Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada


22nd Sunday after Pentecost

In today's Epistle (Galatians 6:11-18) we hear the Apostle Paul proclaim: "Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus". This is a curious statement. Was he, as some think, speaking about the stigmata - a phenomenon known among Christians of the western Church, in which wounds similar to those Jesus suffered upon the Cross appear on the bodies of certain special souls?

It is probably more likely that Paul was speaking of the sufferings he had endured for the sake of his dedication to the Lord, as he walked on the path which Jesus guided him along. These sufferings were the best testimony that he had indeed been set free by the Lord from dependance upon outward circumstances. He would be faithful no matter what others thought of or did to him. Whatever sufferings would come his way, he would endure them with patience and faith. The experience gained by this would then be useful to him as he continued on the path - and he could also sympathize with others who suffer and comfort and encourage them. "For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too" (2 Corinthians 1:5).

This lends a special dignity to the difficulties endured by those who strive to be faithful to Jesus in their daily lives. It may be illness, or financial hardship. Jesus is with us in all that we, His brothers and sisters, endure. We suffer - He suffers! This is true in a special way if we endure persecution and slander (recent studies have shown that Christians continue to be the most persecuted religious group upon the planet!) because of that for which we stand. Christians refuse to accept solutions which would make things easier for them but compromise the way of love, mercy and truth that Jesus portrayed in His sermon on the Mount. (The Beatitudes illustrate this beautifully!)

This applies as well to all who suffer. By becoming a Human being God the Son identified with all of humanity - and with this planet upon which we dwell. In the parable we read today we see how He rewarded the beggar, Lazarus, who had endured so much just because of his poverty - and others' insensitivity. Jesus has raised everyone to the dignity of God's beloved children.

To those who dehumanize others - and themselves - by exploiting and manipulating them the Gospel says: Stop! People are not garbage! To those who see human beings as mere commodities and statistics, we sound warning: the same God who rewards kindness and mercy also brings about consequences upon those who callously ignore the needs of this planet and those who dwell upon it. Let us stand joyously for the Kingdom Jesus proclaims - no matter the cost. Our faith and endurance will be justified.

V. Rev. Ihor George Kutash