by Matthew Budiharjo
When Jesus asked the disciples to follow Him, He did not give anything
in return, but only the promise of the Kingdom. In yesterday's Gospel's
reading Christ invites us, "if any one will come after me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross and follow me." Usually we are invited
to a party or a banquet. But Christ's invitation is actually a request
to sacrifice ourselves for a better choice, that is paradise. In his
invitation Christ asks us to be His disciples. To be a disciple of
Christ requires a lot of sacrifice. When Jesus asked His disciples to
follow him in the beginning of his ministry the Apostles sacrificed
many things: their work, families, and friends. Though they know that
following Christ is to have many enemies, yet their faith in Christ
overrides those fears and worries.
feast was the Veneration of the Holy Cross. The cross meant a great
deal for Christ. Through the cross Christ died so that He can descend
into Hades and destroy the power of death. Through the Cross Christ has
died and risen. His resurrection means that the power of death has been
conquered. Christ is the greatest teacher of sacrifice. He sacrifices
his own life in order to save us from the power of death. He knows that
he will die on the cross, and he could avoid it, but he does not. He
even carries his own cross through the street of Jerusalem to the mount
of Golgotha. The same cross which the soldiers will use to crucify Him.
The event of the crucifixion shows who we really are. God so loves us
that He sacrifices His only begotten Son to save us, but our tendency
to rebel still makes it difficult to have faith in Him.
asks us to pick up our cross and follow Him, He means that we crucify
ourselves from the temptations of this world. We resist all its
temptations: individualism, pride, gambling, drunkenness, gluttony,
hatred, jealousy. Following Christ will not get us the richness of this
world, but we become the sons and the daughters of God. We will not
become rich because we are Christians, but we will inherit the Kingdom
You for example, you chose to come to this school so
that you could save someone else's soul. I call that a sacrifice. You
could become a lawyer, an engineer, a scientist, a doctor, or a
businessman, instead you come here preparing yourself for the
priesthood. You know you will not become rich but you come here anyway.
You are concerned about preserving the Orthodox faith. The faith that
we hold so dearly. Your only concern is to save people who are lost,
give food to the hungry, give cloth to the naked, visit the sick. You
sacrifice yourselves trying to make this world a better place to live.
You choose to fight evil. And you know this fight will not be easy, but
you do it anyway.
I would like to tell you a true story. A story
about commitment, faith, and sacrifice. About five years ago, a young
Muslim from a pious Muslim family and the son of an imam, an Islam
clergy, left his village in West Java for Central Java to look for a
job, but he could not find any. He was alone, no friends, no family,
and he was searching for any job he could find, but still he could not
find one. One day he met a Christian and he was invited to a Bible
study. He came and he asked many questions about Christianity and the
differences between the Christian faith and the Islam faith. It is
usually uncommon for a Muslim to come to a Christian Bible study.
long after the event of the Bible study he told the priest that he
wanted to be baptized a Christian. The priest was happy but at the same
time he was worried. For a Muslim to become a Christian is a great
offense against their God, and he must be killed according to Islamic
law. So the priest gave him instructions on the Christian faith,
Tradition, and dogmas. Later on he was baptized with the name of
Then he went home to tell his family that he converted
into Christianity. And you can imagine what happened next. His father
became very angry. He took a knife and went after Photius, but his
brother saved him and told him to leave immediately. He left and never
came back. Now he is married and lives in East Java. He lost his entire
family because he decided to follow Christ. His only family is us the
Orthodox Christians who love him and care for him. His is not richer
than before but he is a faithful Christian who is building his richness
in heaven. He now helps the missionary work in East Java.
follow Christ is to be his disciple and his witness. To be the witness
of Christ is not easy, it takes a lot of patience, discipline, and
determination. We witness our faith through our lives and actions.
Through our lives and our actions we demonstrate our beliefs as
Christians. There are many things that we can do. We can visit our
friends, our neighbor, or any body who are sick in the hospital. Maybe
on a certain day we can collect non perishable foods and donate them to
the soup kitchen, or we can volunteer ourselves to help in the soup
kitchen. We can collect our old clothes that are still good, clean them
and donate them to the Salvation Army, for example. We can do many
things to help the poor, the hungry, the sick, the naked, the weak.
you are ready, you can become a missionary, either here or overseas.
Some of our own people leave our community because of misunderstanding,
and go blindly to another faith. It is up to us to bring them back to
the our Lord Jesus Christ. We can make this our missionary activity. We
must become an active witness to our faith in our public life, to show
them what Christian life is all about by our example. Some of us in
this school or someone you know have already gone to other countries to
be missionaries. They went to Uganda, Kenya, Slovakia, Zaire, Poland,
Jerusalem, Russia. They went there to help our brothers and sisters in
the faith to built their churches and to strengthen their faith. They
let them know that they are not alone. They show them that their
brothers and sisters form afar care for them, love them, and worship in
the same faith.
So, let us make this feast of the Veneration of
the Holy Cross as our starting point to be the true disciples and
witnesses of Christ. We take time off in our busy schedule to celebrate
this feast and to remember the day when Christ was crucified. Christ is
the best example of sacrificing oneself for others. Christ's sacrifice
was not an object that you can buy or sell, but a sacrifice of self so
that through his death he gives life to all. Brothers and sisters be
the true followers of Christ. For as adopted children of God through
our baptism, we are one family, one body, one community in Christ.
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