Being Prepared

Abstract of sermon given by Fr. Joseph on September 25, 1999

We had been talking about preparations necessary to "See God" in the last retreat and in my last sermon.

We have to be prepared to see the God. I know that all of you have great many responsibilities and do not have much spare time. But I am sure that you can spare a few minutes every morning and evening doing meditation and prayer. Prayer and time with the God are the nourishment that is required to feed our soul. Like eating food to care for our body, this feeding to the soul is necessary to keep it functioning properly. Friends, think about it. What is the point if we gain everything in this world; but lost our soul? I would say that it is a big mistake. So, please allocate some time everyday to feed our soul and getting ready to meet God. Indeed, we need to be prepared to receive God.

In today's bible reading we heard about our Lord Jesus Christ talking about being ready and prepared for His arrival at the end. (Mark 13: 30-37). We need to be awake and on constant alert. We do not know the exact hour when God will appear. Jesus explained the arrival of Kingdom of heaven by a parable. A noble man went abroad. He is expected any time. Nobody knows the exact time he will show up. So, the household and the servants have to be on constant alert. After all, you don't want to find yourself sleeping when your master shows up, do you? So, spend time everyday getting ready to meet God when He decides to appear before us.

I know you are all into sports, fitness and exercise. We do this to keep ourselves fit and well. Spend some time everyday kneeling in front of Jesus Christ. We will get all the strength we need to tackle all the problems in this world. And it will keep our soul fit and healthy.

Last week, I said that we have to get all our senses involved in order to see God. We need to come to his presence, we need to identify with him and then become one in him. The ultimate objective of all Christians is to be with Jesus. The way to accomplish this is by being prepared.

We all know the story of the three wise men. They saw the star. They knew that the appearance of the star was very unusual. So, they investigated the meaning of the appearance of the star. As a result of taking action after seeing the star, they went to Bethlehem and saw child Jesus. Bible says that they were well prepared when they came to see Jesus. They came with several gifts for the Lord. The reason they could do this and see God was because they were constantly alert. Thousands of people from around the world might have seen the same star. But they didn't do anything about it. The wise men were alert. They took action and so they could see God. Do I have to say anything more for the need to be on alert to see the God?

We know that there were three wise men. Their names were: Belthasar, Melchour and Casper. What most of us do not know is that there were actually four wise men who planned the event. The fourth man's name was Artaban. Ancient books and monographs like Barclays' commentary have documented the story of Artaban. The four saw the star and prepared to investigate what caused the star to appear. It was a long journey. So, they agreed on a time and place to get together to start their journey as they needed some preparations like acquiring gifts, etc. On the scheduled date of departure, the three wise men met and waited for the fourth one to appear. Bur he didn't come. After waiting for quite some time, the three decided to start the journey without the fourth man. There was no way for them to know what happened to Artaban. We know the story of the three wise men. They were guided by the star. They went to Jerusalem and visited King Herod. From there, they went to Bethlehem and saw baby Jesus and His mother (Mathew 2:11). They returned to the Orient in another way as directed by an angel in a dream. Unfortunately, their visit to Herod's palace had alerted the king on the possibility that a child, which could be a future king, was born and, if allowed to grow, could pose problem for the king. Herod, decided to kill all children born within the period of time (2 years and under), as a result.

It is interesting to find out what kept Artaban from joining his friends for the journey. Artaban, acquired three valuable gem stones to give as a gift to the child. He was on the way to meet his friends, when he saw a person lying on the road, nearly bleeding to death. It appeared that this person was attacked by bandits and they have left him dying on the road after robbing everything he had. Artaban knew that he can not leave this man dying there on the road. He also knew that if he does not proceed right away he will miss the trip he had planned with his friends. He decided to help the man in need. He carried him to his mule, took him to an inn in the next town. There he got a room for him and nursed him back to health. A couple of weeks passed in the process. In order to meet the expenses in the inn and the nursing care, Artaban had to sell one of the jewels he had in his possession - a stone that was meant to be a gift to Jesus.

By the time this was over, Artaban knew that his friends were already on their way. So, he went separately to Bethlehem. He arrived Bethlehem on a day when King Herod's army was killing all children. Jesus was already in Egypt at that time. Artaban went to a house and was greeted by a very sad sight. A woman was crying. He asked her why she is crying. She told him that she will lose her only son to the sword of Herod's men and there is nothing she can do to prevent this tragedy from happening. While talking to her, Artaban saw the approaching killers. They carried swords that were covered with blood. Artaban went to the gate and gave the leader of the gang one of his two remaining gemstones. Since the gemstone was very valuable, the leader spared the life of the woman's son and went on their way to the next house.

Now Artban was left with only one gemstone. He went to Egypt; but, by that time Jesus was already gone from there. In those days, travel took many months to complete. When Artban returned to Jerusalem, that was the day of judgement of Jesus. Jesus was already on the way to the cross. Artaban wanted to see Jesus. On the way to seeing him, he was met by a small girl, running towards him, crying. Artaban asked the girl, "Why are you running? What happened?" The girl said that she is running away from a group of men who were chasing her. Her father borrowed some money from them and could not pay back the debt. So, the men decided to capture the girl. While talking, the group of men appeared. Artaban gave them his last gemstone to clear the girl's father of his debt and to release the girl. This act saved the girl's life. So, now Artaban had no gems left.

Artaban and the girl started on their journey seeking Jesus. Suddenly, there was an earthquake and complete darkness. A brick from a nearby building came loose during the earthquake and hit Artaban on his head. He lost complete consciousness. He lied there on the lap of the girl who was crying over his injury. Suddenly, Jesus, was said to have appeared to Artaban. Artaban was very sorry that he didnot have any gift to give to Jesus. Jesus was said to have told Artaban that he had given him many gifts. (See the dialogue in Mathew 25:35-39.) He told Artaban, "I was hungry, you fed me. I was naked, you gave me cloth. I was dying and you nursed me back to health. I was going to be killed, and you have interceded on behalf of me and prevented me from getting killed, etc." Artaban told Jesus, "Lord, I have never seen you before. How can I have done all these things to you?" We know what Jesus told Artaban. When Artaban did all that good deeds to others, it was as good as doing it to the Lord. Artaban died, after seeing the God, smiling and contented.

The moral of the story is that we can love and help others and that will be pleasing to the God. Jesus wants us to love others. It is the best preparation we can do to see Him.

My personal request to you is that you spend 5 minutes everyday in the morning and in the evening visiting Jesus. Spend some quality time alone with God. Then spend some time together with your family visiting God. That, along with your deeds, will be the best preparation to meet God.

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