Today’s post is adapted from Fr. Philopateer Younan’s sermon on Sunday’s gospel. Finally! A post from Coptic Dad!
In last Sunday’s gospel, there was a word. This word is impossible. Have you used this word recently, the word impossible? Sometimes we are faced with a situation in our life, and we say, “This situation seems to be impossible.” Or maybe we deal with some people, and we say, “These people are impossible to deal with.” And sometimes we look at ourselves and say, “When am I going to get over this habit and these sins that I have in my life?” It seems to be impossible.
But today, we have a beautiful promise from God. Christ says, yes, with men, it might be impossible, but not with God. Because with God, everything is possible. So the word impossible, my beloved, usually comes because we compare our human capabilities to the task that we need to accomplish. We see that we cannot do things sometimes, and when we compare our fragile capabilities to a task, or to a person, or to a habit, we feel so small.
But today, God is telling you, “With Me, everything is possible.” Everything is possible. And this is a promise that we need to hear today. Hear this message from God Himself, who is telling you that with men it is impossible, but not with God. With God, everything is possible.
When I was preparing this sermon, I was trying to find this word impossible and the word possible in the Bible. Let’s focus on two particular times this verse comes up. It was very interesting to see where these sentences appeared, and the story behind each of them and the lesson.
How Can This Be?
I will keep the one from Sunday’s gospel to the end. But let’s see the first time that this word was said. It happened during the Annunciation of Archangel Gabriel to St. Mary when he came to her to announce that she is going to be the mother of God. And St. Mary asked him the very well-known question, “How can this be?” How can this be that I’m a virgin who has chosen celibacy and does not know a man, and today you are telling me that I’m going to be pregnant?
For her, this was impossible, and this is when Archangel Gabriel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. Therefore, the Holy One who is born of you will be called the Son of God.”
And then he talked about Elizabeth. He told Mary, “Now, indeed Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.” Archangel Gabriel then said the first version of this verse. He said, “For with God, nothing will be impossible.” When we think about a virgin who would bring forth a baby, we say this is impossible. But if God is telling me that the salvation of mankind requires something impossible, I’m willing to do it. She said, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
Let’s go back for a moment to Archangel Gabriel saying to Mary, “Elizabeth now also has conceived.” God gave Elizabeth and Zacharias, this elderly man and woman who were very advanced in age, a child. It’s not completely impossible for the elderly to bear children. This might be less extreme than the virgin situation, but again the angel is telling her that it’s always possible with God.
Facing the Impossible
This reminds us of many women in the Old Testament who, at one point, thought it was impossible that they would bring forth children. They thought, “It’s impossible.” Abraham and Sarah are the very famous example at 100 years old. A man was 100 years old, and his wife was 90 years old, but for God, it wasn’t impossible. It was possible, and they brought forth Isaac.
And their son Isaac who married Rebecca–Rebecca also had to wait a long time before she was able to bear a child, but again, she gave birth, and the impossible became possible. There’s the mother of Samuel, Hannah, and the mother of Samson, the wife of Manoah. All these people, at one point, thought, “It’s impossible.” But then God did the impossible in order to prove that with Him, everything is possible.
For our Salvation
God becoming man in our eyes might seem impossible, but He did it. He did it for our salvation. Nothing will be impossible for Him. Maybe you know the story of Simeon the Elder, who at one time was translating the Old Testament, and he dwelled on this verse that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” in Isaiah. And he was not able to think that he will be able to write “virgin conceived.” How can that be?
So, what did Simeon do? He tried to change the scripture. For him, it was impossible that this would happen. But the angel appeared to him and told him, “Simeon, write it as it is. Believe, and one day, you’re going to see it.” And Simeon remained about 300 years until he was able to hold the child Jesus Christ and see with his own eyes that which was, to his thinking, impossible, became possible. And as he was holding him, he said, “Now You are letting Your servant depart in peace.”
What we need to realize about this verse is that salvation, all the salvation that God offers, might have seemed at one point impossible for us. Can we really be reconciled with God? But the angel says, “For with God, nothing is impossible.” God can do it. He can do it for our salvation. He can do it for our lives today as well.
Who Can Be Saved?
Now, let’s go to the second example of this verse, from last Sunday’s gospel. If you remember, the rich young man left Christ disheartened and Christ said to His disciples that well-known phrase, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” In response, they asked Christ a very interesting question saying, “Who can be saved?” Who can be saved?
Well, me and you, my beloved, sometimes we look at ourselves and say, “How can I control my thoughts? How can I remain pure and chaste in a world that is pulling me everywhere? How can I walk in the way of God all my life?” Sometimes when we look at these, we say, “Impossible.” But Christ today is telling you, “Yes, with man it might be impossible, but not with Me. With Me, everything is possible.” So, whatever is challenging you today, whether it’s a situation, or a person that you are dealing with, or a habit that you are trying to overcome, remember: With God, everything is possible. Trust.
Let me tell you a few examples of things that were impossible, and how God made it possible. Do you remember Lazarus, in the Gospel of John, chapter 11? Christ was standing in front of the tomb of Lazarus and asking them to roll away the stone. And the sisters said to Him, “What are You doing? It has been four days. There is a stench inside.” Yes, You were able to raise the daughter of Jairus. She had just died, and You were able to catch the son of the widow of Nain on his way to the burial, right? But this one? It’s been four days. It’s impossible. And they stopped Him.
Do you know what Jesus said to them? He said, “You believe? If you believe, everything is possible.” And because they believed and rolled the stone, Christ said, “Lazarus, come forth.” We cannot raise people from the dead. We cannot. But we can roll the stone. We can do our job. We can do our small things. And when we do the small thing, God can do the impossible. The things that, for us, are not possible. But make sure to do your job.
Your Small Labor
My beloved, bringing it back to today and to the word impossible. Every time you think about something impossible, bring to mind the promises of God. There are over 500 promises in the Holy Book. Bring them to mind, write them in a journal, and when you feel sometimes that it is impossible to do things, read these promises. You’re going to find that God is telling you, “I will be with you.” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. The impossible in my mind can be possible with God.
Today, this verse is not telling you to sit and think that God will do everything. No, you have a job. You have to roll the stone. You have to be the David who collects his five stones in front of an impossible Goliath that nobody can defeat. Pick up your stones. Put them in your sling and shoot. Yes, it’s very small, maybe it’s a small prayer, a small act, a small labor, something very small, but do it. And God will bless it, and with it, He’s going to knock Goliath off his feet, this Goliath that is in front of you that you think, “No way, I can never defeat him.”
The Power of the Fast
I’m happy that this lesson is coming at the beginning of the fast. Many people now have started fasting or maybe are thinking about fasting. You might say, “Abouna, what’s fasting? Just changing a few things in my life?” But I’m telling you that whatever you want to overcome can be overcome by this small fast that you do. You control your food—something very small. You are changing a few things in your life. But when you do these small things and offer them to God saying, “God, this is what I can do. I cannot do more than this. This is my possible,” He will do the impossible for you. He will control the thing that You want to control. He will help you to do things that you cannot do, because with Him, everything is possible.
With us, yes, we have the word impossible in our vocabulary. But with Him, everything is possible. The lesson is here, my beloved, right here, the promise for you today is very clear. He’s saying, with men, it is impossible, but not with God. For with God, all things are possible. Believe, my beloved. Do all that you can do, even if it seems very small. And wait. And you’re going to see how much God is going to do the impossible for you. Remember the Incarnation. He came and was incarnated, which was impossible. A virgin with child? God becoming man? He did it. There’s nothing He can’t do.
Today, you are asking, “Who can be saved?” and Jesus Christ says to you, “I will save you. Trust in Me. Labor. Do your part. Have faith. And whatever you feel is impossible, it’s going to be made possible.”
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