Homily by Bishop Mykola Bychok on 1 st Day of the Pilgrimage in Canberra

June 10, 2023

“Pilgrimage has been and continues to be an integral part of the Christian faith. It is a spiritual journey that brings us closer to God and deepens our relationship with Him” — Bishop Mykola Bychok. On June 10, the first All-Australian pilgrimage in Canberra began with a solemn Divine Liturgy.

Homily by Bishop Mykola Bychok on 1 st Day of the Pilgrimage in Canberra

Today is a very joyful day for me personally because we are starting the first day of pilgrimage in Canberra. Pilgrimage is a movement in one direction, aimed at spiritual renewal. We all know that when embarking on a journey, each of us makes a certain plan. We try to take with us certain things that will be necessary for us on the pilgrimage. Our pilgrimage began from the place of our residence, from which some set off on the journey using a GPS map, while others flew by plane to the destination. And although our pilgrimage will take place in one location at the St. Volodymyr’s Church, we embark on a spiritual journey together as the traveling Church of Christ.

Pilgrimage has been and remains an integral part of the Christian faith. It is a spiritual journey that brings us closer to God and deepens our relationship with Him. Just as a pilgrim embarks on a physical journey to a holy place, the church itself can be seen as a symbolic place of pilgrimage. The church is a piece of heaven on earth: it is a place where we can find solace, strength, and inspiration for the future; it is a place where we can leave our burdens in the Holy Sacrament of Confession and receive the living God in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Our entire life is a pilgrimage, a continuous journey to God. We are all pilgrims on this earth, seeking meaning, purpose, and ultimately unity with our Creator. Thus, the church becomes not only a destination but also a reliable companion on the journey to eternal pilgrimage. In the traveling church, we are called to be active participants, not passive spectators. We are called to participate in prayer and ministry, allowing these actions to transform us from within. Like pilgrims, we are constantly growing, learning, and developing in our faith, just as during a physical journey.

Furthermore, just as pilgrims often encounter challenges and obstacles on their path, we also face trials and sufferings on our spiritual journey. But the church offers us support, encouragement, and the fellowship of fellow pilgrims who walk alongside us. Together, we can overcome highs and lows, finding strength in our common faith and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Remember that the church is not just a building; it is a living body, a spiritual home for all who seek God. As pilgrims on this journey of faith, let us value the church as a place of encounter with the Divine: a sanctuary for our souls, a source of inspiration and repentance.

Evangelist Matthew today tells us about one of the most challenging teachings of Jesus Christ: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” These words, spoken by our Lord, reveal to us the depth and radicality of the love He calls us to embody as His disciples.

In a world often driven by division, hostility, and hatred, Jesus proposes something entirely different. He asks us not only to love those who are easy to love, those who are similar to us or share our convictions, but He calls us to extend our love even to our enemies and those who harm us. This command contradicts our human inclinations, which seek revenge and harbor ill will towards those who oppose us.

But why does Jesus ask us to love our enemies? The answer lies in the very nature of God and the example He sets for us. Our Heavenly Father loves everyone unconditionally, and His love knows no bounds. He bestows blessings upon the righteous and the unrighteous, offering His grace to all. When we love our enemies, we emulate the divine love that God pours out on all people, regardless of their actions or beliefs. In this way, we become conduits of God’s love in the world.

Loving our enemies does not mean turning a blind eye to their harmful actions or ignoring them. It does not mean becoming passive or enabling their wrongdoing. Instead, it is a radical act of resistance against the forces of hatred and division. It is an active choice to respond with compassion, forgiveness, and prayer. It is an invitation to break the cycle of violence and animosity that perpetually exists in our world.

Furthermore, Jesus tells us to pray for those who persecute us. This is not a passive act of surrender or capitulation; it is a powerful weapon in the face of adversity. When we pray for our enemies, we open ourselves to God’s grace, which has the power to transform even the greatest sinner. Praying for our enemies allows us to see them through the eyes of God. We invite God to work in their hearts and in our own.

We, Christians of the third millennium, are called to be messengers of love and reconciliation. Our love for our enemies is a testimony to the power of God’s grace and the transformation it brings. But it also becomes a testimony to the world that love has the power to conquer hatred, that forgiveness has the power to heal wounds, and that prayer has the power to change hearts.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us open our hearts to the divine grace that the Lord is ready to bestow upon all present in this pilgrimage. Let us seek the courage and strength to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Let us be worthy instruments of God’s love in the modern world. Amen.

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