“The Lord expects you to become the Saint John the Baptist of today, to show other people the way of salvation by the example of your life”: Bishop Mykola Bychok on the Sunday before Epiphany

On the Sunday before Theophany, January 15, in the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul in Melbourne, the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was held. The Eparch of Melbourne, Bishop Mykola Bychok, reflecting on the Gospel from Mark (1:1-8), shared the following thoughts during the sermon: “Man is always expecting something. Already from the very morning on the way to our place of work, we wait in traffic jams; we are waiting for the beginning and end of lectures, exams and their evaluations; we are waiting for a man or woman with whom we will build a future; we wait for the end of the working day and return home; we wait for the “green light” during traffic in order to cross the road safely; waiting in line at a supermarket or store to buy groceries or other things necessary for life; we are waiting for a dream trip to relax or visit new places; we are waiting for the realization of all our dreams; we are waiting for the end of the war in Ukraine. This list can always be continued, because we are constantly waiting for something in our lives.”

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In his reflections on waiting, the bishop drew a parallel with how people waited for the coming of the Messiah: “Humanity was waiting for the time when the Messiah would finally reveal Himself to the world. His coming was already known. The sign of His coming into the world was the tragedy in Bethlehem, where King Herod slaughtered all children under the age of two. The reason is the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, whom Herod considered to be his competitor, that is why he did everything to get rid of Him. And then he continued: “Today we celebrate the Sunday before Theophany, where we try to take a deeper look at the person of the Saint Prophet John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Lord. Many people gathered near the river Jordan to hear John the Baptist. His sermon made a deep impression on people. He was not afraid to rebuke the rulers of the people, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. However, people followed him, because such a thing had never been seen or heard before. 

“The excitement among the people was so great,” the bishop continued, “that the Sanhedrin was faced with the need to approve or condemn the activities of St. John the Baptist.  Hoping to come to some conclusion, they sent priests and Levites to the Jordan to negotiate with the new teacher.  This is what the Gospel of John (1:19-23) tells about it: “This was the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He declared, he did not deny but declared, ‘I am not the Christ.’  So they asked, ‘Then are you Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So he said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied: A voice of one that cries in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord. Make his paths straight!’” The bishop noted that John the Baptist’s answer to the Sanhedrin was clear and short, and his role was higher than the Old Testament prophets who only spoke about the coming of the Messiah. Instead, he was to show people this Messiah.

At the end, Bishop Mykola addressed the faithful with the following words:

“Beloved in Christ! God is waiting for you today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Waiting for you to change your life. The Lord expects you to become that St. John the Baptist of today, to show the way of salvation to other people by the example of your life.

Whoever wants to accept Christ must prepare the way for the Lord. So, let’s ask ourselves today: “Are we building, or are we destroying the way that Christ goes to people’s hearts?”. From the time of St. John the Baptist until the end of time, the call to repentance will be relevant. This important mission is performed by the Holy Church today. She calls and will call humanity to believe in God, who came to earth to be with us, since he himself said: “I will be with you constantly, until the end of the age!”. Amen.”