“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Eccles 3:1)
In the Gospel reading for the 12th Sunday of St. Luke, the healing of the Ten Lepers, we hear and see manifested God’s tender mercy and healing power and the grateful response of the one leper who was cured, and the ingratitude of the nine, who were also cured, but failed to express their thanks.
In a very beautiful and meaningful prayer read in preparation for Holy Communion, we read the following: “As You did not scorn to enter and to dine with sinners in the house of Simon the leper, scorn not to enter into the house of my humble soul, although I, too, am a sinner and leper.” Through repentance and humility, we are cleansed by our Lord of the leprosy of sin, and we confess our gratitude for His bountiful love and forgiveness granted us through His death and resurrection. Gratitude is such an essential ingredient in our relationship to God and to each other.
With much gratitude and thanks for the love, mercy, and long-suffering patience God has shown to me – and continues to show to me - in my life, I also want to express to you my thanks and gratitude. I have had the privilege to serve you as your priest for the past 26 and one-half years. Presvytera, my family, and I, are deeply grateful for those years. We have been partners in the Gospel for a long time, praying together, planning together, working together, and, I hope, growing together in our love for God, in our faith in Him and in our service to others. They have been years of growth, of joy, of challenge, and at times of disappointment and anguish, but always filled with God’s love and bountiful mercy and forgiveness.
It says in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Eccles 3:1) Indeed there is a time and a season for everything, and for me the season has come to retire and to pass on the reigns of pastoral ministry of the parish to another. For the last year and more, I have prayed and thought at length about my decision, and feel it is time. I conveyed my decision to our Parish Council at our meeting on January 11th, and shared that decision with those of you who were in church for Divine Liturgy on Sunday, January 16th.
I have spoken, of course, with His Eminence our Metropolitan Gerasimos, and he will be in communication with you regarding the assignment of another priest. I will continue to be your pastor until the end of August, at which time, God willing, I will complete 27 years of ministry to you in this parish, and a total of 45 years of pastoral ministry. The newly assigned Priest, will begin his ministry to you starting September 1st.
Until then, of course, we will continue to pray and work together, as we have in the past, with gratitude and thanks to God for all He makes possible and for the continued growth and progress of His Church, of our parish, and the ministries of worship, service, outreach, evangelism, education, and philanthropy, which we offer in Christ’s name and to His glory.
In announcing to the Parish Council my decision to retire, I read the following quote from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It expresses most eloquently what I feel for you all.
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, … in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1: 3-11)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.