Fr. Luke A. Veronis serves as the Director for the Missions Institute of Orthodox Christianity at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, pastors Sts Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Webster, MA, and teaches as an Adjunct Instructor at both Holy Cross and Hellenic College. He also taught at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (2005-2008). Fr. Luke has been involved in the Orthodox Church’s missionary movement since 1987. Together with his family, he served as a long-term cross-cultural missionary in Albania more than 10 years (1994-2004), and as a short-term missionary in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana for 18 months (1987-91). Since 2010, he teaches a summer missions class which he takes to Albania for two weeks every year. He has led four mission teams from his church to build homes for the desperately poor through Project Mexico. His published books include Go Forth: A Journal of Missions and Resurrection in Albania (2010); Lynette’s Hope: The Witness of Lynette Katherine Hoppe’s Life and Death (2008); and Missionaries, Monks, and Martyrs: Making Disciples of All Nations (1994). Fr. Luke teaches the Preaching course at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, as well as numerous classes in Missiology and World Religions. His weekly sermons since January 2013 can be found at http://www.schwebster.org/sermons/ Fr. Luke is married to Presbytera Faith Veronis, and they have four children.
How many of you were at our festival last week when Billy Gibbons, the lead singer for the rock-n-roll band ZZ Top, came by to eat some Greek food? For me, I knew ZZ Top from when I was younger, but I wouldn’t have even recognized Billy Gibbons. Yet, I found it quite interesting to see how everyone reacted at having a celebrity come to our Church. For the older generation, word quickly spread under the tent about Billy Gibbons and ZZ Top. People wanted to meet him and to take a picture with him. Others posted their pictures on Facebook and let the world know that we had some famous celebrity visit our Church festival. A few people were even disappointed when the security guards told us that he didn’t want to be disturbed, yet they still seemed happy that a celebrity came.
We are such a celebrity society, thinking that it’s something special or big to take a picture with a famous person. This whole experience made me think about why we get so excited and how we react around “famous” people, around celebrities.
Imagine if someone real famous came by! Imagine if Jesus Christ came to visit and to even stay with us. Remember the story when Jesus saw the tax-collector, Zaccheus, up in a tree, and he said, “Come down, for I visit your house today.” How did Zaccheus react? He was real excited to have a “celebrity” visit his home. But what did he do?
He was so touched by Christ’s visit that he decided to change his entire life. He said that he would repay anyone from whom he stole money and that he would even give half of his money to the poor. Now that’s a real response to a celebrity visit!
Making Space for the Divine
Well, in today’s epistle reading from the Apostle Paul, we hear something amazing. St Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 1:20)
Listen to that again. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Paul is saying that Jesus Christ lives IN him. This is not simply a visit of Jesus to his house, like that of Zaccheus. But Jesus is moving in, staying, living with St. Paul. That’s something much better than a celebrity visit. Imagine, the ultimate celebrity, Jesus Christ, living with us.
What would we do if we truly believed that Jesus Christ was coming to move in and live with us? How would we feel? How would we act? That is, if we truly believed Christ was coming to live with us.
Well, St. Paul teaches us a basic principle of our Christian faith. When each of us was baptized, we were united with Jesus Christ. “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.”
Through this sacred mystery of baptism, we can be sure that we have Jesus is living in us. And not only through baptism, but each Sunday we gather here in the Church to worship, once again we are united to Jesus Christ through the mystery of Holy Communion. Jesus promised, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”(John 6:56)
I think so often we ignore or forget this incredible blessing—Jesus Christ lives in us!
If this is true, then we have to understand and acknowledge this blessing. We need to ask ourselves, “If Jesus Christ truly lives in me, how should we live? How will His presence in my life actually change how I live?”
A Trinity of Miracles
I think our lives will change in three ways IF we truly believe that Christ lives in us.
First, knowing that Jesus has chosen to live in ME, in US, means we must be very special. One of my favorite verses in the entire Bible is when God says, “I have created you in the palm of my hands.” We are so precious to God precisely because He created us with such care and love. We are created out of love. God knows us and loves us in the most intimate way. When we know we are loved, then we can live life feeling good about ourselves, feeling cherished, feeling special, feeling honored. Christ has chosen to live in ME and YOU, thus we are truly special!
Second, knowing that Christ lives in us should make us want to make Him proud of us. Imagine if so someone special comes to visit us in our homes. Don’t we want this guest to think of us in the best possible light? Don’t we want them to know they made a good choice by visiting our home? We want to make the person feel proud! How do we do that? By imitating Christ and His actions, by loving our enemies, forgiving those who have hurt us, showing compassion everyone, especially those considered the least of my brothers and sisters, by basically continuing the life of Christ. We make our guest proud when people look at ourselves and see Jesus in us!
Finally, having Christ in us is something we can’t keep to ourselves. We want to tell everyone about it, and share the light and love He fills us with. We can’t keep silent, and we can’t keep His blessings to ourselves. A fundamental element of our faith is that God blesses us SO THAT we can share those blessings with others. Christ living in us is NOT for us alone. Christ lives in us so that we can share the presence of Christ with others.
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
O Christ our God, come anew and dwell in us. Make our hearts and lives a place where You will abide each and every day. Help us to always remember that we are your beloved children, and that no matter what the world tells us, we know we are loved by you. Help us to become more and more like you, so that whenever anyone sees us, they will see YOU in us. And may we never be silent of this special blessing, but may we always strive to accept your blessings so that we may share them with others. Come, O Lord, and be formed in us! Amen.
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