In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, Christ is born, glorify Him! We are in the heart of the afterfeast of the Nativity of Christ our Lord, and we celebrate also, the Holy Apostle St Timon the Deacon, and St Zoticus, caregiver to the orphans and the poor. Holy Saints Apostle Timon and Zoticus, pray for us.
Two of the ills of the contemporary world are indifference and absenteeism. When one is confronted with challenges, it would seem common to find a person shying away from facing the challenges head on to resolve the problems, and in time, such a person might even become absent from the face of challenges altogether. It would seem to begin with indifference, and then ends with absenteeism. Suffering and pains are not easy to face, and when facing the suffering and pains of another, we might be tempted to shy away from caring, or find ways to escape altogether.
How do we counter the problems of indifference and absenteeism? By two things, (1) Treasuring the present, and (2) being present.
When we read St Matthew 4:17, we are reminded to repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. We are reminded that every breathing moment is a moment that can reconcile us with Him in His Kingdom, and we are to treasure every moment. Time is valuable, and every moment not repenting or praying, and not even laboring, is wasted indeed. Treasure therefore, every moment in the present. For the present, is a “present” (gift) from God.
In the season of the Nativity of Christ, we rejoice at the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to bring us life, as we reflect on St John 10:9-16.
Christ is the only and everlasting door to God, and we are to enter to His Kingdom through Him, for He is the Good Shepherd, and we joyously proclaim our faith as His obedient sheep. Likewise, we reflect on Hebrews 7:26-8:2, and we rejoice at the presence of Christ our Lord and King, the eternal High Priest seated at the right hand of God. The faithful gather at the Divine Liturgy, to receive the Holy Gifts, and we rejoice at His presence. Therefore, we the humble sheep of our Lord, always yearn towards the receiving of Holy Gifts, because He is ever-present.
In the Nativity, we are also mindful of our Panaghia, Mother of God, who also showed us as a pioneer, to what “presence” means. She said yes to the command of God at the Evangelismos (or the Annunciation) conveyed by the Archangel Gabriel. She was ever-present through the carrying of Jesus, and the caring of Jesus to adulthood, obediently and meekly throughout His ministry. Our Panaghia showed us being present is to be faithful to God.
We read from Acts 6:1-6 of the Holy Apostles, that the Twelve chose seven men as deacons, having found them to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and one of them is St Timon the Deacon. St Timon was sent out by the 12 Holy Apostles to help destitute Christian widows. Later, he was consecrated as Bishop of Bostra in Arabia, where many found faith with him. He died a martyr in a burning furnace. St Timon showed us the same concept of “presence”, where the vocation of the diaconate presented him to be in service to the suffering widows, as the Church sees the Holy Orders as a living martyrdom to serve Christ and the needs of others.
St Zoticus, the saint known for his care for orphans, is also exemplary of being present and being of service to the needs of others, as we reflect on Deuteronomy 15:7-10 and Wisdom of Sirach 2:1-5.
He was a rich Roman, and acquainted with the Emperor Saint Constantine the Great. When St Zoticus took up Holy Orders, the emperor gave him a sum of money and he built a place to house the sick, the homeless, those with leprosy who were ordered to be drowned by soldiers, and orphans. When the emperor St Constantine reposed, his son Constantius, a heretic, took over. St Zoticus was arrested by Constantius on the false claim of corruption, and killed. Where St Zoticus reposed, a healing stream emerged which miraculously healed many.
How do we become present for others?
Let us then revisit St Matthew 22:36-40, which our Lord reminded us the greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and all our mind. And to love our neighbors as ourselves.
If we are to love our God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, it is a consuming love that occupies our entire beings. We are present.
If we can transpose our love for our neighbors as we love our God, for we are consumed with God in our all, it would therefore be reasonable to believe, we are present too, for our neighbors.
In life, when we reflect on the Holy Word, let us try our best to be present for another person, because sometimes, our presence itself, is our love for another.
Let us, in the joyous season of the Holy Nativity, remember our Lord and Christ who is our savior, and remember that through Him, all things are possible, even conquering death. Let us remember our beloved Most Holy Theotokos, who is our role model of faith unto God, with complete trust, faith and prayer.
Let us call on His Holy Name often, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:
It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.
O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
St John 10:9-16