Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!
I wish you all the blessings and happiness of the glorious Resurrection Feast. This joyous feast esteems the value of every human life. The Lord took the form of humanity to breathe life back into us. He endured all of life’s hardships to assure us He values all our efforts. No one is excluded from His love and esteem. His Holy Resurrection is for all of us, not for a select few. He came, suffered, and died for all humanity and He rose for all.
Christ demonstrated how to value every soul, saints and sinners. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14–15). Why does this beautiful visual escape us so often? Why is this lesson set aside when dealing with one another? It is not merely symbolic. Christ the Lord did this act specifically before He was denied, betrayed, and crucified. He was publicly humiliated and alienated, but mightily He arose before the dawn early Sunday morning (Matthew 28:2–4). He appeared first to the woman who was once an outcast, Mary Magdalene, and sent her to preach His holy resurrection (John 20:11-18). Still today, outcasts exist. Why do we tear people apart and turn our eyes away from the broken-hearted? How do our actions preach the resurrection of Christ?
The Lord Jesus Christ illustrated the value of every soul. Even the soldier that came to arrest the Lord Jesus and whose ear was severed by St Peter, the Lord restored (Luke 22:49–51). He knew the thoughts of those who sought to kill Him and the Pharisees who harshly judged the sinners, and yet, He spoke to them with kindness and respect, for He valued their lives, too. Who is valued in your eyes? Who do you devalue and why have you put blinders on your eyes? The sixth Sunday of the Holy Great Fast, is called the Sunday of Enlightenment. We must understand that we were all born blind. We were all born in sin. Christ the Lord needed to create in each of us new eyes and a new heart. Profound are these prophetic words, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Indeed, the Lord revealed ancient prophecies when He read these words in the synagogue, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4: 18–19; Isaiah 61:1).
In one of the prayers of reconciliation in the Divine Liturgy, St. Cyril says, “grant us Your servants… a reason that remembers not the earlier evils, a conscience without hypocrisy, truthful thoughts, and a heart that loves the brethren, that… we may flee from the likeness of Judas the traitor…” The likeness of the Judas is one who lacks love, for he betrayed love. After Christ’s resurrection, the Lord asked St Peter, “Do you love Me?” (John 21:15–17), to which St Peter affirmed, “Yes, I love You.” That was not enough. It needed action. Love is action, not just a word. Thus, the Lord instructed St Peter, “Feed My lambs… tend My sheep… feed My sheep.” These lambs and sheep are God’s people that He requires be tended with loving care, value, and dignity.
Thus, the Holy Resurrection is an awakening for all of us, and a call to value every human being. We are called to preach Christianity to the world, and mere words are not the only way. He gave us specific instructions, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). Sometimes, Christians might forget all things that were commanded to us, and only remember some, a few, or nothing at all. Example is the best teacher. What can we teach that we do not do? Christ Jesus saw this beauty, an opportunity for repentance, and value in every person that He encountered. If they did not go to Him, He went to them. No one was devalued in His precious eyes. Every life is of great value. Thus, the Lord gave His own life and shed His blood for each one of us, not just for some of us, but from the greatly esteemed to the lowly and forgotten, He loves us all.
Through the intercessions and prayers of the Theotokos and all the angels and saints, we ask our Lord, God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ, to preserve the life of our honoured father and patriarch, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, for many years and peaceful times.
God bless you.
His Grace Bishop Youssef is Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States (www.suscopts.org)
28 April 2019