|Bright Monday Procession, 2022|
His final Divine Liturgy was very appropriately for Meatfare Sunday--The Sunday of the Last Judgment. We were moved by his simple and insightful homily about the sheep and the goats--the differences in the ways that they are either led or driven by the shepherd. Fr. John "accidentally" left his printed script behind, which we don't remember him ever doing (this was no accident on God's part), and we typed it up to share with you below. We can honor him by taking this message to heart. [Note the very appropriate bracketed sentence that was not included in his printed script but was added by him spontaneously.]
Fr. John (75) was a retired archpriest of our eparchy who was one of the priests who regularly served us by celebrating the Divine Liturgy in our chapel. Even his sometimes gruff exterior couldn't hide his tender love for us. He was well-loved in the eparchy because of his closeness to the people.
At least once Fr. John told us, "We celibates need to pray for each other (for those living and deceased), because we are the family that we have." Please join us in praying for this brother and father of our celibate family.
Fr. John was out of breath during the Liturgy but assured us he would be seeing his doctor on Monday. He told Mother Cecilia that he would let her know if he could still celebrate Forgiveness Vespers at the monastery the following Sunday (which he had volunteered to do), depending on what the doctor said. He was found at home beside his car at 2:30 in the afternoon, after he did not show up for a planned lunch. Celebrating the Divine Liturgy was his final act on earth, and with strained breaths he praised the Lord.
Fr. John's Last Homily:
Are you a sheep or are you a goat? Are you on the right hand or the left hand of our Lord? We refer to Jesus many times as the Shepherd and we are the sheep who follow Him, in other words He leads us. When you went to the Holy Land did you happen to see any sheep with a shepherd, or any goats? A shepherd gets the attention of the sheep and they follow him when he wants to lead them to better pastures. Goats are driven from the rear, and they go where they want to go. They wander from one thing to another, and they might not be going to the best places. So, are we following the Shepherd and go where He goes, or are we going our own way? He tells the righteous in the Gospel today and is telling us that when we feed the poor, when we welcome strangers or when we visit the sick, what are we doing, we are conforming to Christ's law, the law of love, to love God and love our neighbor. He tells us today when we do all these things for the least ones, we are doing them for Him. I have no doubt that you are the sheep, the followers of the Bridegroom, and you do all these things as members of the monastery. But are there times when you as an individual may want to wander in another direction? Maybe only in thought? I know I try to follow Christ, but there are times that I wander in other directions and need to be herded from behind as a goat is. We are being given a great opportunity during this upcoming Lent. [*It may be our last opportunity; we don't know what the future holds for us.] Fasting and caring we can become better sheep, better followers of Christ. We can better love Christ and those He puts in our lives. If we don't do this, He warns us what will happen--and we hear about the final judgement. All of us need to take heed of this warning, and during this Lent become better sheep.
*Sentence not included in typed script but spontaneously added