Glory to Jesus Christ!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
Today is Thursday 16 June 2022 and Ukraine is experiencing the 113th day of this full-scale, bloody war waged by Russia against the Ukrainian people.
And we greet you from Kharkiv, together with the bishops, the clergy, the laity, the parishioners of our St Nicholas Cathedral, here in Kharkiv.
We thank God and the Ukrainian military for seeing the light of the new morning, that we have survived to this day. We know that our military, as well as civilians, have paid with their own lives for us to be together today and during last day.
Yesterday we visited the city of Sumy, which is also almost 20 kilometres from the Russian border. The Sumy region has almost 500 kilometres of border with Russia, and we have traveled around these border villages and towns, and we really feel how Ukraine is fighting for its life. In 95% of the Sumy region the fields have been sown, Ukraine has won the battle for the sowing campaign to feed its children and to feed the world. But unfortunately the war continues. Kharkiv is also literally 20 kilometres from the Russian border and 60 kilometres from here there are active hostilities.
The city of Izyum is occupied, close to us, here is the part of Luhansk region where there are very fierce battles for Sievierodonetsk and that part of the Luhansk region, which is now under the control of the Ukrainian army.
Along the entire front line from Kharkiv in the north to Mykolayiv, Kherson in the south there are heavy and bloody battles. But Ukraine is standing. Ukraine is fighting.
And today we see each other not virtually, but in person. I told our people that the greatest happiness is that we can meet each other today and shake hands.
And I really thank my bishops today for the service they perform here in Kharkiv. We are experiencing the celebration of the Feast of the Holy Spirit. And every day we reflect on the gifts that the Holy Spirit has brought to the Church.
Today, I would like to reflect on the special gift of the Holy Spirit called counsel. This gift of the Holy Spirit truly helps a person to discern. First of all, to distinguish between spirits. The apostle John says, “Do not believe every spirit, but see that these spirits are of God.” It is this gift of the Holy Spirit that gives us the opportunity, teaches us, gives us a special spiritual feeling to hear God, to feel His presence.
But in practical, daily life, this gift teaches us to distinguish between good and evil. Because we know that when a person has sinned, the ability to distinguish between good and evil is wounded. Every criminal wants to justify his crime by calling it good. But for modern man, who sometimes does not fully understand what good and evil are, this gift of the Holy Spirit is especially important.
This gift of counsel is especially felt here in Kharkiv. Why? Because when someone wants to see the face of true good, they look into the faces of these people, the faces of people who are in danger of death every day, but with smiling faces, who seek the face of God.
Today we pray for our teachers, spiritual teachers, spiritual fathers. For the gift of counsel from the Holy Spirit for them, so that they may have the gift of discerning vocations, different gifts that people have from the Holy Spirit. And we also pray for parents and educators to teach every Ukrainian today to distinguish between good and evil.
Unfortunately, the criminal aggressor is trying to justify his crimes. They are trying to pretend that murder and attacks are something good, but this justification in the light of the gift of the Holy Spirit is unmasked.
Today we ask the Holy Spirit to bless Ukraine. O Holy Spirit, give us the spirit of counsel, so that no one may ever deceive us! O Holy Spirit, teach us not just to distinguish between good and evil, but only to choose good and to live according to what the Lord God gives us for our good. O God, bless Ukraine!
May the blessing of the Lord be upon you through His grace and love of humankind, always, now and ever, and for ages of ages. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!