Sunday, Jan 22, 2017: 15th Sunday of Luke; Timothy the Apostle of the 70, The Righteous Martyr Anastasius of Persia, Joseph the Sanctified

Epistle: 1 Timothy 4:9-15
Gospel: Luke 19:1-10

St Paul in his epistle, tells St Timothy to “not neglect the gift” he was given “by prophetic utterance” and the laying on of hands. Timothy wasn’t consecrated as a bishop because of he was talented; he wasn’t made a bishop because of any personal quality that he had. No, he becomes a bishop for the same reason St. Mathias replaces Judas. God chose both men. He makes clear His will to the Church that it is these men who have He has called to lead His People.

The gift that Timothy must not neglect is much more his ordination as a bishop; it is his membership and role in the great prophetic community which is the Church. Like all bishops, Timothy’s unique task is to lead that band of prophets called the Church. He is to be for them “an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” He is to listen daily to the Scriptures and to share the fruit of his mediation in preaching and teaching “so that all may see your progress.”

Again, St Paul’s words to St Timothy, are applicable to all bishops.

The bishop in an exemplar—as “canon” or “standard”—of the Gospel in the life of the Church. The bishop reminds us that there is an objective content to our prophetic witness that endures throughout the history of the Church. As Paul writes, “God is not the author of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33. NKJV). It belongs to the bishop in his diocese, and the all the bishops assembled in local and ecumenical councils, to guard and protect the peace that God grants to His Church.

This peace is maintained in the Church not by suppressing different viewpoints. Much less is peace protected by punishing honest disagreement. No, peace in the Church, in the family and in the human heart, comes when we are faithful to that “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The bishop is the canon of faith because he is himself a disciple of Jesus Christ and a witness to the resurrection. He guards the faith by boldly preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ without apology or compromise.

To paraphrase St Augustine, the bishop is all this for us, because he is first with us a Christian.

But to say that the bishop is the canon of faith is to say not only something about him but about ourselves.

As the bishop is for the members of his diocese, so the Christian must be for the world. The bishop leads a band of prophets, of witnesses to the Resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ. For this reason, it is not enough for us merely to affirm the Creed. It is not enough for us to learn theology or sing the hymns of the Church. No, it is not enough for us to be anything less than witnesses to the Resurrection!

And so all too briefly, let us turn to the Gospel and example of that “man named Zacchaeus” a chief tax collector.

To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to be a witness of His Resurrection, means to be like Zacchaeus. St Cyril of Alexandria says that the story of Zacchaeus “contains a puzzle.” There is no way, the saint says, a person can “see Christ and believe in Him except by climbing up the sycamore, by making foolish” all that the world values and so become a fool in the eyes of the world (“Commentary of Luke,” Homily 127 in ACCS, vol III: Luke, 290).

St Augustine makes the same point.

The wise and powerful “of this world laugh at us about the Cross of Christ.” They taunt us saying “What sort of minds do you people have, who worship a crucified God?” Caustically, Augustine answers back:

What kind of minds do we have? They are certainly not your kind of mind. “The wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). No, we don’t have your kind of mind. You call our minds foolish, but for our part, let us climb the sycamore tree and see Jesus.

To be a disciple of Christ means not only to rise above the foolishness of this world, but to be a fool in the eyes of the world. Just as “Zacchaeus grasp[ed] the sycamore tree,” we grasp the Cross of Christ “fix[ing] it on our foreheads, where the seat of shame is” (Sermon 17.3 in ACCS, vol III: Luke, 290, 291).

And when we lay aside the concern for the world’s opinion of us, what do we discover but a deep, and abiding concern for the life of the world? This is what Zacchaeus discovered and this why he said, “if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

Alright, maybe I haven’t defrauded anyone.

Maybe I’m not guilty of any, truly heinous sin.

But can I really say that I haven’t at least is small ways, by my many little acts of indifference robbed others of that peace that comes from faith in Jesus Christ?

Aren’t there times in my life, however fleeting I think they are, that I failed to bear witness to the Resurrection? How little it costs me to smile, to say a kind word, to offer a short pray silently in my heart. And yet, how frequently am I unwilling to make even this sacrifice.

My brothers and sisters in Christ! We shouldn’t make complex the simplicity of the Gospel.

… as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:12-17, NKJV).

Let us at each moment, do what good we can, commending ourselves, and one and other, to Christ our Lord, to Whom be glory and honor forever, Amen!

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory