Der Vasken's Sermon on August 20, 2017
Aug 22, 2017
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
"And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation."
These are the rare words of St. Mary as she shared her feelings about why God selected her to give birth to His Son in this world. Today, the Armenian Church continues the celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of St. Mary. It's a celebration that continues for nine days. And throughout these nine days our Church focuses its Bible readings around the central role St. Mary played in nurturing the infant Jesus. The Feast of the Assumption is a wonderful summer holy day. The Church has celebrated the Assumption of Mary in one way or another for about fifteen centuries. This feast draws together the whole lifetime of Mary.
In today's Gospel reading we hear Mary--a young girl about sixteen years old--speaking of God's love and justice. And then we fast-forwarded to about a half century later to her burial, when she is taken into God's Kingdom body and soul. She is the very first person to share completely in the promises of the Christian faith. She shared closely and deeply in Jesus' life and ministry and death. And she shares a special and unique place in His Resurrection. She is our glimpse into Heaven. Through her Assumption into Heaven, we learn a very important lesson.
- It's a lesson most people forget.
- It's the lesson that Jesus' Resurrection is transferable to us.
- It's the lesson that eternal life is ours for the taking.
- It's the lesson that tells us what we most want to know.
"Will we be with our loved ones again someday? What is Heaven like and who will be there waiting for us?" She offers us a glimpse into Heaven.
Today, we hear the heartfelt words of St. Mary and that's a treat because her words are limited in the Bible. With these words, Mary "opens up her heart" and shows the joy inside. She was deemed worthy to become the Mother of the Lord and that filled her with great joy. But about halfway through the passage, Mary's words change from words of joy to words of advice for others. She says: "And God's mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation." Great words. Comforting words. These words offer encouragement. They show us that God is with us at all times in both the joys of life and the sorrows of life; in our days of health and our days of illness; in the good days and bad days. God is with those who invite Him into their lives. This is the promise of St. Mary.
Now what does it mean to "fear" God? "The mercy of God is on those who fear Him..." she says. The word "fear" in a biblical sense can mean more than being afraid. For St. Mary, fear means to respect the ways of God, to do as God expects and to simply obey His teachings. In other words, follow the teachings of God and you will enjoy His presence in your eternal life. It means take a look at the people God has placed in your life--your family, friends, children, spouses, parents, co-workers, whoever it may be--and take the storms in their lives and bring out a rainbow. Help turn their tear into a smile. For every trial they face, become a blessing to them. For every sigh they express, be a source of comfort.
So the words of St. Mary are as relevant for us today as when she first spoke them. We are to use our time in this world, no matter how long or short that is, for the glory of God, to help meet each other's needs and to spread His Light everywhere we walk in this world. "The mercy of God is extended to all who fear Him from generation to generation." May we all take the time to think about how we personally "fear" the Lord.
We are to use our time in this world, no matter how long or short, for the glory of God, to help meet with other's needs and to spread His Light everywhere we walk in this world. Something we should all think about.