You Eminence Metropolitan Panteleimon, Repreentative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
Beloved Brothers in Christ, Metropolitans and Clergy,
Beloved sons and daughters in Christ,
Good morning, and a heartfelt welcome and embrace to all of you here at the Opening Brunch of our 1998 Archdiocesan Young Adult Conference. It brings joy to my heart and feelings of pride and confidence in our Church and our Archdiocese to see your faith, your enthusiasm and your love for one another. I can think of no better way to commence my fist Clergy-Laity Congress as your Archbishop, than to begin it with you.
There is a story in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers. A young monk approached Basil the Great and said to him "Speak a word, Father". He was seeking an answer to the question of the meaning of his life. And St. Basil replied: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart." If you let your imagination take you away, you can almost see the young monk pausing for a moment to reflect upon this word of life. Then, he left in obedience and tried to live according to the word of the Saint.
Twenty years later, he came back to St. Basil and said: "Father, I have struggled for twenty years to keep the word you spoke to me. Speak another." St. Basil replied, "And you shall love your neighbor as yourself". Then he left and lived the rest of his life in obedience to that word.
1700 years later, we gather together as a father and spiritual children. And I offer you these same two eternal truths. Love your God. Love one another.
Beloved in Christ, you have come here from places far and wide to attend the 16th Annual Archdiocesan Young Adult Conference. It was not too long ago that an earlier generation of Christians living in America gathered together, at the first young adult conference which was held in Dallas in 1982, for the purpose of mutual edification as members of the body of Christ. They took to heart the word of the Gospel that calls ordinary people to do extraordinary deeds, that call us to be people of love.
"One faith, one family, one future: Together to the new millennium". These words have been chosen as the theme for this year's conference, but what do they mean?
"One faith": Growing up we have been accustomed to being taught that it is important to "have faith in God". Sometimes we learn this too well, that it becomes, as it were, a kind of slogan that we use in our everyday conversation. We even ask of one another how "deep" one's faith is, how educated one might be in "the faith". Yet what do we really mean when we speak this way? Listen to what Paul says in his epistle to the Galatians: "And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by the faith of Christ" (Gal 2:16). This is the whole point of the Gospel, hat Jesus was faithful and obedient to His God even unto death, even death on a cross.
And so what is our task here in this conference? To learn as much as we can what is the faith of Christ, so that we may learn from Him what faith consists of. So come with your questions, sit at the feet of your Lord and listen to His ways.
"One family": In his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul declares about the Cross of Jesus Christ, "For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name" (3:14). Elsewhere, in his Letter to the Galatians, he says "So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those of the family of faith" (6:10). That is, while other nations and peoples may not confess the Lord Jesus Christ and His God and Father, Paul nonetheless encourages all Christians to work for the edification of one another, even those not belonging to the Christian household. Paul reminds us to remember that it was God's mercy and grace that allows us to be accepted into the household of God. Therefore, treat others as God has treated you by having accepted you. As one Christian family, beloved, let us therefore lay aside every worldly care and cling to the law that calls on us to love one another, since we each bear the name of Christ.
"One future": And what is the future based upon if not hope, and the eager expectation of things that are coming? Paul says to the Corinthians, "For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal glory beyond all measure" (2 Corinthians 4:17). To the Philippians he writes that "our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (3:20). In the epistle to the Hebrews, it is written, "For here we have no lasting city, but we are waiting the city that is to come" (13:14). Therefore, as one family united in the one faith of Christ, looking to the city that is to come, enter here -- into these days of fellowship -- with open minds, to be taught the same Gospel -- the everlasting Gospel, which, as the Apostle Peter proclaims, teaches the angels of God what indeed are the mysteries of God (1 Peter 1:12).
"Together to the new millennium". And what of the years that are to come? The Lord says to "strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). In this way the coming of the Lord and of his city, the New Jerusalem, is not so much something located in a distant and vague future, but a reality in the here and now, which you and others can taste as God's children, and partakers of the love of Christ.
This reminds me of another story from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers. "It was said of Abba Arsenius, that on Saturday evenings, preparing for the glory of Sunday, he would turn his back on the sun and stretch out his hands in prayer towards the heavens, till once again the sun shone in his face." Some people spend a lifetime in the deserts learning to hear the voice of the Kingdom. You have a precious opportunity here in Orlando to learn how to recognize the sounds coming from the Kingdom amid all the clamor and bustle of daily life.
My young friends, I welcome you to this Young Adult Conference, and look forward to the many opportunities for us to speak to one another in our stay here. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus and learn to build one another in faith and in the love of Christ.
At the beginning of your conference, I would like to thank and congratulate everyone -- and especially the Holy Trinity Parish of Orlando -- for all of their hard work, sacrifice and love, to offer to the Archdiocese and all of you this wonderful experience.
As your spiritual father, I am very pleased that you have selected a young, dynamic, and gifted priest of our Holy Archdiocese to speak a word to you today. Open your ears to the words of his Keynote address -- and take those words with you. Open your hearts in the workshops -- and take what you have learned with you. Open your souls in the Chapel services -- and take the Divine Bread you receive from heaven into your hearts and souls, and let It give you life.
Proclaim today and everyday of your life, that truly we are one faith, we are one family, and we have one future, hand in hand, together to the New Millennium. Peace and grace to you in His Name. Amen.