Sermon: Sunday after Theophany & the Synaxis of Saint John the Baptist

© 2013 by Fr. Rodney Torbic. Reprinted with permission.

Sunday after Theophany

Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned." From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
— Matthew 4:12-17

Synaxis of Saint John the Baptist

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.' I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water." And John bore witness, saying, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God."
— John 1:29-34

The Holy Gospel is full of the power of God. The Holy Gospel changes lives. Attentive readers and listeners to the Holy Gospel are enriched beyond measure. The Holy Gospel is a constant source of nourishment.

Jesus is referred to in the Gospel of Saint Matthew as Light. Individuals living in darkness do well to follow the light of Christ. We know at the time of the Nativity that the star shown over the place where the young Child was (Matthew 2:9).

Christ lights the way for individuals to follow to the Kingdom of God. Christ’s words, teachings, and life in the Holy Gospel provide the nourishment for individuals with hungry souls searching for authenticity in life.

Following and learning about Christ in the Holy Gospel is the secure path in God’s Holy Church. Each Divine Liturgy provides for the proclamation of the Holy Gospel.

Attentive readers and listeners to the Holy Gospel experience the difference the Holy Gospel makes in their personal lives. Joy is found in and through the Gospel. Peace is found in and through the Gospel.

Believers experience Christ in and through the Gospel. The Gospel nourishes and leads to further nourishment in Christ. A believer can never exhaust the learning about Christ in the Holy Gospel.

The Holy Gospel is ever-new and ever-relevant. The Holy Gospel provides Christ’s teachings which last beyond individual lifetimes. The Holy Gospel establishes standards for living that cannot be eroded.

The current reading from the Gospel of Saint Matthew includes Jesus’ words encouraging repentance. Repentance is an ongoing necessity for individuals seeking the Kingdom of God.

Too often, individuals fall into sin. Too often, individuals depart far from the path to the Kingdom of God. Too often, individuals fail to live up to the standards established by Christ.

Repentance is necessary for being reunited with Christ. Repentance is necessary for each new beginning. Repentance leads to forgiveness and the freedom and strength to begin anew in Christ.

John the Baptist was blessed to see the Lord Jesus Christ in person. John the Baptist testified Jesus was the Son of God. John the Baptist’s life would forever be different. John the Baptist has a lasting place in history.

Each person united with Christ and consciously experiencing Christ becomes new and different. Each person’s life is enriched to the degree the person is united with Christ. Renewal takes place in Christ.

Sin gets washed away by Christ. Christ makes individuals whole and spiritually healthy. Christ provides hope that cannot be defeated. Christ provides power for individuals to overcome personal difficulties and problems.

John the Baptist stands out in history through the centuries because of his complete identification with Christ. John the Baptist knew his place with Christ. John the Baptist knew Christ to be far superior. John knew the Son of God.

Too often, individuals in this world forget about Christ. Too often, individuals in this world attribute their blessings and gifts from God to not be from God but of personal origin. Too often, God is forgotten. Too often, Christ is ignored.

John the Baptist recognized the divinity of Christ. John the Baptist knew his personal standing in relationship with Christ. John the Baptist was very observant of his experiences with Christ. He experienced the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

Too often, individuals fail to acknowledge Christ at work in their personal lives. Too often, individuals turn to Christ only in times of crisis and need. Too often, individuals fail to give thanks to God for blessings received.

Each Gospel reading is a new and lasting lesson to be learned. While the mind functions, individuals can learn more about Christ. The soul experiences peace when Christ is the primary interest. The heart and mind are at ease in Christ.

Guilty consciences are relieved when confession and repentance occur. Broken hearts are capable of being mended by Christ. Heavy burdens weighing on minds are lifted by Christ.

Through the prayers of Saint John the Baptist, let us heed the Holy Gospel during the remaining days of our lives. Let us seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).