On Monday evening July 22, 2013, His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP met with Archdiocesan and Diocesan SOYO leaders during their summer leadership training at the Antiochian National Convention in Houston. His visit once again showed how much he cares for his teens as a most loving father-in-Christ.
After expressing his deep love and his pride over the dedication and hard work of these teens as leaders amongst their peers, he shared his sincere empathy and encouragement over the cultural challenges facing Christians – especially Christian youth – in today’s world.
In particular Saidna brought to their attention the recent “unfortunate” Supreme Court decision declaring the unconstitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, leading the way to further legal recognition of same-sex marriage. One of the teens asked Saidna how we can make a difference, how are we to face the open and subtle persecution from militant supporters of such immoral laws? Saidna’s answer was inspiring and clear: “We have the Bible and we have the Church. Just because a government declares something ‘legal’ doesn’t mean it is right. Live boldly, and when necessary speak boldly. We must and always will stand for morality. The times in which we live may at times seem dark, but this is not new and we are not alone in the history of darkness. We have the pure Church of early Christianity and the witness of faithful martyrs who refused to bow to any immoral decree of Caesar.” Saidna continued, “St. Peter told us that we are all priests. And we as priests, each one of us, are called to be lights to the world AND to bring the world to God.”
One could hear a pin drop as the youth sat transfixed, listening to their beloved father-in-Christ speak to them not as children but as young men and women, as Christians equal in the priesthood of believers fighting for what is true.
Of course the Q&A couldn’t end without one of the teens asking Saidna, “How are we to discern God’s will for our lives?” Knowing the genuine desire of these young men and women to live God-pleasing lives, he lovingly reminded them that they should never feel confused or fearful over God’s leading in their lives. He said, “We as Orthodox Christians will always have two ‘points of reference’ upon which the foundation of our lives is built. The foundation upon which we stand and from where we live and move is the Bible and the Church. When we strive first to immerse ourselves in the Word of God and the life of His Body we will eventually embody this one most important point: Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.’ The more we have this firmly rooted within us the clearer will become God’s leading in our lives in the choices we face and the decisions we make.”
Finally, His Eminence asked the teens to always take seriously their call and election as Christians. Growing in Christ and in faith will always be the most important priority of our lives. He also reminded them that their SOYO leadership is not the end of their service to the Church. He encouraged them to remain faithful and engaged during their college years, participating in local parish life and the OCF whenever possible. Eventually he hopes to see them involved in the Fellowship of St. John in their local parish, their Diocese and even the Archdiocese – breathing new life into the good work of the Fellowship and continuing to offer their outstanding leadership in service to the Church.
Before departing Saidna asked the clergy present to join him in singing, “God grant you many years!” to the teens. The teens followed by singing the same to him. Many years, Master!