"Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” [Matthew 21:43-44]
I had the great joy and privilege in these last couple days of sharing in the annual gathering of Europe's Oriental Catholic Bishops hosted this year in Lviv by the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC) against the backdrop of the 25th Anniversary of that Church's emergence from over 40 years of illegality and persecution by the Soviets.
It was great that so many brother bishops from other Churches of central and eastern Europe which had suffered a similar fate could be here to rejoice with the UGCC, today a youthful and flourishing Church. Lviv was the city where the Church reemerged twenty-five years ago and on Saturday morning we celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the church whose pastor had been one of the ring leaders of the "pseudo sobor" (a synod without bishops) of 1946, which ratified the soviet dictates for the destruction of the Church and received all its property on behalf of the Orthodox. This same church was the first in 1989 to come back to Catholicism and to hear the Holy Father's name commemorated once again in public within the Divine Liturgy.
What touched me deeply about all the events of these days was the sense of awe which was all pervasive. There was no triumphalism at all but profound gratitude for this work done by God Himself: freeing the Church and then despite the imperfections of the people involved, prospering the work of their hands in the course of these twenty-five years. It could have been someone else elsewhere, but God in His mercy chose to prosper the Church of Kyiv, of the Baptism of the Kyivan Rus! The lot fell to the UGCC!
At some point during an historical presentation on the struggles of these last years and hopes for the future, in light of an honest admission of both the strengths and the weaknesses of the UGCC, the above words from our Lord and Savior came crowding into my thoughts. What do we know about how long the Lord's favor might last? It is more than urgent that we be good tenants of His vineyard, that we prove faithful and prudent stewards of His manifold grace.
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI