His Eminence Archbishop Serafim of Zimbabwe
The Patriarchate of Alexandria
English translation of Sermon given on 5 July 2021
In today’s gospel (Matthew 4, 18-23) we read that four of the most important disciples of Christ, they follow him at his call. They abandon everything without hesitation and doubt. They sacrifice everything to become Disciples of Christ.
In the global crisis we live in, with pandemics and the ecological disasters of our planet, perhaps we should add to today’s Gospel reading the verse of Matthew 4, 17 which the Apostle Matthew very wisely included as an introduction to this day’s Gospel reading. This verse is very important for many reasons. First, it emphasizes the beginning of the preaching of Jesus Christ. And second the first thing that he emphasized is “Repentance (metanoia)” and the Kingdom of Heaven. “From then on, Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the kingdom of heaven is near”.
The preaching of repentance (metanoia) leads to a new way of life and a new way of thinking. It is also the first thing that St. John the Forerunner emphasized, who by the Providence of God prepared the way for Jesus Christ. The preaching of repentance is also emphasized by the Apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, which is considered the Birthday of the Church (“Repent” Acts 2,38).
The life of the first Christian community that lived in repentance is a living example for modern society, to protect the victims of climate change from our ecological sins. “No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had…. There were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4, 32-34).
The preaching of repentance is emphasized again on the day of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, (“repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name” (Luke 24, 47).
The scientific community of the United Nations in its study of Climate Change emphasizes that human actions are the main cause and humans are responsible for the pollution of the atmosphere and the ecological disasters that threaten the survival of humanity and the destruction of our planet. The only way to change things and protect Humanity, and ensure hope for the future is to repent of our ecological sins and start living a new way of life with a new way of thinking, in the example of the Apostles of Jesus Christ.
We must protect our fellow human beings and the whole Creation of God, as it is a gift for all future generations. St. John the Baptist calls us to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3, 8), with our well-intended decision to share what we have with those who have nothing, “ he who has two tunics, give one to him who does not have, and he who has food to do the same” (Luke 2,11).
The Book of Genesis, in describing the Creation of the world and the flood of Noah, clearly states that the causes of destruction of our planet come from human corruption; that is, from all the injustices we commit against our fellow human beings (Genesis 6, 10-13).
Our Church, in order to carry out its work successfully today, needs people with the same virtues and the same self-sacrifice as the Apostles. But this is only one dimension of the work of our Church towards salvation. The second dimension that should characterize the life of our Church is its character of the global universality of its Gospel message, as we observe today through our Missionary ministry developing across the Universe.
The second dimension of the salvation ministry of our Church is its continuous effort to convey the Gospel message of repentance and salvation to all people, to all ethnicities, to black and white people, to young and old, to all races on earth, and to help and protect orphans and widows, the persecuted and those oppressed, the poor, the sick, refugees and migrants and the elderly, the disabled and all those innocent children suffering from autism and the spectrum of other conditions that they bear no responsibility over.
Our lives are common, and we can make our lives beautiful if we leave space in our hearts for the Great figure of Jesus Christ to reign, with our unconditional love and charity and kindness in every direction. Only if we let Christ guide us in our lives do we have hope to live in a better world that will lead us to the eternal Paradise.
Therefore, at the beginning of the public sermons and preaching of Jesus Christ and at the call of his first Disciples and Apostles, repentance and the Kingdom of Heaven are emphasized, with a living example in our daily life, the ministry of the holy Apostles.
That is why in today’s apostolic reading (Romans 2, 10-16), the Apostle Paul teaches “glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works toward what is good.” Those who do not live in repentance (metanoia), as did happen with Zacchaeus who showed his repentance by changing his life, by restoring social justice for his injustices, sharing his possessions with those whom he wronged (Luke 19, 1-10).
The Apostle Paul tells us in today’s Apostolic passage that all people will be judged worthy of the Kingdom of heaven according to three criteria: The Jews, whether they obey the Law of Moses; the Christians, if they obey the commandments of Jesus Christ, meaning if we protect the sick and the wronged and the whole Creation of God, especially our Planet, from ecological catastrophes and disasters; and all other humans, according to their conscience, in the sense that they can judge good from evil and unjust from just.
Ultimately, ecological repentance from our ecological sins, leads to a new way of life, to live without polluting our planet and without doing wrong to our fellow human beings with our social injustices. This is the only way to protect humanity and the survival of the Planet, as a gift from God for all generations, even those who have not yet been born, because if we continue to live the way we currently do, they will inherit a living hell on Earth.