FROM THE DESK OF THE ARCHBISHOP AND APOSTOLIC HEAD
Sir Dr. Godfrey Gregg
The Lord be with you.
All: And also with you.
Let us pray.
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God, by the example of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, You have taught us the greatness
of true humility, and now have called us to watch with Him in His suffering. Help us to take the towel and basin and in humbleness of spirit to wash the feet of those who most need our ministry. Give us the graciousness to serve one another in all lowliness and thus fulfill the law of love on the Name of Your Servant, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A reading from the word of God taken from Gospel of St. Matthew chapter 24:1-14
24:1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.
24:2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
24:4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
24:5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
24:6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
24:7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
24:8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
24:11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
24:12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
Do you recognize God’s action and signs in the world today? Jesus foretold many signs of God’s action and judgment. To the great dismay (feelings of anxiety) of the Jews, Jesus prophesied the destruction of their temple at Jerusalem. The Jewish people took great pride in their temple, a marvel of the ancient world. The foretelling of this destruction was a dire judgment in itself. They sought Jesus for a sign that would indicate when this would occur. Jesus admonished them to not seek signs but rather to seek God’s kingdom. There will be plenty of signs – such as wars, famines, diseases, tidal waves and earthquakes – pointing to God’s ultimate judgment.
Jesus’ prophecy is a two-edged sword, because it points not only to God’s judgment, but also to his saving action and mercy. Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem and the dire consequences for all who would reject him and his saving message. While the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple was determined, there remained for its inhabitants a narrow open door leading to deliverance. Jesus says: “I am the door; whoever enters by me will be saved” John 10:9. Jesus willingly set his face toward Jerusalem, knowing that he would meet betrayal, rejection, and death on a cross. His death on the cross, however, brought about victory and salvation, not only for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but for all – both Jew and gentile – who would accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Is your life securely submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ?
If the gospel message is good news, then why do so many oppose it with hostility and even violence? Jesus warns his followers that they will be confronted with persecution, wickedness, false teaching, and temptation. The real enemy of the gospel is Satan who uses fear and hatred to provoke hostility in others towards those who follow Christ. And what is Jesus’ response to this hostility and opposition? Love and truth. Only love can defeat prejudice, intolerance, and hatred. God’s love purifies our hearts and minds of all that would divide and tear people apart.
The truth is also essential for overcoming evil and tribulation in the world. Satan deceives and sin blinds the heart and mind. Only God’s truth can free us from error and spiritual blindness. This gospel is God’s word of truth and salvation. That is why Jesus tells his disciples to proclaim the gospel throughout the whole world, even in the midst of opposition and persecution. Even when men through hatred, jealousy and envy try to destroy the Spirit of Truth. Preach the word still to the fullest till everyone hears the truth.
You will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake Jesus tells his disciples that if they “endure to the end” they will be saved – they will see God’s salvation and inherit eternal life and happiness with God. Endurance is more than human effort and perseverance. It is a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit which enables us to bear up under trials, temptations, and persecution. Endurance is strengthened with hope – the supernatural assurance that we will see God face to face and inherit all the promises he has made. Jesus is our supreme model and hero who endured the cross for our sake Hebrews 12:2. Jesus willingly shed his blood for our sake and for our salvation and he calls us to love and to die to ourselves in like manner.
The word “martyr” in Greek means “witness”. The Book of Revelations says that “Jesus was the faithful witness …who freed us from our sins by his blood” Rev. 1:5. In Fox’s book of Martyrs these words are recorded. “The blood of the martyrs is seed.” Their blood is the seed of new Christians, the seed of the church. I say to you “When persecution comes, God’s soldiers are put to the test, and heaven is open to faithful witnesses (martyrs). We have not enlisted in an army to think of peace and to decline battle, for we see that the Lord has taken first place in the conflict.” True witnesses live and die as martyrs of the gospel. They overcome their enemies through persevering hope and courage, sacrificial love and forbearance, kindness and compassion.
One man wrote of the sufferings, “The martyrs were bound, jailed, scourged, racked, burned, rent, butchered – and they multiplied!” Why is this the case? The Christian martyrs witnessed to the truth, joy, and freedom of the gospel, by their life, their testimony, and by the shedding of their own blood. Today unfortunately we witness many extremists and misguided individuals who will sacrifice their lives, and kill others in the process, out of hatred, revenge, and prejudice. From a Christian point of view, they are not true martyrs because their sacrifice is not motivated by God’s merciful love and forgiveness, truth and righteousness. So today let us be mindful of our surroundings. Jesus choose twelve and one was to betray him.
True witnesses (martyrs) pray for their persecutors and love their enemies. In their suffering and in their death they witness the truth of the gospel – that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16. Jesus died on the cross for Jews and Greeks, Christians and Muslims, Catholics and atheists. Satan seeks to destroy our faith through the fear of death and he incites others to persecute Christians for their faith in Christ. Martyrs who shed their blood for Jesus Christ win great victory, not only for themselves, but for the whole people of God. The martyrs overcome Satan by enduring death through their faith in Christ who died and rose for us. And through their witness many others recognize the victory of the cross and believe in the gospel. The martyrs witness to the truth – the truth of Jesus Christ and his power to overcome sin and fear, hatred and prejudice, and even death itself. What gives courage and confidence to the martyrs is the firm hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life and happiness with God.
God may call some of us to be martyrs for our faith. But for most of us, our call is to be ‘dry’ martyrs who bear testimony to the joy and power of the gospel in the midst of daily challenges, contradictions, temptations and adversities which come our way as we follow the Lord. What most attracts others to the truth and power of the gospel? When they see Christians loving their enemies, being joyful in suffering, patient in adversity, pardoning injuries, and showing comfort and compassion to the hopeless and the helpless. Jesus tells us that we do not need to fear our adversaries. God will give us sufficient grace, strength, and wisdom to face any trial and to answer any challenge to our faith. Are you eager to bear witness to the joy and freedom of the gospel? The Mystical Order is a challenge and only the faithful will survive. Are you ready to face the truth?
“Lord, by your cross you have redeemed the world. Fill me with joy and confidence and make me a bold witness of your saving truth that others may know the joy and freedom of the gospel.” Teach us to number our days and apply our hearts unto wisdom. May the grace and peace of our Father fill our hearts and move this Mystical Order to a higher level. May our Elders be so anointed to take the word forward in this adulterous generation. I pray divine blessings on our Patriarch and Clergy of this Noble Order. Establish the Church in Trinidad and Tobago and crown the elders with skills to lead.