Metropolitan Moses - 9th Sunday of Saint Matthew
- LORD SAVE ME!Today’s gospel passage for the ninth Sunday after Pentecost contains one of the most encouraging and hope filled messages for us all.The disciples were alone in the ship, discouraged and anxious, rowing until the fourth watch of the night and wind was contrary. Beyond all expectation our Savoir passed by, walking on the water. Upon seeing him, they thought He was a spirit. Our Saviour called out to them to them saying, “Take courage, it is I, be not afraid.” (Matt 14:27) Saint Peter in his ardour and zeal said “If it is Thou, bid me come on the water” (Matt 14:28) And our Saviour bade him to come. So Saint Peter undertook to approach our Saviour, and seeing the wind boisterous and the waves of the sea, thoughts began to enter his mind. He reasoned also concerning the great depth of the sea, which as a fisherman he knew so well. These things filled his mind and he became distracted even in the presence of our Saviour. His faith began to fail him and he started to sink, yet even in his failings he knew Who to turn to, and cried out, “Lord save me!” (Matt 14:30)Our Saviour replied, “O ye of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” (Matt 14:31) Clearly warning us that lack of faith is an obstacle to any of the works of virtue and the grace of God.It is good to reflect at this point on the character of Saint Peter. Saint Peter was a good man with many virtues. He demonstrated his humility when our Saviour worked the miracle of the great catch of fish and in astonishment Saint Peter humbly said, “Lord depart from me for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8) Saint Peter had zeal and love—but his faith was not always as it should have been. Time went on, St Peter saw miracles, healed the sick and even experienced the Transfiguration. Then he endured another more grievous tempest than before—our Saviour’s voluntary Passion.At the Mystical Supper our Saviour warned Saint Peter that, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)— St John Kronstant explains that by the term “sifting” our Saviour meant that Satan was going to distract Saint Peters mind and make him forgetful and cause him to fall.The chief priests and the officers appeared at the Garden of Gethsemane to take our Saviour and in his ardour Saint Peter pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest. Saviour commanded him to put away his sword. Consternation and confusion set in, yet, when our Saviour was taken away, Saint Peter followed him out of love and devotion. Saint Peter was threatened and he was distracted and faltered in his forgetfulness. He was accused that he was a disciple of Jesus by one of the maids and he denied. Again he was accused and again he denied. Then, according to our Savior’s prediction, the cock crowed and Saint Peter had to confront his sin. He had become distracted and that lead to confusion, which tempted his faith, which lead to denial. Yet he knew where to turn to and did not despair —but wept bitterly before God. His faith failed him, but he did not lose faith in God’s mercy. These things are recorded for us that we keep the remembrance of this faith in God’s mercy for time of need. Saint Peter demonstrated what the Holy Fathers call “praiseworthy audacity.” We should always trust in God’s mercy and even be audacious in our pursuit of it. Yet, we have to act in order to find mercy. We have to find a way to repent.How do we know that Saint Peter repented? There is a tradition that whenever Saint Peter heard a rooster crow, he remembered his denial and wept. That is an important lesson for us. If we fall into a sin and try and convince ourselves that we have repented, the only way to be sure is by the measure of our contrition and regret. It is easy for us to be lazy and complacent and not really repent. One indication that we have not repented is if someone were to bring the sin up and we become angry or try and justify ourselves, or trivialize our sin. Such and attitude is self-deception and not repentance.Saint Peter had failings, but he loved God. The elder Ambrose of Optina once stated, “You know, personalities are only significant in human judgement, and that is why they are praised or scorned. But in God’s judgement, personalities, like natural tendencies, are not approved or disapproved. The Lord looks at good intentions and struggle for the good, and values opposition to the passions…”Yea, our God looks to the sincere disposition of the heart and struggle and effort. Saint Peter failed, yet because he loved and was sincere and did not justify or trivialize his actions, grace supported him even in his fall and eventually restored him.This image of Saint Peter in the wind tossed depths of the sea is a powerful one. It reminds one of the many perils that the saints endured, and yet in the midst of perils the kept their eyes on Christ. We see from the lives of the saints that is precisely because they were steadfast during trials and tribulations they were later glorified. Saint John Chrysostom lived during the golden age of Christianity. Yet, his life was filled with tumult from the time he became Archbishop of Constantinople. The Patriarch of Alexandria Theophilus did not want him as a candidate and continually intrigued against him after he was elected. The local clergy resented him because they thought he was too strict in some matters. He raised the ire of the Empress because he complained about immodest dress (including hers) and stood up to her when she took some land that had been part of a poor family’s estate for generations. Whisperings and intrigues were continually used against him. These storms intrigue were against the “Golden Mouth,” the greatest preacher in the history of the Church. The empress and the patriarch of Alexandria conspired against him and he ended his life in exile ever looking to our Saviour and saying, “Glory to God for all things.”Saint Herman of Alaska was part of that band of heroic men that came to Alaska to preach the world of God to the local natives. After Saint Juvenal was slain by a certain group of natives, Saint Herman and the others found willing converts to the word of God, but it was a corrupt leader of the Russian America Company that undermined all of their efforts. As it is written in the life, the others became demoralized, yet Saint Herman simply withdrew from the corrupt leader and redoubled his prayers, finding another location and way to help the Christian converts. Things were not as he wished, but he prayerfully kept the mind of his eye on Christ and made it through the storm.These things are recorded in the lives of the saints in order to instruct us how we can set our gaze on Christ in the midst of storms in our own lives.Today there is much confusion in the world. There may be a time when to do the right thing for yourselves and your families will be very unpopular with society and with those you interact with on a daily basis. A Christian who stands for what is right is often vilified in the press and abandoned by fair weather friends.It is precisely during these times, when perhaps we begin to waiver that we must remember this image of Saint Peter and more earnestly direct our gaze towards our Lord Jesus. Without our Christ we are nothing, with Him all things are possible. If we are in a state of repentance in Christ, we can find forgiveness of sins, increase of faith and peace of soul. Let us seek the face of God in the storms of life and cry out with Saint Peter, “Lord, save me!” --That with him we might find the mercy of God and the Kingdom of the Heavens. Amen.