SCOBA 2002 Encyclical for Cheesefare Sunday

March 15, 2002

Sunday of Cheese-fare and Mission Sunday 2002

Then Jesus said to His disciples,'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ (Matthew 9:37-38)

The Hierarchs of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas

To all the Clergy and the Laity of the Holy Orthodox Church in the Americas

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We greet you in the strength and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as we begin the Lenten Season, knowing that He will guide you in prayer, fasting, and worship unto Pascha, the great and glorious celebration of salvation and life.

In the Gospel of Matthew we read that as Christ traveled through the cities and villages teaching, preaching, and healing, “He saw the crowds, and He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35-36). He saw the genuine physical and spiritual needs of people who were burdened and struggling in the midst of an altered world. He saw human beings, created in the image of God, who needed love, peace, and truth from above. He saw persons who needed acceptance, assurance, and guidance.

In our modern era where advanced technology has facilitated global communication, we do not have to travel through every city and village to see physical suffering, spiritual depravity, and the helplessness of those harassed by evil. However, in our contemporary world where many choose to ignore or isolate themselves from the tremendous needs of others, we are called as Orthodox Christians to see as Christ saw during His earthly ministry—with awareness, with compassion, and with commitment. First, we must always be aware of the true condition of our world, a world where many have not heard the Gospel message of love and transformation. Second, we must look upon others and their needs with eyes of deep compassion, knowing that we have much to offer. Third, we must remain committed to missions and ministry because truly “the harvest is plentiful”.

This commitment to missions in response to the call of our Lord leads us beyond only knowing the needs of others, to participating in and assisting ministries of teaching, preaching, and healing throughout the world. As Orthodox Christians and parishes in America, we are able to do this through the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC), the foreign missionary agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA). Located in Saint Augustine, Florida, the Mission Center continues to support, expand, and develop vital ministries that are reaching people all over the globe. Orthodox missionaries and mission teams travel to distant lands to preach the Gospel, teach the faith, and provide medical care and philanthropic assistance. Indigenous clergy are being assisted, leaders and teachers are being trained, and churches, orphanages, and clinics are being built.

In support of this sacred work, this Sunday of Cheese-fare has been designated as Mission Sunday, a day on which we ask all of our parishes to take a special offering for the Mission Center. As we give generously, we must hear the words Jesus Christ spoke to His disciples: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38). As Orthodox Christians we must not only ensure that the resources are available to send laborers throughout the world, but we must also answer the call to be laborers ourselves. The harvest is plentiful in cities, villages, and distant lands, and certainly in the fields around us.

In this time of Great Lent, may God uplift your spiritual awareness, deepen your compassion, and strengthen your commitment to His saving work in your life and in the lives of others.

With paternal blessings and love in Christ,

+Archbishop DEMETRIOS, Chairman Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

+Metropolitan PHILIP, Vice Chairman Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

+Metropolitan CHRISTOPHER, Secretary Serbian Orthodox Church in the USA and Canada

+Metropolitan NICHOLAS OF Amissos, Treasurer American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese in the USA

+Metropolitan Theodosius, Orthodox Church in America

+Metropolitan JOSEPH, Locum tenens, Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in America and Canada

+Metropolitan JOSEPH Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church

+Metropolitan CONSTANTINE Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA