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Homily of His Beatitude Sviatoslav at the Episcopal Installation of Reverend Father Michael Smolinski, C. S.s. R.

January 21, 2024, 21:00 88

Homily of His Beatitude Sviatoslav at the Episcopal Installation of Reverend Father Michael Smolinski, C. S.s. R.

“A clean heart create for me, God;
renew within me a steadfast spirit”
Psalm 51 (50), 12.

Most Reverend Bishops,
Dear confreres in Christ’s priesthood,
Beloved clergy, religious and all the faithful of the Eparchy of Saskatoon,
Distinguished guests present here,
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Christ is born!

It is a great joy and a special privilege for me to be here with you today and to carry out this historic act of induction into the office and enthronement of the new eparchial Bishop of the Saskatoon Eparchy, His Excellency Bishop Michael Smolinski. This Eparchy waited a long time for its Shepherd, waited and prayed. The entire Synod of Bishops of our Church also worked and prayed with you. And today this long-awaited moment has come by God’s will and the blessing of the Holy Father, the Pope Francis.

Today’s Sunday is called the Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee following the Gospel reading in the Gregorian liturgical Easter cycle, and it begins our preparation for the special time — the Great Fast. This is the time when the Lord seeks to open the entire bounty of His mercy to us. This is the time of spiritual spring, awakening and renewal of the human heart, the time of repentance and transformation of the world.

By inviting us not to waste this special time to our own detriment, the evangelist Luke, in his usual manner, focuses our attention on two contrasting figures who came together into the temple to pray before the face of God. Perhaps they looked very different in the eyes of their contemporaries who observed their way of praying in the temple and in the eyes of God, which sees not the external but the internal and spiritual movement of a person who comes and turns to Him in prayer.

One thing that immediately catches the eye is the fact that the Pharisee, who is honest and faithfully fulfilled all the prescriptions of the Law, seemed to thank God, but spoke exclusively about himself and his own actions. The Lord God, His holy temple and the Old Testament rules of communication with the Most High are only additional features to the whole scene of the performance and self-presentation of this Pharisee. Finally, he thanks God for himself and presents to him His own perfection. It may be surprising to us to learn that his prayer is atheistic by nature! That’s right! He emphasizes the needlessness of the effective presence of God for reaching perfection in his life.

Instead, it is the publican, who considers himself condemned by his own actions, asks God for this. He asks for God’s intervention in his, as he thinks, hopeless state. He cannot help himself, so he asks God to act, that is to reveal God’s righteousness and holiness and to save him by His mercy. As the evangelist Luke says, “He beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’” (Luke 18:13). Indeed, he is asking God for a new heart, a new spirit! Here he calls out to God together with the Psalmist: “A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit.” (Ps 51 (50), 12). And to give a new heart and a new spirit is beyond the power of man. This is the power of God exclusively! And so it happened that the one who asked God to act, was not ashamed as a result. It was not the Pharisee who received a new heart, but the publican! As the evangelist says: “the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18, 14).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! In conducting the enthronement of the new bishop in Saskatoon Eparchy today, we do pray that the new bishop will be an icon of Christ Himself, who sits on the throne of his glory in heaven, but is alive and actively present in the life of His Church, which makes a pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. Similarly to the justified publican, we stand together in the church before God’s face and call out to Him today: Lord, show us your mercy today! Be merciful to us, sinners, and come to renew this Your people!

The new bishop must be the new heart of the Eparchy and its people! Let him be the bearer of Your sovereign Holy Spirit, who in his actions does not want to replace God’s actions in a Pharisaic way, but will reveal it, make it present and complete! Lord, renew the action of Your Spirit in this Eparchy, give it a new impulse for life and development!

Your Excellency, dear Bishop Michael! Today we imposed on you the Cross of the Lord — we entrusted you with the great task of caring for the souls of God’s faithful people to you. No matter how strange it sounds, you can do it well. Do it only when you understand that this task is beyond the human power. Only the Lord is the one who saves and justifies a sinner. But He does it through ministry of his or her bishop. He is the shepherd, to whom He entrusts to teach, sanctify and govern the people, by the power and action of the Holy Spirit! Be the first repentant in your Eparchy, the first one in conversion and the first one who works tirelessly together with them every day like the tax collector calling out to God with the words of the Jesus prayer: “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” And then you will see how God’s Word will come true by doing this: “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5, 16).

Today I would like to address particularly the clergy, religious and all the faithful of our Saskatoon Eparchy. The Lord begins in you today the time of action and renewal! In sending you a new bishop, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, addresses you with the words of the same sermon which He preached to the people after His baptism in Jordan: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Our Church and the entire Ukrainian nation has never felt more today than ever, — this fulfillment of time during the great war that the Russian criminal brought on our long-suffering motherland — Ukraine. It will never be the same again! We have all become different and must necessarily become better: like your brothers and sisters in Ukraine, so too our community here in Canada! Strive to become better Christians, better sons and daughters of your ancestral nation and children of your Church! Today, we feel more than ever that this time of great suffering, blood and tears is at the same time a time when the Lord wants to change all of us, give our people a new heart and renew His sovereign Spirit in us!

Therefore, I ask all of you to accept your new bishop in the name of the Lord! Listen to him and support him! I especially appeal to the newly arrived Ukrainians, who came to Canada because of the horrors of the ongoing greatest war of the present time: join our Church parishes and the community in this country! We will be strong and victorious when we are together! Together we are many and we cannot be overcome! United we stand!

All of us together, even here in Canada, have a moral obligation to pray and work together for the victory of Ukraine. And it will be possible to accomplish this task only when we do not shy away from our own roots, our own conscience and the voice of our heart. When we unite together as one in the name of Christ, when we unite our efforts to listen to the voice of our Church, our bishops, and raise our united voice to the general public of society and the world, then this mighty voice with the power and action of the Holy Spirit will awaken the conscience of modern Canada and call it to support Ukraine. Then your efforts and your voice here will become the voice of God and the voice of millions of Ukrainians from whom the Russian occupier took away not only their own voice, but also the right to life!

May the all-merciful Lord bless you all! Amen!

† SVIATOSLAV

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