THE LORD CHRIST WENT ABOUT DOING GOOD
H.H. POPE SHENOUDA III
Dear brothers, children and fellow citizens,It is my pleasure to express to all of you my best wishes on the New Year and the Glorious Nativity of our Lord. I wish you a happy life and success in all your works.
These happy occasions remind us of the visit of the holy family to Egypt where they moved from one city to another throughout Lower and Upper Egypt. They blessed every inch of the land they set their feet on. We pride ourselves on this holy visit as well as on the prophecy which the Lord uttered in the Book of Isaiah the Prophet, "Blessed is Egypt My people"(Isa.19:25) These words of the divine inspiration include two things on which we pride ourselves: first, that God called us His people; and second, that He blessed us.
Big celebrations will be held for this occasion -God willing- organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, which gives much care to the occasion. All people all over the world are invited to see the places where the Lord Christ spent His early childhood with His mother, Saint Mary, and Joseph the Carpenter. These places embody great historic memories and marks.
The importance of this occasion is highlighted as it corresponds this time with the second millenium of the Lord Christ's Nativity. The whole world receives this occasion with solemn celebrations. The Nativity of the Lord Christ has been an important historic event which divided history into two parts: Pre & Post Nativity.
Celebrating the Nativity of the Lord Christ -glory be to Him- we remember the wonders that accompanied His birth and His life. Let us today concentrate on the wonderful reality: that He "went about doing good"(Acts 10:38). He was a source of hope and salvation for His community, and a source of blessing for whoever He met and for the whole world.The Lord Christ was born in a dark age in which paganism spread as well as slanting philosophy, moral corruption and dominating dictatorship.
It was an age of controversy with God; inspiration stopped, angels appeared no more, and God no more sent His prophets to guide the people. Even the Jewish religious leaders at that epoch deviated from the right path and interpreted the Scriptures according to their own inclinations. The scribes, Pharisees, Seduccees, elders and high priests took the lead and the words of the Lord concerning them have proven true, as He said, "Those who lead you cause you to err"(Isa.3:12)
Amidst this darkness the Lord Christ appeared as a light to the world guiding, teaching, giving the world the example and the model which they should follow. Other lights appeared with Him deriving their light from His, among those were St.Virgin Mary, St.John the Baptist and his family Simon the Elder, Anna the Prophetess and many others.
The corruption of the age does not mean that God's Spirit was not working, and the formless void land flooded with water and wrapped in darkness does not mean that God's Spirit was not hovering over the face of the waters (Gen.1:2)
In every age where people deserve to be drowned by flood, there must be a Noah to witness to the Lord because God does not leave Himself without witness. The same happened in the age of the Lord Christ.
The Lord Christ was a fountain of love to all people. It is written, "Jesus went about all Galilee teaching...., preaching...., and healing all kinds of sickness....and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments....and healed them"(Mt.4:23,24)
He carried the pains of all the people, and said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"(Mt.11:28) He came to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound....to comfort all who mourn(Isa.16:1,2)
He was the hope of those who are hopeless and the help of those who have no helper.
He embraced the forsaken among the Jewish people, like the tax collector and sinners, and opened a gate of hope before them. He accepted Zacchaeus the chief tax collector and entered into his house and led him to repentance. When the Jews complained because He had gone to be a guest with a man who was a sinner, He said to them, "Today salvation has come to this house.....for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost"(Lk.19:7-10) When they grumbled because He accepted Matthew the tax-collector and sat in his house where other tax-collectors gathered, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.....For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repent"(Mt.9:9-13)
He had compassion also on the sinful women and saved them from the leaders of the Jews.
When they wanted to stone a sinful woman caught in adultery, in the very act, He said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first"(Jn.8:7) And to the woman He said, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more".
He had compassion on Mary Magdalene and cast seven demons out of her (Lk.8:2), and she followed Him with others and became a disciple.
When some grumbled because of the woman who anointed His feet with very costly fragrant oil saying that the fragrant oil would have been sold and its price given to the poor, He said to them, "Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial"(Jn.12:7)
He had compassion also of the Canaanite woman and praised her faith.
He pitied the children; for when His disciples rebuked them for crowding around Him, He said to His disciples, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven"(Mt.19:14) He put His hands on them and blessed them. And when His disciples were fought with pride who of them would be the greatest, He set a child in the midst and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven"(Mt.18:1-3)
As He encouraged women, children and sinners, He likewise opened the gate of hope before the Gentiles.
The Jews hated the other nations and had no dealings with them, but the Lord Christ accepted the wise men from the East as the first fruit of the Gentiles. He praised the faith of the Gentile Centurion who asked for his sick servant to be healed, and said about him to the Jews, "I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! ....many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness"(Mt.8:11,12) And to the Canaanite woman He said, "O woman, great is your faith"(Mt.15:28) He entered the city of Samaria and they accepted Him and believed in Him though the Jews had no dealings with Samaritans (Jn.4:39-41)
He was a source of hope to the weak and pitied them.
As said of Him, "A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench"(My.12:20) He gave hope even to the hands which hang down and the feeble knees (Heb.12:12) Therefore the apostle said, "Comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all"(1Thess.5:14)
The Lord Christ sought the salvation of those who cared not for theiur own salvation, He never looked to the sins of the people but to His own love to them.
He gave salvation to the thief on His right at the last moment of his life. He pitied the sinful and the weak, and was firm with the cruel. He taught the people to be simple and "harmless as doves"(Mt.10:16) What beautiful and wonderful works indeed are those expressing His kind-heartedness, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do"(Lk.23:34)
What a lesson for us to go about, like Him, doing good to all the people as He did to Saul of Tarsus whom He called to ministry!
Let our exercise in the New Year be to go about doing good.
Dear brethren, any day that passes without doing good, do not count it of your life; it is a lost day. Know that sin is not just doing evil, for this is the passive side of sin. Refraining from doing good is also a sin, as the apostle says, "Who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is a sin"(Jas.4:17) It is also written, "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor: Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it, when you have it with you"(Prov.3:27,28)
In conclusion, we pray God to do good always to us as He used to do, and to teach us to do good to others.
We pray God to spread peace on earth, especially with the people of Iraq who suffer hunger, disease and poverty.
We pray God on behalf of the Palestinians to have an independent state of sovereignty, and we pray Him for the peace of Lebanon, and continual peace between Syria and Turkey.
We pray God for our country Egypt; for its peace, security and welfare. We pray Him to protect its honest leader President Hosni Mubarak and all who work with him and whoever does good for the country in every field.
Best wishes to all of you.