Matthew 馬太福音10：32-33; 37-38; 19：27-30
2013.6.30 sermon by Fr. Jonah
The Sunday of all saints
2013.06.30 Feast of the Holy Apostles – The Apostles Today
Today we celebrate two things, the first is the Twelve Apostles, and the other is one week after the Pentecost, when we pray to all the saints because they are all the fruit of the Holy Spirit. But I will say a few things today about the Holy Apostles, especially one of them, very for our life.. As we know, these twelve people from Palestine changed the world, human history and civilization.
The word apostle means “he who is sent with as a messenger.” Jesus picked them, selected them as simple people. It is very important that Jesus called them when they were working at their jobs, even Matthew, who was a tax collector, which was not a good thing to do, Jesus called him while he was doing that job. They were not educated people, but they had good hearts. They loved God and most of them – because Matthew changed – some of them were disciples of John the Baptist, though some of them were not even good people, like Matthew.
But when Jesus called them, they left everything and followed him. To leave everything and follow Jesus Christ is a very characteristic thing of an Apostle. And as you understand today, it can be very difficult and we can be in their position because if I were to say to you – and you all have a job or you study – if I were to say to you to leave everything and work for the church as preachers, you could understand how difficult, almost impossible that would be. So what they did was really to refuse their former life and follow Jesus Christ. And this shows such a good attitude, such a good heart. Even Matthew said that Jesus called him. They did not know the truth about Jesus, that he is God, but even their families they abandoned to follow this great teacher, a great person who was doing miracles and preaching a new message, that the Kingdom of Heaven is here.
So they followed Jesus and each of them had his own character, his own good things and his own weaknesses. But during this period, even if they had difficulties, they followed Jesus Christ. Jesus gave to them the power to do all the miracles, even before his Crucifixion. But even though they did so many miracles, their personal weaknesses still were allowed to come out: sometimes asking about who was the first among them, having some disagreements about power or not such strong belief. But they followed, they obeyed Jesus Christ, even if it was not complete. There were so many different characters, but all under the same guidance of the love of Jesus Christ. Only one used his freedom to betray Him, but Jesus Christ honored him as the others, or even more, and He did everything to prevent this betrayal. And through this we can understand that to be selected as an apostle is not enough. We must accept and work on this. If you don’t work, you will be like Judas. These people finally received the Holy Spirit, and when the Paraclete (God) entered into them, then they were ready vessels of God.
So these people became the light for human beings. Everything now was understood by them. All the memories, all the work that they did, all that they saw near Jesus Christ now started to have fruit. And through them it could go to the world, to all the universe. How was this? First as those who offered to God the bread and the wine, the sacrifice of the Word. The Apostles are not just pastors, they are not just preachers; they are priests who participate in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and they gave their priesthood to their successors, even today.
And they forgave sins, and this power to forgive sins, which was given to the Church, through the Apostles, goes today to the Church through the bishops and the priests. This is very important because this forgiving is reconciliation; it is a healing of the souls of the people and their relationships.
And also they preached the World of God. The Apostles gave the teachings of the Church and then the Fathers of the Church took these teachings and they explained and analyzed them. So through the Holy tradition they are given to us today. And through the Church to take it, transmit it, and make it more beautiful, more understandable, in dialogue with the different cultures and different people. The Apostles are always alive in the Church, the Church is an Apostolic Church, as we say in the Creed. And this is very important today, especially in Asia because we see here today so many churches, people who begin a church and they say, “I started a new church.” And of course these churches do not dare to say they are apostolic because they don’t come from the Holy Apostles, but from pastor or somebody who just bought a Bible and started a new church.
And it is also very important to understand that we should not just say, “They are Apostles and may we have their blessing.” To admire them is not enough. Don’t think that they are Apostles and it is their job to bless us, because the Church is always apostolic, which means that the Church must preach to the others, must spread the Word of God and the Grace of God. The Church is not a closed club. It not a national activity or a cultural club or cultural center. The Church is always going out to the world spreading God Himself to the world. The liturgy, which I have been doing in Taiwan for thirteen years and which I continue to do by the Grace of God and by your prayers, it is not only for the few people who are coming to this room. It is the Grace of God that goes out from this room that goes out of this room to all of Taiwan to bless all the things, all the people, the living and the dead, in this area. And all the preaching of the Church that we say here and we put on the internet, it is not just for us here, as secret, but it goes to all our brothers and sisters all over the world. And even in their memories, after many years it will work the Grace of God. So to be a Christian, to be Orthodox, you must be a missionary to spread the Grace of God, the Love of God to your family, to your job, to your pets, to your things. It is a very big mistake to say, “Well, everybody in the Church has some job. I have my own job; I work in this company to earn money, while others are apostles.” Jesus Christ said that to spread Word of God is from God Himself. Jesus said. “As the Father sent me, in the same way I send you to the world.” So to be a missionary in your job, in everywhere, it is not to spread propaganda, not at all, not to proselytize people but to project and to give the Love of God. And to this Jesus is calling all of us. We must remember this, and when we celebrate the Apostles we must compare ourselves, how much we are like them, especially because we are in a much easier position then they were because Jesus did not ask us to leave everything and follow Him.
Also, it is very important that the Apostles did not take advantage of the people. They all died for the people; they did not need their money, even Paul was working to earn a living.
And we also see from the Apostles that they talked together after receiving the Holy Spirit to resolve the different problems that they had in the Church. This is why they the first conference of the Apostles in Jerusalem. And it is very important that they did not take advantage of their position. Finally they all loved Jesus Christ and they all died for him.
One last thing to say. The Apostles did not preach any philosophy. And the martyrs of course did not have any nationality or national idea. They preached that Jesus is alive, and the Liturgy and the Gospel, the Trinity. So today remember the Holy Apostles, pray to them. We owe to them everything that we are. And we should do something to be Apostles in some way in our small environment, wherever we are. May the Holy Trinity protect us.