My Sermon on Luke 18:18-27

I have an annual teaching assignment at St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur for the past several years. This year I was here from 13th to 26th of October (2019). I conducted Holy Qurbana on 17th where I gave a brief homily. On 20th I gave another sermon on the text prescribed for the sixth Sunday after the feast of the Cross (St. Luke 18:18-27). I have already published the text of the sermon on my Facebook page. This video is with the audio of the sermon with some pictures from the day.

Here is the Text and you will find below the video made with pictures from the day and the audio of the sermon

A Quest (Luke 18:18 to 27).

Today is the Sixth Sunday after the feast of the Cross and the Gospel lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Luke chapter 18 verses 18 through 27.

This is another quest story in the Gospel according to St. Luke, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life” that was the question, a question from a ruler. Incidentally quest story is a type of Pronouncement story.

Actually the periscope ends only at v. 30. But Church that wants to make a point about God’s strengthening in our weakness, to end it at 27. May be the situation the disciples were in, as Paul talks regarding his poverty (1 Cor. 4:11) brought this passage in to memory.

We are not told what kind of ruler he was, may be an officer in the Roman government, I don’t know.

We have parallel passages in Mark 10 and Matthew 19. There are slight differences in the story-line among three Gospels. In Luke the person is a ruler, for Matthew and Mark it was ‘certain person,. The person calls Jesus “Good Teacher” in Mark and Luke. Matthew omits that salutation. Even though Matthew does not put the word “good” in the mouth of the person, the reply includes an answer to ‘good’ as if the person was asking about ‘goodness’. In Luke and Mark Jesus’ reply starts in the form of a question asking him, “why do you call me good as God alone is good”. Matthew who wanted to present Jesus as Messiah can not add that statement as he always wanted to tell his readers that Jesus was Messiah and God. For Luke this does not bring in any confusion as He has already pointed out to his listeners that “one has to love God alone” in Luke 4:8 in response to the challenger after Jesus’ 40 days fasting. Probably here Jesus gives more credit to his incarnate personality than his divinity.

Another difference is that while in Mark (v. 22) and Matthew (v.22) the person goes away after the reply from Jesus. But in Luke, though the ruler became sad at Jesus’ reply, did not go away rather stayed back to listen to all the comments Jesus made, Peter’s confession and following comment from Jesus.

Luke has another Quest story in 10:25 ff. on the question of a lawyer again who sought eternal life. In Ch. 10, the person starts with a negative mood of testing, but ends with a positive mood of leading it to further question replied through the parable of the Samaritan’s noble gesture. Our story starts with a positive mood of calling Jesus good, but ends in a negative tone saying he was sad.

We don’t know what made this ruler come to Jesus, also not sure how he understood ‘eternal life’. He seems to be well versed in the law codes of Jewish religion and has been living a religious life with all the commandments faithfully followed. But probably still not sure of its effect in his life that would lead to eternal life. Performing the religious prescriptions do not many a time satisfy people and do not help them face situations of challenge.

This is a challenge before us the Church too. Our outdated prescriptions which do not meet the needs of people in different situations may make them unhappy and not sure of their welfare. That may lead to they move away to other denominations and religious communities. The result is that we fail in our ministry, not to talk about losing number.

Question about better tomorrow both religious and secular are always before us humans as an important life issue. People always ask ‘what is the way out’?

The answer given by Jesus as I look at it is “be Kenotic” – be emptied. This is the basis of Christian life in its essence.

The ruler was asked to do three things, sell, give and follow; sell all his property, give them to the poor and finally follow Jesus. In effect he had to give up both his property and his ruler job to follow Jesus. But the question would be what happens next? Will this person become a penniless, homeless roadside dweller?

I don’t think ‘Kenosis’ has to be understood in terms of walking on the street empty handed with just one piece of cloth.

Rather it has to be denial of the self and becoming a public person (even Christian theology has become public theology now) recognizing the fact that what he has is not quite what belongs to him and what he thinks he was in fact was because of God and many others. I don’t think Peter quite understood the matter, but was quick to say he and the fellow disciples followed the rule (Vs. 27, 28)

If a person had to leave home, parents, relatives and become a vagabond, then the primary blessing given to creation by God, “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1: 28) will not be in effect.

What Jesus did on earth was Kenosis. He submitted Himself in to the hands of God for the sake of the whole creation and got His person back resurrected in three days, that every one can Now have a taste of it (Luke 23:46). At the same time we should bear in mind that on death Jesus did not forget to entrust his mother in to the hands of his favorite disciple.

This is our challenge, today we are going to have the body and blood of our Lord in the form of bread and wine. It will become our nutrition to both body and spirit. Think for a moment how many people were there behind these two things before it came to us in the form of two edible and holy substances. There are numerous people involved in making this to our mouth, starting with the person who prepared the field to saw the wheat seed and to plant the grape vine until we the clergy who would administer them to you. In such case can anyone say it was my piece of bread or can I say when I administer it, it was I who gave it to you? The cloth I wear in fact is the final product of lot of people’s labor. I am a clergyman because people in Thrissur diocese elected me and they consider me as their shepherd. When I travel an reach a place, I call back home and say I arrived safe. But that safe arrival was because of lot of people’s intended or un-intended cooperation that helped me arrive safe. Just a dog that wanted to cross the road could have made me to hospital bed than to my destination. The list is not exhaustive. The room we live in, the racket with which we play badminton, the water we drink all have numerous stories of hard toil to share.

This is Christianity, recognizing the fact that, there is nothing I can claim that it belongs to me, or I earned it or I occupy this position. Here is a call to Kenosis or a call to be follower of Jesus Christ who gave the classical example of Kenosis. Infact He Himself is Kenosis. When we recognize the fact that what we are and what we claim we have are because of our Lord and a million elements in this wide created world it will make us humble and emptied or Kenotic and just be sharing and caring. Empty ourselves from the pride of what we think we have, what we think we know, what we think we are. Let us understand we are just one before the mercy of the Almighty and among trillions in participation. This is “Eternal Life”. If it is hard for one to be like this, what one can do is, say, “God help me” (V. 27) Amen.


COLT 2018

Annual Meet of Camp of Orthodox Leadership Training (May 27 to June 2), Sophia Center, Kottayam. I spoke on An Orthodox Approach to Biblical Testimony on May 29th. There were 23 young people from all over the country, from various Orthodox parishes. Rev. Fr. Dr. Philip Kuruvilla and Ms. Bibi Kuruvilla organizes this every year and I am a regular speaker in those camps.


Meditation on Luke 9:13

Meditation for Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Luke 9:10-17 Originally posted in ICON)

Metropolitan Yuhanon Mor Meletius

Feeding the Multitude.jpg

One of the greatest blessings God has given to humans is that we can look at things positively. Humans can judge and see the positive side of everything that comes along. But, unfortunately many a time we do not use this God given ability. When Jesus asked His disciples to feed the multitude that was following Him for few days, the disciples told Him, “We have no more but five loaves and two fishes” (Luke 9:13). This verse is part of the reading of the Gospel passage for the fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Luke 9: 10-17). Of course, under normal human situation, no one can ever think of feeding that many people with as little as five loaves and two fishes. That is what the disciples told Jesus. But, unfortunately, they forgot to analyse the situation. That was not the first time they were with Him. They have already seen great works of God through Jesus. The very fact that the people followed Jesus was because they saw great miracles done by Him.

God found everything He created “good”. But this goodness is not a quality but essence. This is in the core of everything and every situation. But that core must be brought out, recognized and enhanced by humans though their life and work in this world. This is because God had given humans the privilege to be His co-creators. God brought everything He created before humans to be named (Gen. 2:18-23). Naming is perfecting act through exploring and bringing out the self of things and events. To name, one has to look, beyond external features and nature, in to the core. This is what is called a ‘positive attitude’. When we look at a dancing cobra with its hood up, we might think that it was going to bite us. Well, it was only expressing its instinct to tell us that, it is not comfortable with our presence, so “go away that I may go in peace”. It doesn’t want us to be an intruder into its territory. But on our part, we either get aggressive and kill it or get scared and run away. If the second happens, the snake will also go away. Although not intentionally we were acting positively otherwise negatively for no good reason. Each situation calls us to look at it positively and name it as such.

Here in this incident, the people were of course hungry and Jesus did not want them to go home starving to get own food as suggested by the disciples. So, He asked His disciples to feed them. Jesus very well knew that there were quite a large number of people. He was not an unrealistic person. The disciples had to see the context and analyse all aspects such as, that there were too many people; that Jesus was quite aware of the fact that it was not possible to feed them with what the disciples may have had with them. So, certainly it was clear that Jesus had His own plans to feed the people. Judging the situation, the disciples should have been able to see this. This is what first human did when God brought all that He created before human to be named. They read the mind of God and named them, and all those names came out to be well on their part (Gen. 2:19). This is what was expected of the disciples. But they, the representatives of the estranged human, could not read the mind of God just as first human, Adam, who failed in reading the mind of God in matter of the fruit of the tree. This was primarily because they failed to seek the mind of God and secondly failed to see the folly in the external suggestion that, “the fruit was delightful to the eyes”, and on the contrary decided without really studying the purpose of the fruit that it was “good to eat” (Gen. 3:6).  The first human did not go in to the core of the subject, the disciples also did not go in to the core of the command of Jesus but judged it with external suggestion that says, ‘anyone who wants to feed these many people should have so much food at hand’. This is exactly what we also do most of the time. Judging by the outward suggestions and on general principles, we think we need to work really hard, forgetting all kinds of things that keeps us human, to make a better life and be successful in this world. So, we run up and down disregarding the fine features of life like love, justice, values, relationships etc. We say, ‘oh life is short so have to run fast and without minding may of the things around us’. We, in our haste, forget our Lord and our relationship with Him, we forget to live in happiness and at peace. We judge our lives with worldly parameters and get so worried that we cannot make it in normal case. Jesus at the close of His life in this world, presented us before His Father and said, “Father I do not pray that they may be taken away from the world, rather protect them from evil” (John 17:15). I would paraphrase ‘evil’ in this verse as ‘negative’. So, I may read that passage as, “God I do not pray that they be taken away from the world, rather protect them from being negative”. God did not look at darkness in the beginning in a negative way. He looked at it as a resource to create light and to make it a situation where human can rest (Gen. 1:3). God did not see the boundary-less chaotic water negatively rather took it as a resource to create land and a place where water lives can live (Gen. 1:9). We see dark side of the world and get upset, depressed and disheartened. We say, ‘what can I do with these limited resources’: ‘what my child can do with this education’, ‘what I can do with this little income’, ‘how can I live with this huge debt in the bank’, ‘how can I be successful if I fail in the exam’, ‘how can I have a life if my dear ones pass away’????? Well, this is the moment we are called to present those few loaves and fishes, I mean our limitations, before our Lord. He can multiply them and make them enough and more for the situation at hand.

This passage is presented by the Church to be meditated during the week after Pentecost. At Pentecost, the Sprit of God came and helped the disciples see things as God saw them. They no more saw the people around them as a threat to their existence as Christ followers, but as a challenge before them to bring them to their fold. Jesus never saw death negatively, but as an essential prerequisite for resurrection and for fullness of life. He wanted His disciples to see things positively and situations as opportunities, no matter how hostile they may look; people around them as potential disciples of the Lord no matter how hostile they may seem outward. The Spirit that was given to us during the time of our baptism and that is being constantly renewed on the day of the feast of Pentecost and on other liturgical and sacramental occasions, will certainly open our eyes up and help us see things positively and be a “multitude feeding” disciples in the vineyard of the Lord. May God help us all along in that manner.

Sermon on Matthew 10:5,6

This video contains the audio of my sermon on the Gospel passage for second Sunday after the feast of Pentecost (Matthew 10:5 and 6) with few pictures of me at the Altar, delivered at St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Mannuthy on June 18th 2017.

Jesus and the Canaanite Woman

This video is made of my inaugural class for Marthamariyam Vanitha Samajam annual leadership training camp of Thrissur Diocese held at Chuvannamannu “Anveshi Center for Study and Community Development” (a project of the diocese) on May 19, 2017. Pictures show the center from various angles with few pictures of me from other occasions. The text of the class was Matthew 15:22 ff. Jesus was leading up the Canaanite woman, who was considered as a member of a sub-human community by the Jews, to a level higher than that of the Jews themselves.

What Should We Teach Our Sunday School Children

Making a Point.jpg

I gave the Theme Presentation at the Annual General Body Meeting of the Outside Kerala Region of Orthodox Sunday School Association of the East held at St. Thomas Orthodox Theological Seminary, Nagpur on September 17, 2016. This video contains audio of the presentation with pictures from the meeting on two days.

Watch the Signs in Nature

Meditation for Sept. 18 (Mark 13:28 ff Originally published in ICON).

Yuhanon Mor Meletius Metropolitan, Thrissur

Sign in the Sky.jpg

Here we have a question of reading and interpreting signs in nature.

God reveals Himself through history and through nature. Both are His creations.

Questions of end time were placed before Jesus many times. On one of those occasions Jesus started His reply with the statement that, ‘one need to read the messages of nature’.

Fig tree gives fresh leaves just before the summer and then it gives fruit. Jesus picked this example to reply to the question. Any one who wants to see the message from God needs to look in to history or nature. When Amos was walking among his sycamore tree garden, he found a basket of fruits rotten as the servants may have forgotten to collect them the previous day. God asked him to see it as a message from God (Amos 8:1 ff.). What all God created will have a message to proclaim. The Psalmist says “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Ps. 19:1, 2).

Everything God created in this world was created with a purpose. In the creation narrative, God’s purpose of creating light is explained (Gen. 1: 14, 15). Further it is said, He created everything “each according to its kind…” (Gen. 1:21), which may mean ‘each according to its nature and purpose’. Humans were created to “till and guard” the earth. Fulfilling the purpose itself will be message (Matthew 7:16). Earth (in a larger context, I must say the whole universe) is the arena where God’s love for his creation is manifested. Each creation should give out a message of this love either as a positive act or as a warning. If the warning is not heard, then it brings catastrophe as a consequence. God can not be blamed for the consequence as it is not God who brings the consequence, rather it is the one who does not either give out the message that is supposed to be giving or one who does not listen to the message from nature and history (look at what happened to the fig tree that did not have fruit but had fresh leaves (Matthew 21: 18-21). When there is a message from nature about the kind of situation prevails, creatures other than humans, in the world listens to the change and tries to survive accepting the change. But humans, on the one hand doesn’t proclaim the message of God’s love and on the other hand fails to listen to the message of God given by God created history and nature (Jer. 8:7; 18: 15 etc.). Ezekiel 12: 5 says, “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house”.

People in Kerala have been complaining that every year summer becomes hotter and hotter. UN sponsored Climate Summit held on September 23rd 2014 in New York with 13 nations including US, Brazil, Germany and Zambia participating reported that by 2050 the weather pattern will drastically shift with drought, hurricanes, increased volcanic activity and landslides. The Summit also warns that climate change is the “single biggest risk to the world economy today”. The melting glaziers cause global warming and rise in sea water level. Warnings of nature in this direction have been there since long back. We failed to listen the testimony of the nature. There was a message from the tree and its fruit (of course it is put in the mouth of God by Bible). But Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree that was not supposed to be for food. They failed to listen to the message of the tree and its fruit. That caused human going out of better relations with God, with nature and with fellow humans to make their lives miserable. We all know that it was simply greed or over consumption of resources that caused the  Global Economic Crisis that started in 2008. Many of the countries that were affected have not come out of it yet. We did not quite learn from it though were careful after that for few years. Rather again we have fallen in to the culture of luxury and lavish spending. Those church buildings and associated structures in Kerala itself will tell us the story. Kerala has been famous for steady married life and strong bond in family. But now with the kind of fast forward life style and crazy run after material prosperity and success, relationships are getting disturbed and divorce rate is escalating. Even those religions who are supposed to be preaching and professing peace are spreading but hate messages and promoting terrorism.

Of course the end time many not come tomorrow, but end of peoples’ lives together, end of happiness, end of peaceful living, end of healthy growing up of young generations may come earlier than we think. Listen to the message of nature and see the immanent danger that is to be avoided. God wants us to look in to world around us for a life of peace and love, not to have a premature end. I wish every one a blessed Onam Season.

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