His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH's Enthronement Banquet Address
September 12, 2004
Los Angeles, California
This has been a very busy day! We have seen history being made in the worship of God and the blessings He has bestowed on us. We are here now enjoying the fruit of the labors of those before us, and we work now to prepare for the future. IS our future bright? I say ‘yes’ as I look at all of you, remembering the many sacrifices so many of you have made for the sake of this Archdiocese, for your parishes and for the people you have served.
We are so very honored to have with us His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, who has served with selfless love and honor for over 35 years. By yielding himself to the Gospel, and tirelessly working for the preaching of the Orthodox faith, we have seen God grow this Archdiocese from a small immigrant community to a rich and diverse family that is expanding almost beyond our ability to keep up.
These are times of change, as we try to adjust to the constant growth we experience each day. This is not easy, as we must continue to serve the faithful flock, go after the lost sheep and proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven to those looking for the true Church. As we struggle in our daily lives, we are constantly reminded that there is so much more to life rather than worldly cares.
If we lift up our hearts from the daily grind, we can experience the joy of life in Jesus Christ. If we realize God’s protection and care for us, we can abandon fear and live in total freedom. If we courageously move out from our tiny world of material comfort, we can experience the mysteries of God’s infinite mercies.
Through the eyes of faith, we see the possibilities of goodness in all things. No longer do we have to live in insecurity and shame. The universe is transformed by our own vision of God’s love for us all. The people we think are our enemies or have done us wrong are seen with love, and we can forgive them and be at peace with all.
Unity is the key. If we refuse to be united, then we reject the love and forgiveness that our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated on the Cross. Our Lord was so committed to the unity of mankind that He died even for those who hated Him. His outstretched arms embraced all people. He draws all mankind to Himself, and by restoring our communion with God, He restores our communion with one another. This is unity: to be patient, forgiving and tolerant of all people. With God’s love, we can look past conflict and see the things we share with others. We may not always agree, but that does not scare us. We see something more: the Heavenly Kingdom.
On this day, we celebrate the memory of one such man who saw the Heavenly Kingdom. He preached the word of God to the unbelievers, tore down the pagan temples and converted many to Jesus Christ. He built a great church. He ordained priests, established communities throughout Asia and taught the masses.
His Eminence knows of whom I am speaking. This great apostle’s name is Saint Autonomos! I do not think this is any coincidence that we are celebrating the establishment of this diocese, which is the direct result of our new self-ruling status, on St. Autonomos’ feast. This saint is a model for our own work as an Archdiocese, to spread the Good News of the Orthodox Faith to North America. This diocese shall be committed to this work, the work of St. Autonomos, the work commanded by God for us to carry out.
My words to you today are not my own. Having been raised on the food of the Scripture, what I am saying now is the joyous proclamation of St. Peter. Listen to this passage from his second epistle:
“[God’s] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.
For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:3-11)
My beloved, as we hear these joyous words of the Apostle, let us renew our hope and strength. Faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love…these are all ours if we remain loyal to Jesus Christ, the Church, this Archdiocese, this Diocese, our parish community and to one another. Each of these blessings builds us up to the next, so that we may pass from glory to glory, hope to hope, joy to joy.
May God bless you all.