Called to Give Witness
+Fr. Simeon Johnson, Saint Andrews - Chicago, IL | May 18, 2020
Christ is Risen! Christos Anesti!
Whenever I am asked to give a sermon or meditation on a particular day, I follow the same procedure. I read the daily Scriptural readings, determine the saints commemorated, and consider the liturgical season. Then, I give myself some time to think about them and draw them together. In all of it, I pray that God will inspire and lead me through the process.
If we look at the Scripture for the day, May 18, we turn to the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of St. John the Theologian. In the reading from Acts (12:12-17, we hear of the liberation of the Apostle Peter for prison and his appearance at the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, the writer of the third Gospel. Those present could not believe that Peter actual was at the home. They knew that he was imprisoned, but did not know that miraculously was liberated by angels. They rejoiced in his presence. In the selection from the Gospel of John (8:42-51), we see the Lord speaking with the Pharisees who constantly challenged and rejected Him as the true Messiah. We hear Him tell them “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not on my own accord, but He sent me”. The reading ends with the Lord a testimony of his power over death. “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death”. In these readings, we see the liberating power of God, Jesus revealed as the one who comes from the Father, and his promise of Life.
The saints that we remember today serve as an inspiration for us. The majority of them are martyrs who gave their lives as a witness to the saving power of the Lord. Among the martyrs remembered today are Peter, Dionysia, Christina, Andrew and Paul who suffered and died during on the last great persecutions under the Roman Emperor Decius, 249-251. All were asked to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods. When they refused and gave witness to the saving power of the Lord, they were beheaded. Another saint of the day is Archimandrite Makarios (Glukharev) who served as a missionary to Altai region in Imperial Russia. He gave witness the Lord until his death in 1847.
Of course, all of this is in the 40-day period that we celebrate the glorious and life-giving Resurrection of Christ. Through His death and resurrection, He has destroyed sin, death, the devil and given us the Resurrection.
With understanding, that Christ our True God has saved us from death and revealed Himself to us, we conduct our lives. With the clear knowledge and trust that as the Apostle Peter was liberated from prison, we, too, will be freed from the isolation, separation, and limitation imposed by COVID-19. Inspired the martyrs who gave themselves as a witness to the saving power of Christ and a missionary saint who spent his life as a witnessing to the Lord, let us follow their example. We must continue to give witness to the Risen Savior by word and action. We witness to His saving mercy by deepening our trust in Him during this time of crisis, caring for and help others, and living with abiding hope.