Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Saturday's Gospel Reading of the Good Shepherd, from the Gospel of St. John, may have sounded familiar. It is the same Gospel Reading for the Feast of the Three Hierarches Great Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom and also for their independent feast days. Today is the Feast of St. Photios the Great, who is also a Great Saint and Hierarch, which is to say a Bishop, also like the Three Hierarchs. Every time there is a Feast day for a Saint who is Bishop, this is the Gospel Reading that is read that day.
This Gospel Reading from the Gospel of St. John emphasizes that Christ is the Good Shepherd. The Hierarchs are called to imitate our Lord and be Good Shepherds also. Apostle Paul urged us, as a Hierarch himself, in his first letter to the Corinthians, to imitate him, just as he also imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). The Hierarches together with all of the clergy are to bring the people to Christ, so that Christ may give them pasture, which is to say good spiritual food, the Sacraments that save us. But also in a similar way, in imitation of this, it is the responsibility of the parent or parents to bring their children to Church. For those who are not parents, everyone has the responsibility to bring someone else (this may result in the person becoming a godparent). Grandparents, Parents and Godparents all have a Good Shepherd like role in the spiritual life of their grandchildren, children or Godchildren. Catechism or the teaching of the Faith starts at home, the Youth Programs and Sunday School exist to assist with this, to tutor the children in their faith to fill what is missing not to replace the work and role of the Parent.
My father, who was born and raised in Larisa, Greece, enjoys to cook and he taught myself and my siblings all to cook and we all similarly enjoy cooking very much. On a few occasions I remember him repeating a certain Greek Proverb or saying while cooking early in the day for us. He would say the Prudent Parents cook for their children before they are hungry. The actual saying in Greek is, Τών φρονίμων τα παιδιά πριν πεινάσουν μαγειρέυουν. Literally: "The children of prudent parents cook before they become hungry." i.e. the prudent parents, teach their children well.
This wise Proverb can be applied to the Christian Life. The Parents, from a young age, teach their children the importance of going to church from a young age. Good Shepherds, the Three Hierarchs like St. Photios the Great whom we celebrate today or the Three Hierarchs that we just celebrated recently in January, like Christ open the Gate for their spiritual children to eat and we as parents should imitate that and bring our children to church so they can partake of all of the Good Things that Christ in His Church offers (Sacrments). If we the parents prudently do this from the beginning, then our will not have problems with our children later in life because the children will have good spiritual food, which is to say the Sacraments, in Christ Jesus our Lord God and Savior. Because even when the children as adults later in life encounter difficulties, they know where their true home, the Church is, and they know where to get the spiritual help and most importantly the spiritual food (Holy Communion) they need.
May Christ our true God, through the prayers of St. Photios the Great who we celebrate Saturday and the Three Holy Hierarchs and all of the grandparents and great grandparents who reside in God's Heavenly Kingdom, always bring us to Himself!