of God.

Sources:
Matthew 13:1-9 ESV – The Parable of the Sower – That same – Bible Gateway
CHURCH FATHERS: Homily 44 on Matthew (Chrysostom) (newadvent.org)
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt+13%3A+1-9&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt+13%3A5&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt+13%3A7&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matt+13%3A8&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+8%3A4-15&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+13%3A18-23&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+13%3A8&version=ESV

Sunday, November 13th 2022

On this Sunday (11/13/22), the first Sunday of the blessed month of Hathor, the Church reads the Parable of the Sower, found in Luke 8:4-15. In this parable, Christ describes a story of a sower (Farmer) who went out to plant seeds on his farm, and as he was scattering the seeds they fell on four different types of land: the wayside, rocky ground, ground with thorns, and fertile land. When the seed fell by the wayside, birds quickly devoured it. When the seed fell on the rocky ground, it found no moisture or soil to grow so it withered. When the seed fell on the thorns, the thorns choked it. However, when the seed fell on fertile ground, it “grew and yielded a hundredfold.” (Luke 8:8).

As St. Cyril of Alexandria explains, Christ gave us parables because it “beautifully shapes out the subtlety of intellectual things by means of the things of sense and palpable to the touch.” (Sermon XLI), and as the Psalmist said, “I will open my mouth in a parable” (Psalm 78:2).    From this simple and practical story, readers can easily recognize that the sower in the parable is Jesus, and the seed is the word of God, and He reminds His followers and the disciples how there are different responses to the sayings of the Lord, “As He said these things, He called out, ‘he who has ears to hear, let him hear.’” (Luke 8:8), not all will listen to the Word.

The good soil represents those who have strong faith and remain dedicated to a Christian lifestyle, even when things are difficult. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). As we can see the importance of having a strong foundation rooted in faith, especially in times of trouble. While faith may seem like a rather abstract concept, Christ uses a parable to give us a clear image of how our faith must have strong roots to be fruitful. In St. Paul’s epistle to Timothy, he urges the Christians saying, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:11-12).

Our journey through life is not going to be without struggle, so let us always remember to be strongly rooted in our faith. Without faith, we will be thrown by the wayside or devoured by worldly temptations.

Sources:
Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)
Sermons of St. Cyril:
https://www.tertullian.org/fathers/cyril_on_luke_04_sermons_39_46.htm
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+8%3A4-15&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+8%3A8&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+78%3A2&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+8%3A15&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Timothy+6%3A11-12&version=ESV

Sunday, November 6th 2022

This Sunday (11/06/2022), the 4th Sunday of the blessed month of Paope, the Church Gospel reading is from Luke 7: 11-17. In this passage, our Lord is met at the gates of the town by a funeral procession. The grief of the widowed mother of the young man who had died arouses His compassion and tells her “ Do not weep” (Luke 7:13). Jesus then went and touched the open coffin and said “Young man, I say to you, arise” (Luke 7:14). When He touched the coffin, His power immediately dispelled the presence of death. The dead man sat up and began to speak and all those who were witnessing this glorified God.

In all previous miracles, the Lord was invited, but in this incident, no one summoned Him to restore the dead man to life, He just happened to be in the procession’s path. Was it a coincidence? Obviously, the Lord purposely made this miracle to remind us of the authority of the Son of God and His powerful and miraculous words & touch. “Then He came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’” (Luke 7:14).

This makes us question why His was word not enough to raise the dead man. St. Cyril of Alexandria reminds us that these actions were intended for us to understand that the Holy body of Christ is essential for the salvation of man. “What is more powerful than the Word of God? Why then did He not affect the miracle by a word only, but also touched the bier? It was, my beloved, that thou mightiest learn that the holy body of Christ is effectual for the salvation of man. For the flesh of the Almighty Word is the body of life and was clothed with His might. The flesh of Christ also has to power of giving life and annihilates the influence of death and corruption because it is the flesh of the Word, who gives life to all.”  SERMON XXXVI-135

Let us always seek victories over spiritual corruption and death with the holy Eucharist.  The Eucharist, as St. Gregory of Nazianzus, says “is the ultimate combination agent. It unites us with Christ, who is a God-made man. In so doing it restores the order between body and soul leading to eternal life, instead of death. It also binds fellow partakers into one mystical Body of Christ.”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+7%3A11-17&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+7%3A13&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+7%3A14&version=ESV
https://sites.google.com/site/aquinasstudybible/home/luke-commentary/cyril-on-luke-7
https://catholicexchange.com/st-gregory-nyssas-amazing-explanation-eucharist/

Sunday, October 30th 2022

This Sunday (10/30/2022) is the 3rd Sunday of Paope, and the Holy Gospel for this week is from Matthew 12:22-28. During this reading, Jesus healed a blind and mute man. After seeing this miracle, the Pharisees accused Jesus of doing so under the name of Beelzebub, under the name of Satan. But Jesus responded by saying “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:26). He then says “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28).

What is interesting about this interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees is Jesus’ response to these accusations. The Pharisees accused Jesus of being the devil, which is a rather offensive comment to make. However, His response was one based on logic. He did not use Scriptures in this instance but rather gave a relatable analogy of a divided kingdom. Furthermore, Jesus has emotions. For example, in response to Lazarus’ death, St. John the Evangelist writes “Jesus wept,” (John 11:35) thus showing He does have emotions. Yet in this instance, He did not let His emotions get the best of Him. He remained cool, calm, and collected even amid these disparaging accusations.  Additionally, in response to Jesus’ response, St. John Chrysostom writes “Yet for all that, not even so did Christ despise them, but defends Himself with the forbearance proper to Him, teaching us to be meek to our enemies” (Homily 41 On Matthew). Through this interaction with the Pharisees, Jesus shows how it is important to be gentle with people, even those that do not speak well about you.

May God grant us the strength to follow Jesus’ example of how Christians should react when we struggle with false and derogatory accusations. It is important to be gentle, to respond with logic, and to not let emotions get in the way.

Sources:
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+12%3A22-28&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+12%3A26&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+12%3A28&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+11%3A35&version=ESV
https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/200141.htm

Sunday, October 23rd 2022

On the 2nd Sunday of the blessed month of Paope, the Church reads Luke 5:1-11. In this passage, Christ sits in Simon’s boat and teaches a multitude of people on the land. After his sermon is over, Christ tells Simon to cast his net into the sea to catch fish. Simon explains to the Lord that they had fished all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, he still casts his net into the sea. When they did this, they caught an innumerable amount of fish, to the point where the net was breaking.

Through Simon Peter’s actions in this story, we can learn three fundamentals of Christian life: obedience, humility, and a life of service.

Although Simon had a frustrating night of fishing with no success, he still listened to Christ when he asked him to recast his net. Instead of being frustrated with Christ, Simon was obedient and gained a reward because of his obedience. Obedience is one of the most overlooked aspects of living a Christian life. In Exodus, God tells Moses, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession” (Exodus 19:5).  Even in times where it seems unreasonable to be obedient, we should acknowledge that obedience reaps rewards.

After seeing the multitude of fish, Simon Peter’s immediate reaction was one of humility. It is written that “he fell down, at Jesus’ knees, saying ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’” (Luke 5:8). Simon Peter could have reacted with excitement about the enormous financial profit he would gain from the vast amount of fish; instead, he focused on humbling himself before the Lord. Even in times of success, we should focus on being humble and realizing that everything comes from the Lord.

Finally, at the end of the passage, Simon Peter commits himself to a life of service. Christ tells Simon, James, and John, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men” (Luke 5:10). As soon as Christ said this, they “forsook all and followed him” (Luke 5:11). A true Christian’s life revolves around serving others and bringing them towards Christ.

Let us always strive to act as Simon Peter did in this story— obedient, humble, and dedicated to serving others.

Sources:

  • Coptic Reader
  • Bible, English Standard Version

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+5%3A1-11&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+19%3A5&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+5%3A10&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+5%3A11&version=ESV

Sunday, October 16th 2022

On the 1st. Sunday of the blessed month of Paope the Church reads from the Gospel of Mark 2:1-12, in these verses we read the story of Christ healing the paralyzed man in Capernaum.

When the Lord had entered Capernaum and settled in a house and started preaching the word, many people gathered in and around the house until no one can even enter it. St. Mark records that when these men could not get their paralyzed friend through the crowd into Jesus’ presence, they opened a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down before Christ.

The aggressive, persistent effort of the paralyzed’s friends was visible evidence of their faith in Christ to heal. In Mark 2:5 we read that when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Seeing the paralyzed man’s faith, as well as the faith and determination of his friends, Jesus remedied the paralyzed’s greatest need, that of spiritual healing.

However, the people were then confused since they believed that only God could forgive sins. Jesus replied and told them “Why do you question these things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” he said to the paralytic “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”  Mark 2:8-10.

Here we see that Jesus’ power to heal the paralyzed man proved the truth of the Son of Man’s claim and power to forgive sins. As John Chrysostom said in one of his homilies: The scribes asserted that only God could forgive sins, yet Jesus not only forgave sins but showed that he had also another power that belongs to God alone: the power to disclose the secrets of the heart. 

Let us remember that no matter how poor our physical condition is, our spiritual well-being must take priority. Our unforgiven sins are more determinantal than unhealed limbs.

Sources
The Holy Bible – ESV
Patristic Bible Commentary
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=%28Mark2%3A1-12%29&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+2%3A5&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+2%3A8-10&version=ESV

Sunday, October 9th 2022

On the 4th. Sunday of the blessed month of Thoute the Church reads from the Gospel of Luke 7:36-50. This passage talks about The Lord accepting the invitation from the Pharisees to eat in his house when a sinful woman came to Jesus and washed His feet with her tears and anointed them with fragrant oil. This act of repentance made the Pharisees wonder: 1) If Jesus were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman was anointing his feet; (2) if he knew what kind of a woman she was, he would not let her do it; and (3) since he does let her anoint his feet, he is no prophet and should not be acknowledged as such. The Lord knowing what the Pharisee thinks explains the difference between the woman’s act of repentance compared to the Pharisee’s self-righteousness. After this, Jesus declares to the woman that her sins have been forgiven, not only because of her act of love (Luke 7:47 ESV) but also because of her faith “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50 ESV).

This Gospel gives an example of repentance. This woman, who we do not know, and should not be mistakenly thought of as Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2), has committed sins, and it weighed on her so heavily to the point she went and washed Jesus’ feet with her crying tears. She has acknowledged she has sinned with her tears, and she went to Jesus with complete faith in His acceptance. Likewise, whenever one sins, he or she ought to go away from the wrongdoing and come back to Jesus Christ.

The great St. Cyril of Alexandria said, “But Christ arose for us, not to subject our state to the curses that are by the law, but to redeem those subject to sin by a mercy superior to the law”. Jesus is our Merciful Redeemer. The reason He became man is to save us and to redeem us, His creation.

May we always continue to be faithful to Him and repentant so we may become one with Him.

Sources:

  • ESV Bible
  • St. Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Luke Sermon 40 Link

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+7%3A47&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+7%3A50&version=ESV
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+8%3A2&version=ESV

Sunday, October 2nd 2022

In Luke 19:1-10, we read the story of a chief tax collector named Zacchaeus seeking our Lord Jesus Christ. As Christ passed through Jericho, Zacchaeus sought to see Christ but could not because of his short stature. So, he climbed a sycamore tree to see Christ. As soon as he did this Christ looked up, saw Zacchaeus, and told him “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”

While this passage may seem negligible at first glance, the context behind the story of Zacchaeus allows us to understand the important message: when we make a true effort to seek God, he will accept us with open arms.

As St. Cyril explains, Zacchaeus was “a man entirely abandoned to covetousness, whose sole object was the increase of his gains [money].” Zacchaeus was not considered a man of God; rather, he was a man whose life revolved around worldly possessions. Yet, despite this, Zacchaeus had a desire to see Christ and made a determined effort to do so.

St. Cyril compares the sycamore tree that Zacchaeus climbed to our own personal crosses in our lives. It was not a simple task for Zacchaeus to climb the tree; not only was it physically difficult, but by doing so Zacchaeus had to make a conscious decision to deny the world of materialism that he was engulfed in. Zacchaeus was determined to see Christ, put aside his pride, and was rewarded because of his determination.

In a similar manner, Christ tells us “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 ESV). In life, we will face many distractions that lead us away from Christ. Yet, no matter how far we may seem from God, if we make a conscious decision to deny the world and seek Christ, we will be accepted with open arms.  As Zacchaeus put aside his pride and persisted to see Christ, we must do the same in our personal lives in order to gain eternal salvation.

Sources:
Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)
https://sites.google.com/site/aquinasstudybible/home/luke-commentary/cyril-on-luke-19