St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

Why I am a Member of the Order Of Saint Ignatius

by Lucine Kouyoumjian

Sermon Preached by Lucine Kouyoumjian on Sunday, December 19, 2004

To whom God has given much, much will be required. We hear that often. In this country we are all blessed. No matter what level our blessing is in we are, at least financially, more blessed than those elsewhere. It is needful therefore to recognize that we are blessed, and in doing so give back to God. Whenever we help others, we are doing that. We are building up treasure in heaven that won't rust or tarnish and cannot be stolen. It is as much for my benefit, if not more so, I think, when I am able to give to those who are in need.

When the rich young man asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit the kingdom of God, in addition to obeying all the commandments, Jesus told him to sell all he had and give it to the poor. The young man could not do this, and so he left without God's acceptance or blessing. He was more attached to his things, than to God. And Jesus was sad about this. Jesus also points out that when we feed, or clothe or visit people who are in need we are doing that to Him. And when we don't, we are also doing that to Him. So when we allow someone to go without, we are telling Jesus to go without.

We need to be active as Christians. We need to be a great witness for Christ. We need to be set aside, different, in this world but not of it. People need to see Christ in us, for if they do not, where will they see Christ? St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words". So we need to live as Christians. First and foremost to pray, all the time. Pray is action. And prayer has many forms. Pray is communication with God, it is fasting, it is alms-giving, it is meditation on God's word. When people are edified by what we do or who we are, God is glorified. And what better way than to be good stewards of all the gifts God has given us, especially the financial ones, than to give them to those who need them more than we do. We should think about why God has blessed us so. What should we do with His blessing? Keep it all for ourselves? Is that what God wants us to do? And how much should we give? What is charity really? The word charity means love. It doesn’t mean money to give away. C. S. Lewis says charity needs to be felt. If we don't feel what we have given, if it doesn't make an impact on us, then it is not charity, we are only disposing of our excesses and not showing any love.

Therefore how can we even dare to use the title Christian? If our faith is not strong enough for us to act upon, or if we are weak in our understanding of our salvation, if we will not be slaves to Christ, but choose to be slaves instead to our wealth, our status, our pride, our fear, not only will those who we have been called upon to have mercy on, suffer; but we have chosen gods other than Christ. Our eternity will mirror our faith on earth, and the only god with whom there is salvation is Jesus Christ; not one of our own making.

But we still choose slavery, because we are weak. I am certainly weak. I want security, and forget that my security is in Christ. I want beautiful clothes, and forget about the lilies, I fear for my future, knowing God has always taken care of me in both wonderful and dismal times. Yet knowing I am weak God presents opportunities for me to begin to overcome my weakness.

There are lots of places you can give. Everyone wants money from you. And there are many worthy places to put your money. But the order of Saint Ignatius is especially worthy. It is so because every dollar you give will go to do valuable and Godly works. Only one person is paid to work for the order. All parties and functions are paid for by the members attending. There is no endowment fund that the money is going into, so that only the interest will be used. All the money goes to a long list of needs, orphanages in the Middle East and Mexico, the Summer Camp at the Antiochian Village, retired clergy fund, missionary programs, etc. and it's a long list of etcs. The unpaid board meets every year to decide how to spend the money. When one joins, one is making a lifetime commitment, so the board knows what the budget is for the year and functions accordingly. This is truly a well run charity as well as a worthy one.

My husband and I joined. We did so because we want to share what we have with those who don't, we did so because The Order is a worthy well run organization, we did so because we want to preach the Gospel by our actions, we did so because this is a Godly thing to do, we did so because we wanted to be committed to our church, we did so because we can. And this year we also do so to teach our daughter the responsibilities of life.