|Homily 1st Sunday after Pentecost Sunday of All Saints 2015|
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen; glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
On the face of it, this seems to be a pretty straightforward statement. Many of us would readily say, "I have never denied Christ. I confess Him all the time...every day!" ....and we feel pretty good about that. However as St. Anthony the Great said once:
Keep in mind that you must always be setting an example Through your moral life and through your actions. For the sick find and recognize good doctors, not just through their words, but through their actions.
How does that reflect on whether one confesses Christ or denies Him, though? In all ways. We can confess Christ all day long and act in a manner which denies Him all day as well. If we are to take the name of Christian, that also means that we must take on the life in Christ.
Do we proclaim the name of Christ as our own while using it as a curse?
Do we say that we love God, but are angry with our brothers and sisters? Do we say we follow Christ and hate our enemies? Do we even have enemies?
We put "In God we Trust" on our money.....but is it God we truly trust, or have we just labeled our money with the name that we truly give it? In other words is money our god?
"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."
Who is our father or mother? On the one hand it can be our biological fathers and mothers. We can worry about pleasing them over following the Scriptures. I know many at seminary and in other parishes whose parents disowned them for becoming Orthodox. Not all conversions are happy stories, family wise. They persevered in their Orthodoxy because they honored God above all things. But "father and mother" could also be seen metaphorically as the culture one was brought up in. Do we love our ethnicity more than God? Do we love our country more than God...or have we confused nationalism with our spirituality and made our politics a litmus test for how we approach the faith? None of these work, really. The Church must be able to coexist and transcend any and all political movements or cultural settings...because it is beyond all of these things. The Church is eternity intruding into the finite world.
Who are our sons and daughters? Sometimes they are our sons and daughters. If a son or daughter says that they want to try monasticism or to become a priest, do we encourage them, or do we discourage them? Do we see making a good living as more important than living good lives? Do we confuse the two (they are not mutually exclusive...but they are not the same things)? Our sons and daughters can also metaphorically be the works of our hands or our perception of how people think about us and what kind of legacy we are going to leave behind. Are we more worried about our legacies than our inheritance in the Kingdom.
If we are not able to set aside our reputations, our expectations of the World, then we are not taking up our Cross.
Yesterday, we read in Scriptures: " Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." and that is a cause for many to despair. We look at our lives and see that we have loved the things of the world more than God. We have not made that good confession with our actions rather than just in words...and we certainly know that we are not perfect. We need not despair. What we can do is to try and to persevere. It's helpful, always, to remember that the verse "Be ye perfect" is more properly translated, "Be ye perfected." It's a process. It's when we stop trying that we are lost. Keep seeking, keep knocking, keep taking up the cross!
Today we remember all of the saints, known and unknown, who have shined forth. Today we see the fruits of Pentecost, the giving of the Holy Spirit. Today we remember those who did not deny Christ with either lips or actions, but proclaimed Him with their whole being. Yesterday, I picked up a copy of Our Thoughts Determine our Lives by Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, hoping to find something to inspire me for this homily. The first thing I opened it to was a passage I had not read before. It perfectly summarized what the saints do and what we are meant to do as well. I will end with his words:
A materialist person cannot understand a spiritual person. Anything that a spiritual person says is fantasy to a materialistic person, because heavenly logic is completely different from the logic of this world However, when on talks to a materialistic person one may bring him to the conclusion that there is, after all, something that moves the world, and that there is harmony in the universe and disharmony on the earth.
Thus, the sons of light have been called to shine forth with their lives as much as possible and to spread the light everywhere. For the Lord Himself said, "I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled." This fire is Divine Love.
We Christians have been called to spread upon the earth the atmosphere of heaven, eternity, love, peace, truth, and stillness. but it is very difficult, since from our youth we have learned anger and disobedience; we have become accustomed to returning blows and to approaching everyone with distrust and reserve. We have accepted much evil into our hearts, and now we need to get rid of it.
This is the place to get rid of it! Here is the Church is the place to crucify our old wills and to rise with a new will...the will of God so that we can be the light to the nations that we are meant to be. The fire that Christ wished to be kindled was kindled at Pentecost when the tongues of flame appeared over each person. This flame was passed on and given to each one of us at our Chrismation! It is up to us now whether we take the embers we sometimes let our faith become...and fan them up into a great light for all to see and to provide light and warmth to a world that languishes in the dark and cold.
©2015 Fr. Philip Kontos