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485Homily for 3/4/12 - L1 - pursuing spiritual riches

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  • Fr David Moser
    Mar 4, 2012
      Hebrews 11:24-26 & 32-12:2

      When you undertake a difficult task, it is always helpful to hear the
      stories of others who have overcome similar situations and gained some
      great prize. When we undertake to follow Jesus Christ, we have the same
      kind of encouragement, we have the lives of the saints. It is good, of
      course, to read the Gospel and to have the life of Christ as our
      example. By meditating on the life of Christ, we learn to make decisions
      about how to live our own lives. As a spur to remember the life of
      Christ and to imitate Him, we have all heard the saying, “What would
      Jesus do?” It is indeed a good thing to imitate Christ in all things,
      for surely we must if we would follow Him. The whole journey of Great
      Lent is to follow our Lord as He approaches the Cross; to die with Him
      and to be buried with Him that we might also rise with Him to the new
      life of the Kingdom of God.

      Sometimes, however, we need more than simply the life of Christ.
      Christians have lived in so many different eras, cultures and societies
      that it is helpful to see how the life of Christ is lived out in a
      variety times and places and circumstances. Recognizing this the Apostle
      today gives us the example not of Christ but of the saints. This reading
      from the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a short reminder to look at the
      lives of the saints and to see how they lived the life of Christ so that
      we might be encouraged in our own struggle to follow Him. Even in this
      short excerpt there are so many of the saints mentioned, that to
      consider the life of each one would take not just one sermon, but many –
      and what we have read is just a small portion. This short reading is
      given to prompt us to consider on our own throughout the coming week and
      throughout all of Great Lent, the lives of these saints. To that end
      each of us, when we return home, should re-read the entire eleventh
      chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament and bring to
      mind the lives of the saints which are presented for us there. For
      today, however, we will look at the life of just one of those saints,
      the Holy Prophet and God-seer Moses.

      Moses was born at a time when the Hebrew people lived under captivity.
      As a people, they lived in a foreign land (the land of Egypt) and they
      were forced to work not for their own welfare, but to fulfill the whims
      of the Pharaoh. The Egyptian rulers, seeing that as a group the Hebrew
      people were a threat, sought to remove at least some of that threat by
      mandating that all newborn boys would not be allowed to live. This, they
      thought, would create a weak nation without a generation of young men
      who would fight in a rebellion. It was into this danger that the prophet
      Moses was born. His God loving mother disobeyed the edict to drown the
      newborn boys and instead placed him into a basket which had been treated
      to float on the surface of the water. By God’s great mercy, her child
      was found by a princess, the daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh who took
      the child as her own. Thus Moses was born a slave, but raised as a
      prince, with all the pleasures and advantages of the world given to him.
      As he grew, however, the young man always knew that he had been born as
      a slave. The two aspects of his life, that of an Egyptian prince and a
      Hebrew slave, came to a point of decision when he saw the beating of a
      Hebrew slave by an Egyptian slavemaster. Moses could no longer live in
      both worlds, he had to choose who he would become. As a part of his
      upbringing, his natural mother who had been engaged as his nanny had
      taught Moses the worship of the one true God and at this moment of
      crisis, Moses chose to follow the true God and to identify himself with
      the slaves rather than act the prince and follow the idols and false
      Gods of the Egyptians. He deemed that it was better to suffer in this
      life and to gain the riches of God in the next than to enjoy the
      pleasures of this life and to suffer in the torments of the next. Moses
      chose at that moment to follow God, but this was not the end.

      Because of his choice, Moses had to flee his former life, to leave
      behind all the pleasures of the world that he had known. He lived in
      exile and took up the life of a shepherd. In that time of exile and
      struggle, he found his comfort in the worship of God and when the time
      came for him to return and help his own people, He was granted the
      vision of God in the unburnt bush. From this point we remember the
      contest of wills with the Egyptian Pharaoh to win the freedom of the
      Hebrew people and then we remember the trials of the flight across the
      Red Sea into the desert of Sinai and wandering in that wilderness for 40
      years leading a stubborn and recalcitrant people toward the goal of
      entering the promised land. All of this Moses underwent because he
      counted the spiritual riches of God of greater value than the comforts
      and pleasures of the world.

      This life is important for us to remember as we are at the beginning of
      Great Lent. We are at the start of our own journey in the wilderness
      which we endure not for 40 years, but for 40 days. We leave behind the
      pleasures and joys of this world – the rich foods, the amusements and
      diversions, the small comforts that have become a part of our lives –
      and voluntarily take upon ourselves a strict life of self denial. We do
      this, not for some perverse love of suffering, but rather we know that
      the small suffering of self denial that we undergo now will lead us into
      the greater and eternal joys of the Kingdom of Heaven. We choose to pass
      up the immediate reward of worldly pleasure and ease in order that we
      might obtain the greater reward of the joy of the Resurrection.

      Like Moses, we are faced with a choice. Who will we become. Will we
      follow the easy path of worldly pleasure and indulgence offered to by
      going along with the flow of life in the world, or will we instead take
      up the life of self-denial, of which Great Lent is a symbol, and follow
      Christ. How often during Lent are we faced with the temptation to
      compromise just this once, to take the easy way out, to break the fast,
      excusing ourselves for any number of reasons? This is something that we
      all face daily. When we come up on this temptation, we are faced with
      the choice of Moses – to follow along with the ease and comfort of the
      world such as it is or to renew our choice to deny ourselves and follow
      Christ. Standing alone, this choice is hard and sometimes beyond our
      strength – but we do not stand alone. For this very reason we have the
      life of Moses and of the other saints, not only those of the Old
      Testament brought to mind in the epistle to the Hebrews, but also those
      of the Church who have lived in the time since the Resurrection until
      now. They are with us; they are praying for us; they have faced this
      same choice and chose to follow Christ. We are not alone, for as the
      epistle goes on to remind us the saints stand round about us as a great
      cloud of witnesses cheering us on, shouting encouragement, offering a
      hand to draw us past the trials.

      Moses chose at a moment to follow God, but his life did not end there.
      He faced many further struggles and difficulties on the path of
      following God, but at each step along that path, each new trial and
      crisis, he was given the strength to continue by God and he was given a
      glimpse of the reward awaiting him as an encouragement. Having chosen to
      follow Christ, we too will face many further struggles and difficulties
      as we strive to live the Christian life. Great Lent is only a symbolic
      step along that path. Along the way we are continually strengthened by
      the grace of God which we receive in the Holy Mysteries. We are
      encouraged by recalling the lives of the saints who not only preceded
      us, but who also now walk with us giving us encouragement and help along
      the path. As we approach the great feast of Pascha, of the Resurrection
      of the Lord, we will experience a glimpse of the joy and blessing
      awaiting us in the Kingdom of God. All these things are our
      encouragement along the path so that in the end we do not give up but
      that we endure to the end and that we obtain the reward of the labor of
      following Christ along with all those saints who await our coming. They
      are the witnesses and sharers of all our struggles and they are waiting
      for us to claim their reward that we might all enter into the heavenly
      kingdom and the joy of the Lord together.

      Fill your mind with the lives of the saints. Re-read this entire part of
      the epistle to the Hebrews remembering all the saints therein. Read and
      recall the lives of the saints that have lived since then. Fortify your
      thoughts with the memory of the great strugglers who have finished the
      course that you now follow. Remember that they are all there at the end,
      at the threshold of the kingdom of heaven, waiting for you so that they
      will not receive their reward without you.

      All you holy saints of God pray for us!

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org