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By Bishop John Abdalah, Diocese of Worcester and New England, and Editor of The Word
The theme for the Conferences this new Church Year is from the Gospel of Luke: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). God calls us to give all, but only after He has given all! He gives all for us. After God created all, He sent His only begotten Son to redeem the world and share His own love with us. He has joined us to Himself. He calls us to do likewise, sharing His word and Spirit and His love. In so doing, we are joined to be one with Him and one with each other. What our neighbors need most is what we need most: Jesus Christ. What a pity that most of the world still doesn’t understand what God has done for the world and what He calls us to be! Calling us to love, with all of our heart, soul and strength, ultimately requires us to be love, as He is love. Loving in God’s way allows us to be joined to God in the love of the Holy Trinity. Loving our neighbor means sharing ourselves, sharing God’s love, sharing His Oneness. This love leads us to share God with our neighbors. Rather, this love allows us to share God who is in us with each other. Ministering to one another allows us to share in God’s own ministry. This ministry is loving with all our heart, soul and strength.
The Antiochian Church in America has done a good job organizing parishes and is constantly improving its worship, music and educational programs. As an Archdiocese, we have more than doubled the size and scope of our Missions Department. New Churches are being organized and candidates for ordination are being educated. This work on the Archdiocese level, although quite admirable, does not take the place of our responsibility at the parish level to do missionary work. We need to “missionize” our own parishioners, as well as the larger community around us. Without this outreach to give our most valuable gift, God’s love and His truth, we will not be Christian, we will not be Orthodox, and we will not be Antiochian. The Church of Antioch, after all, was the place where Christian mission began. We Antiochian Orthodox know how to talk, share the Good news, show hospitality, get excited and work hard. It is time to use all of these skills in our evangelism!
I challenge you to take a look at your parish’s priorities, as well as your personal life and activity. How much time and energy are we devoting to mission and evangelism? How many opportunities to do we take to bring people to Church and share the faith that has been delivered to us from Christ and preserved by our forebears? How much time do we spend in prayer and study, or simply in quietness with God? Evangelism is an important part of our lives. Now that we have built up our organization structures and buildings, it is time that we devote our energies to the Great Commission of baptizing all peoples and sharing the life that God has given us.
I look forward to all of the excitement this year’s conference theme will bring. Think about loving God and neighbor with all our heart, soul and strength, as families, Sunday school classes, parish councils, Antiochian Women groups, Fellowship groups, and Bible studies. Let’s learn together what God wants our families, parishes and Archdiocese to do in this area of evangelism in the Church year 2013–2014.
This editorial by Bishop John was originally published in the October 2013 edition of The Word (Vol. 57, No. 8).