Weekly Wednesday Sermon

 

Monday September 23, 2019
Spiritual Manhood
H.H. Pope Tawadros II – Weekly Wednesday Sermon - September 18, 2019

1 Corinthians 16:13 –
“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” (KJV)
“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” (NKJV)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. One God. Amen. May His grace and mercy rest upon us, from now and forevermore. Amen.

I will read a portion with you from Chapter 7 of the Book of Acts, the story of the stoning of St. Stephen. As you were singing earlier, “Our Church is a Church of heroes, from generation to generation and across all generations,” St. Stephen is the first martyr and one of the heroes of the Church.
Toward the end of the story of the stoning of St. Stephen in Acts 7, beginning in verse 54 it says:
54 When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth (a case and condition of extreme anger)
55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God (this is what heroes do), and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
56 and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened (a hero sees heaven opened) and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord;
58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

1 Now Saul was consenting to his death. (Acts 8:1)

The grace of God the Father be with us all. Amen.

I congratulate all of you on these days of celebrating the Feast of Nayrouz (the Coptic New Year), the Feast of the Martyrs. The Church teaches us to observe this celebration and to celebrate from the first day of the month of Tout and all the way until the Feast of the Cross on the 17th of Tout, and even through the three days of the Feast of the Cross, which ends on the 19th of Tout. And this celebration is not merely a change in the Church’s prayer tune and hymns, but we celebrate in order that we may continue to carry the memory of the martyrs, the heroes, for our Church is a Church of heroes and history proves this.

Every once in a while I change the Wednesday night meeting from being a talk to address the general congregation to one specifically addressing the youth. We continue with this in tonight’s meeting being another youth meeting, and this is a good opportunity for all of us to experience the youth’s way of thinking.

Today I want to talk to you about spiritual manhood, and the commandment that you all know says, “Be like men,” and when we read the stories of our martyrs we see that truly, they were men. And today we commemorate St. Rebekah and her children, who were all martyred – she was a mother and her children included both males and females, but all of them were as men. They all demonstrated spiritual manhood and were heroes.

And I plead with you young people, that you see this in a spiritual way, that you see the spiritual dimension throughout all of tonight’s discussion.

Examples of spiritual manhood from the Holy Bible

In the Book of Exodus the Prophet Moses tells Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight” (Exo 17:9) – men. And in his last will and words to his son Solomon the wise, the Prophet David tells Solomon, “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man” (1 Kg 2:2) – be strong and be a man.

And the matter of spiritual manhood has nothing to do with whether a person is a boy or a girl, old or young, rich or poor, educated or not educated; spiritual manhood is something completely different. For example, even though he was a child of 12 years, we consider Abanoub Al-Nahisy to have been a man, and add to that the many different examples and types of martyrs, as you were hymning earlier about many of their good characteristics.

My dear young people, as we celebrate the Feast of Nayrouz we are celebrating a feast of spiritual manhood, that a person be have the qualities of a man. And you may ask me, “What does it mean to be a man? Does being a man mean to have big muscles, to be big and tall, to be a heavy-weight, and to be able to participate in aggressive sports and exercises? What does it mean to be a man?”

What is spiritual manhood?

First of all, this commandment is directed to a Christian person, whether they are a man or a woman.
Second of all, it is not related to age.
Third, it speaks of a level of maturity, that a person be appropriately matured. Meaning what? Meaning that a person demonstrates a sufficient level of spiritual maturity in order that when he or she experiences the ultimate test, which is the test of martyrdom, that he or she would go through it with the qualities of manhood.

The story of the 22 martyrs of Libya which happened 3 or 4 years ago may still be fresh in our minds and it is a good example of spiritual manhood, but manhood is not only demonstrated in martyrdom but it is also demonstrated in life. When we say that our Church is a Church of martyrs and we tell the stories of martyrs, we are telling the stories of people who lived out this spiritual heroism in all its aspects and all its meanings, and so let me talk to you about this for a little bit.

4 traits of a person who wants to demonstrate spiritual manhood

The first thing about spiritual manhood – and again, I am not talking about a “man” in the sense of gender, but about a man in the sense of a human or a person, as we say in Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man.” The Psalmist here does not mean “man” in the sense of gender, but “the man” in the sense of “the person.”

1-Do not be influenced by trends & live by principles

The first characteristic of a person who demonstrates spiritual manhood is that he or she is not influenced by trends but they have their own character. And what happens is that a person who has not yet attained a level of spiritual maturity is tossed to and fro by every word they hear; he reads one story and it throws him to the right, he reads another story and it swings him to the left.

And in this way such a person is weak and does not know his path, and as the circumstances around him change he does not know for himself where he is going nor his own path. For example, it is exactly like one walking down the street who stops to ask for directions to a certain place. One person tells him to go left, another person tells him to go right, then he sees a beautiful street so he goes off the path to explore it, then he goes off to another street because it is more quiet, busy, or interesting – he does not know what he wants.

Please, be a person of character. Do not allow yourself to be like the person described in the folk proverb that says, “On the outside beautiful, and on the inside, only God knows.” Oh yes, from the outside one may appear to be of strong character and may even have a good position, but only God knows his internal condition. And so the first thing about spiritual manhood is that a person not be influenced by trends but that he has his own stable character.

And just to clarify this point even further, a person who is not influenced by trends means that they live by a set of principles. We remember the story of the young man Joseph, He placed certain principles before him and he let these principles guide his character. Two other points about a person who is not influenced by trends is that they are a person who is always thinking and does not deviate off the path just because they heard a word here or there, and at the same time this person knows his exact path.

And so do not leave yourself to chance and be careful, because in our day and age the most dangerous thing that we all face is to be lost in life – when a person is just lost in this life. A person may be attending university or school or work, or whatever they may be doing, and yet they may be lost. Beware of being lost in life and do not be influenced by the many current trends, hype, news, and current events.

For example, a person whom when today the world is praising this person, they praise with them, and when tomorrow they are cursing that person, they curse with them, where is this person’s character? Where is your discernment as to how to distinguish between the good from the bad?

2-Be grateful

The second characteristic of a spiritually mature person is that they always avoid rebellion and complaining. I sit with all kinds of people and people from all economic levels, and whether for the 15 or 30 minutes I sit with him or her, a person may end up complaining the entire time and when this happens, I immediately know that this person is empty on the inside. But there is another person who has a positive perspective on life, he will at least look at life with gratitude.

Look at St. Stephen while he was in the very moments of being stoned, in this very difficult situation, surrounded by people gnashing their teeth, gnashing their teeth with anger, each one carrying a stone to throw at him, and yet he is in the utmost peace and gratitude, giving thanks to God, so much so that he was even to the point of praying to God for the people who were stoning him!

Are you a rebellious person? Are you someone who doesn’t like things the way they are? Always complaining? Is your tongue always criticizing everything? Do you look at life through a dark lens? There are many positive things about life.

And I want to share with you that across all the ages, we never hear of a martyr who spoke a wrong word or a hurtful word or a word of rebellion, or even stood before the Lord and said, “Lord, what is this You are doing to me?” They never did this but they were always in a state of thanksgiving.

And we hear, for example, of the martyr whom after they had tortured and persecuted her, even though she was a newlywed bride, asked that she die dressed in her wedding gown. What kind of a soul is this! What great soul-assurance she must have had! I wonder, what is your inner attitude like?

There is a person whom when you sit with them, they will complain about Mr. A and Mrs. B and Mr. C and about every other letter in the alphabet, but there is another person whose view on life is that life is good and that there are many wonderful things about life.

A person may say to me, “But what about how difficult it is to put food on the table and the state of the economy and the value of the Egyptian pound and the dollar going up and down? Life is so hard.” This person doesn’t like anything at all, and if you were to answer him on this one point, he would immediately bring up another point to complain about, right away – “Oh, but things are getting so expensive. This thing used to cost this much and now look how much it costs!” But where is the gratitude? Where is your life of thanksgiving? Have you nothing good to give thanks for?

I like very much when people say, “As long as the Lord has given us good health and covers us, we are grateful. We thank You Lord for good health and for Your covering us.” These are the two most precious things God gives a person along the journey of their life.

3- Be faithful

So again, the first characteristic of a spiritually mature person is that they are not influenced by trends, the second is that they avoid rebellion and complaining, which includes avoiding attitudes of superstition and depression and the words “it is hopeless.”

The third point that completes the triangle of spiritual maturity is a life of absolute faithfulness – a person’s faithfulness and honesty. And faithfulness is a personal matter between each person and their God – your faithfulness in your work, with your family, in your church, in your Church service, and in your personal life … your faithfulness.

You may have heard that in Egypt we now have an agency for the combatting of corruption, yes, corruption, because corruption results from lack of faithfulness and corruption holds back nations. And the United Nations has a test that measures the level of honesty in every nation and gives each nation a rating, and so we want to increase our level and rating along that scale. Are you honest in your life?

My dear young people, one of the weaknesses we have among us as Egyptian youth is this thing you may have heard of called “street-smarts,” have you heard of it? Oh yes, being street-smart, but street-smarts can never build a person nor a nation nor a church nor a ministry. And what is even more important than that is that being street-smart will not get you to heaven, and so fine, live your life being street-smart but you will not get to heaven, and so even if being street-smart helps you succeed here on earth, but it will not get you into heaven.

And so, are you living faithfully? I wonder if you remember the beautiful verse that says, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10)? Do you remember this verse of Scripture? And notice that this verse is in the Book of Revelation, which means it is the final Book that will connect us to heaven, and it is also stated in the format of a command: “Be!”

“Be faithful until death” – this part is to be done here on earth, “and I will give you the crown of life” – this part is to be had in heaven. Do not think that the words of the Bible are just some beautiful words on paper and that is all; these are commandments, and they are conditional commandments, so in this case: If you are not faithful, you will not attain the kingdom of heaven – this is the summary of it. And so we see that the crown of life is related to having this precious faithfulness in our lives.

In 1 Corinthians 16:13 the Apostle Paul tells us, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (KJV), and another version states it as, “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (NKJV). Pay attention to these short Scripture verses that are in the format of a commandment.

“Watch” – this means pay attention.
“Stand fast in the faith” – the life of steadfastness.
“Be like men” – spiritual maturity, a personality that is mature, a person you can depend upon, so dependable that even heaven depends upon you to be a witness for it.

Now regarding this beautiful image of a spiritually mature person that we are talking about, a young person may ask me, “You talk about these traits of a spiritually mature person, that they are someone who is not influenced by trends nor by hype, they are a person who is grateful (avoids rebellion and complaining), and that they are a person who lives by faithfulness and honesty, and so how are we young men and women to apply this in our lives? Does it mean that we should be rough and tough in our lives and in how we deal with others?”

No, that is not what this means. I am going to tell you what masculinity and femininity are from both a practical perspective and a spiritual perspective.

4 traits of true masculinity and manhood

1-A sense of duty

The first quality in masculinity or manhood is having a sense of duty. A sense of duty means that a person is ready to sacrifice, ready to serve, he is not a person who is selfish nor self-centered. And when this person gets married some day and has his own family, this sense of duty goes with him and he is always ready to sacrifice, as Christ sacrificed Himself for all of us.

2-Bravery

A second and very beautiful quality of manhood is the quality of bravery, and by bravery here we mean a person who is able to face difficulties, that when he faces a difficult situation he does not try to escape. A person who runs away from facing difficulties does not deserve to be called a man.

Bravery is not in words - to just say whatever you want to say or speak curse words, this is not what manhood is. Bravery is not when a person has an impure tongue or speech - this is not what manhood is. Bravery is not when a person depends on his muscles or physical strength, this also is not what manhood is.

Manhood means bravery, and bravery means that a person is able to face the situations of life. Some people, when confronted with situations, they will throw the responsibility on someone else or they will run away from the situation or they will avoid confronting it.

3-Leadership

The third quality of true manhood is the quality of leadership. Why did the Lord create man first? So that he would help lead the family, and when we say that the man is the head of the family, this means that he leads the family. And leadership here is a role, so if we say that the man is the head of the family, we say that the woman is the heart of the family, and the two work together, but there has to be a leader.

And what does it mean to be a leader? It means to have the ability to organize that which needs to be done – whether within the family, within Church service, or within society. There is a person who does not know how to organize what needs to be done, even if his responsibility is very small like in a small family or in a minor service work.

What did Christ do? It tells us that as soon as He began His ministry He chose 12, and they stayed with Him and He taught and discipled them. And when they had learned and matured, He sent them out to evangelize and He began taking them along with Him on every occasion – to miracles, to meetings with various people, to important events, and to teaching occasions, like times when He taught with parables. The ability to organize.

There is a person who organizes his life, his life is well-ordered, but there is another person, I’m sorry to say, his life is haphazard. And as we said earlier about street-smarts, haphazardness is another weakness that does not build a person, nor a family, nor a nation, nor anything at all. God created the world with order and life is lived in order.

And so here, leadership means that a person is able to organize work, whatever work he may be involved in. Have you ever watched a maestro? He holds no instrument in his hand yet the musicians understand and respond to the mere motions of his hand, and thus the maestro begins to lead a large group of musicians before him – whether 20, 30, 50, or 100 people – and with a single motion of his hand a melody will come forth. Teach yourself to be organized.

Take for example a student who instead of studying in an organized manner depends on street-smarts in his studies to pass his tests, even if he were to succeed now and then along the way, what will he ever accomplish?

We once had a student at the ecclesiastical college who got 49.5 out of 100 on a test. So the student’s father went to the bishop who was responsible for the college at the time – this story is about 20 or 25 years old – and he said to the bishop, “How is it that my son would get 49.5 out of 100, that he should fail by just half a point?”

And in all gentleness the bishop-father looked at him and said, “Know this my son, that your son did not fail by half a point but he failed by 50.5 points.” Do you see this? He failed by 50.5 points because he should have gotten what? He should have gotten 100 out of 100. This is success, and this depends on the ability to be organized – for one to organize their studies, to organize their life.

But there is a person who says, “Oh whatever, let things come as they may,” but what does that mean? What about your role, your part? What about your mind? Where is your manhood?

4-Seriousness

And so manhood means to have a sense of duty, bravery, leadership, and the fourth quality of manhood is seriousness. Take life seriously and not haphazardly. And what does seriousness mean? It means that a person is clear and straightforward in fulfilling their responsibilities.

For example, a student is clear and serious in his studies. He knows that education is a stage of life and it will pass, as the Apostle Paul reminds us in a very serious warning in the Letter to the Ephesians saying, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16). “For the days are evil” he says, wow! What a great perspective is this that St. Paul shares with us. And so seriousness, a serious person.

And by the way, seriousness does not mean that a person walk around with a frown on their face or to walk around being critical of things or upset with life’s circumstances, not at all. Seriousness means that a person does their work, whatever it may be, with all faithfulness and that he is clear about the work that needs to be done; he knows his path and knows his way.

And this is important for both priests and young people in their Church service work, in their lives, in their studies, and in their work in general, to be clear. I very much like the verse St. Paul the Apostle said, “All things work together for good” (Rom 8:28), meaning that as you go along in life, even if there are things along the way that you don’t like, you will find that they ultimately work together for good.

I remember once reading a biography of a geographical scientist – Younan Labib Rizk. He was a very well-known and well-respected scientist, teacher, university professor, and an important figure in Egyptian society. And he wrote hundreds of articles and wrote many articles for the Al-Ahram newspaper, and he was one of the experts who presented research by which we regained possession of the land of Taba in the Sinai, and so he played a very good part, even on the national level.

And during an interview this scientist was sharing his life story and the interviewer asked him, “What led you to study geography?” and he gave the most amazing response. He said, “When I was in high-school (or its equivalent) my father told me, ‘Son, which college will you apply to?’” And by the ways, back then there was no agency organizing the college application and admissions process like we have today, and so he said, “Whatever you say my father, what do you think I would be good at?”

And he was surprised when his father told him, “You would make a good doctor. Take this money and go apply to the college of medicine,” but in the interview he shared that within himself it was his desire to study in the field of literature.

And so anyway, as he was on his way to apply to the college of medicine he ran into one of his friends, “Where are you heading?” he asked. “I’m going to put in my application to the college of medicine, what about you? What college will you be applying to?” His friend said, “I’m applying to the college of arts, literary science. Why don’t you join me? Literature is an easier and shorter course of study.” And so he agreed and said, “Okay, fine, let’s go apply there together,” and he put in his application with the college of literary science.

And when he returned home to his father and told him what he had done, his father told him, “May you be blessed my son. Work hard and do your best in it,” and he did. He worked hard, he came out among the first in his class, he went on to complete higher education, he presented his work outside of Egypt, and he became a very well-known scientist not only across Egypt, but also across the world. This is an example of a person who knows his path, not like someone else who sits around and cries or feels sorry for himself saying, “It is hopeless” – such an attitude is not appropriate for a person who practices seriousness.

And so in conclusion, know these four characteristics of true manhood:
A sense of duty
Bravery
Leadership
Seriousness

4 traits of true femininity and womanhood

Now let’s talk about the young ladies and femininity. First of all, femininity does not mean being delicate because the concept of manhood also applies to women, and so even though you are a young woman, you are to have the qualities of manhood we talked about, but there are also characteristics that specifically pertain to femininity and womanhood.

1- Gentleness

The first distinguishing characteristic of a young woman is gentleness. I think they call you the “delicate gender” or the “gentle gender,” is that right? Gentleness means that a person is gentle in their dealings with others, and this is why many of our beloved female sisters do well in a career such as nursing, because nursing requires gentleness.

And as I told you earlier, to be delicate does not mean that one is spoiled but it means that a person’s every word is enfolded in gentleness, smeared with delicacy and mildness in all her dealings, and that even in the midst of a moment of anger, a wrong word will never come out of her mouth.

2- Full of emotion and empathy

This characteristic is about a heart that is full of sentiment or emotions, which are one of God’s gifts to us, and to have a heart filled with feelings means that one responds to the needs of others. This is expressed in a Bible verse in Philippians 2 that says, “His heart is full of gentleness” (cf. Phil 2:27). The heart of a person refers to his depths, and so it means that a person’s deepest most parts empathize with others and are influenced and react to their needs.

And so the second characteristic of true femininity is to have a heart that senses what others feel and to respond to this. For example, many times we see a child crying and those around him will not know why he cries, but as soon as his mother looks at him she knows and will say, “He is hungry,” or “He is cold,” even though the child said nothing at all, but her senses told her.

And this ability to sense others is very important and it may be why God made it so that it was through the woman that humans would come forth in birth; the ability to sense and respond to others, whether young or old.

3-Beauty

The third beautiful trait of femininity is that of beauty. And beauty here does not refer to the beauty of the face, not at all, because naturally, that beauty changes across the stages of one’s life, but what it means is the beauty of character.

There is a person who is beautiful in her character or in how she deals with people, or her mere presence is beautiful. And this is why women are often found in secretarial work, because they are able to make others feel welcome and this is a very important ability and is a form of maturity, but there are people who do not know how to make others feel welcome, they do not communicate well.

There is a nice story that tells of a leader in the Russian army during World War II, and seeing that his troops had been working hard all day and staying up all night he wanted to encourage them, and so one night at 3 A.M. he told them, “How would you like it if I invited you over to my home for a meal?”

They said to him, “Yes, but it is 3 A.M. after midnight and your wife must be sleeping.” He said, “Not at all, when you meet my wife you will see how wonderful she is” – and he went on to describe her with many very beautiful adjectives.

So he took them to his home and of course our friend, his wife, was upstairs sleeping. So he went upstairs and began to knock and call out her name. She woke up disturbed, of course, it’s 3 A.M. past midnight and her eyes were still heavy with sleep, and she asked, “What is going on?”

He said, “I have ten of my assistants downstairs. I have invited them over to our home for a meal.” Upon hearing this, the woman began to become alert and sat up in her bed and started to really give him some words. He is a great commander but she began to speak some very tough words to him – “Who ever invites anyone over at 3 A.M.? Have you no discernment?” and on and on – things that I of course can’t repeat! At least I can’t say them in Russian!

Anyhow, after she finished saying these things her husband began to say, “I know, but just for my sake, please.” So after hearing him she said, “Okay, give me 15 minutes and I will come downstairs and prepare the table,” and so she did. She came downstairs and walked toward them, dressed in an elegant outfit and she said, “Welcome, welcome! We are so happy to have you over, you have blessed our home with your presence! This is the best surprise my husband has ever done for me since the day we got married!”

And of course the ten men were looking one to another and wondering, “What an excellent wife this is! She accepts visitors at 3 A.M., for a meal, and without prior notice!” And she prepared the table and served them.

What do I mean by all of this? I mean to say that beauty is not physical nor is it bodily, but beauty is about the beauty of character, the beauty of welcoming others, the beauty of one’s attitudes, the beauty of one’s presence, the beauty of one who understands the needs of those around him or her, and this is a very essential point.

4- Sacrifice

The fourth attribute of femininity and of a mature person is that of sacrifice. Of course the sacrifice of mothers is something we cannot even put in words but in general, women have a great ability to sacrifice and to sacrifice greatly.

What does she sacrifice? She sacrifices her time. All of us as young children, our mothers spent very much time taking care of us and they may have had many sleepless nights. A mother sacrifices her time, she sacrifices her health, and she sacrifices her life. For example, many times we hear of mothers who become donors for their children who may have health deficiencies and need an organ donation – the mother will be the first to step forward and offer herself, and she will do it with great and complete satisfaction.

One time, the United Nations held a competition for the most beautiful photo in the world: What is the most beautiful image that we can capture in the world? And at this time there were many famines in many African countries- and please allow me to describe the winning photograph image to you, although it is quite a painful image. There was no food, and so a mother who has a nursing baby, how will she be able to have breastmilk? There is none.

And so the infant continued to nurse on the milk that was still present in her breast but the milk finished and she could find no other food, so she began to feed him her saliva, her own saliva! And the end of it was that they both died and this was captured in the photo – the mother nursing her infant with saliva.

I know it is a painful image but it was the image that received first place in this worldwide competition. What is the point of this story? It demonstrates the element of complete sacrifice, and this is why the Bible and Christ tell us, “Even if your mother forgets you, Yet I will not forget you” (cf. Isa 49:15).

And so the attributes of femininity in a spiritual person are gentleness, empathy, beauty, and sacrifice.

The complete picture of a spiritually mature person

And so when you put all of these things together it gives the picture of a person who is able to live heroically and this is what spiritual heroism is, because heroism is not a physical spectacle nor is it about being captain over others. And as we celebrate the martyrdom of St. Rebekah today, although she was a simple mother and her level of education may have been limited, but she was a hero, and so were her children, both the old and the young, the males and the females.

And add to their story the stories of the many saints and martyrs across history, and you and you and you are their descendants. We do not tell these stories of heroes and martyrs to merely feel a sense of pride, but we tell them so that as a Church we may relive these stories as an ongoing and continual series of episodes.

4 of the world’s challenges in this day and age

But young people, we are living in a strange age, an age that produces some bad weaknesses and challenges, and so as young people who were brought forth and grew up on the land of Egypt, in the Church of Egypt, and are the inheritors of this ancient 2,000 year history, beware of the challenges of this age, whether they be challenges found inside or outside Egypt. I will give you some examples of these challenges.

1-Athiesm

The first challenge is that of atheism. How can it be that while there is God, who leads this entire world, how is it possible for me to say, “There is no God and there is no One directing this life”? How is this even possible? How does this even make sense?

Or when someone says, “I can run the universe with my own intellect and by my own brain and I have no need for the Lord,” what? What do you even mean? And of course now is not the time to speak about the many forms of atheism and it does have many faces, but it is as Christ told us, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).

So beware of and be careful of any type of thinking that would draw you away from your strong faith. And why do I put it in terms of pulling you away from your faith? Because faith is what gives meaning to your life, and I am sure that for every person who has departed from the Lord and lives in atheism, that they feel their life has no meaning, that it is cheap, and it is from here that thoughts of suicide and so on come forth. And so beware of the challenge of atheism.

2-Gender Identity

Another challenge to beware of is that of gender identity. And one of the things that happens here is that a person begins to adopt some of the practices and ways of the other gender, and so instead of a boy growing up to be a masculine man, he grows up to be a feminine man, and instead of a girl growing up to be a feminine girl, she grows up to be a masculine girl. And so beware of all of this, beware.

One of the common weaknesses I see is when fathers and mothers have a boy child but he turns out to have such beautiful hair and so they what? They think it a waste to cut the boy’s hair. And then what? The boy ends up walking around with a fringe or with long hair. But what is this O you, my boy? And what is this O mother and O father?

Beware of taking on the image or likeness of the other gender. You are a man and you, you are woman, and you are on the path of spiritual heroism and so it is very important how you appear within society because your appearance will shape your presence within society, so be careful.

3-Homosexuality

Also beware of becoming wrongly attached or attracted to the same gender, which is what we call homosexuality, and may the Lord protect you all, but unfortunately, this is very common in the world today.

For example, I was once visiting another country and the Patriarch father there told me, “Can you imagine that this country has an economic problem that requires $500 million to be resolved but they did not have it, so another country, a rich one, came in and told them, ‘We will give you the $500 million on the condition that you approve homosexuality in your government’s parliament.’” And so can you imagine that morals and principles are being bought and sold for economic aid! Do you see the dilemma the world is in?

And so beware, beware. And don’t let anyone tell you, “But that’s just the way this person was created, it is the Lord that made him this way.” No, it is not so, not at all, but this is a weakness. And when you read the Letters to the Romans and to the Corinthians you will see this weakness mentioned as having existed even in the days of old.

God created life in the exact image that we read in the Book of Genesis, and so beware of becoming wrongly attached to the same gender. Yes we have friendships with boys and with girls, holy and pure friendships, friendships that lift us up and not plunge us down into the mud and mire.

4-Hating the opposite sex

And this is something that is a bit strange but I will put it before you anyway, which is to beware of hating the other gender. Meaning what? Meaning the male gender hating the female gender and the female gender hating the male gender. And this may lead to other issues such as, for example, across the entire world today people are getting married at a much later age, and this is happening across the entire world! And so for example, today they call Europe the “continent of the ageing,” why? Because the proportion of elderly people is growing while the proportion of the newly born is very small, very small. And add to that many other consequences that are happening, so beware of the hatred toward the opposite gender.

When God created humans He created Adam and Eve and crowned humanity with them, and they became the first father and the first mother for all of humanity. And by this, God painted a beautiful image of a good family and for the Church and this is the pattern we live by throughout our lives and the pattern that extends from generation to generation.

The summary of the matter my dear young people is for us to:
Practice the life of spiritual heroism
Understand that the term “be like men” is not to be taken in the literal sense but in the sense of applying it in life as spiritual manhood or spiritual maturity
Be clear about the spiritual dimension and characteristics of true masculinity, femininity, and spiritual maturity
Understand that “be like men” is a commandment and that it applies to all of us, whether you are a male or female

And so be like a man in your life, be a person who can be depended upon for any responsibility you may be placed in. Whether you are male or female, be like a man. And the meaning of this applies to all of us.

The grace of God the Father be with us all. Amen.