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577Homily for 2/9/14 - P&P/hnmr - belief and life

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  • David
    Feb 9, 2014
      2Tim 3:10-15

      Today we begin the preparation for Great Lent with the readings from the
      Gospel about the Publican and the Pharisee. In this Gospel we find an
      example of two great tools with which we can work out our salvation in
      the humility and repentance of the Publican. We are also warned about
      two grave pitfalls on our path in the pride and legalism of the
      Pharisee. In these two men in the parable we see that it is not just
      what we say we believe, but how we work out our belief in our lives. The
      Holy Apostle Paul reinforces this lesson in his letter to Timothy which
      we also read today. He writes to Timothy and to us: “You have carefully
      followed my doctrine (that which I believe and teach) and my manner of
      life (how that doctrine affects the way I live)�

      Today we also celebrate the memory of the New Martyrs and Confessors of
      Russia. Here again, we have set before us the example of those who lived
      out their belief, even in the face of great suffering and death. Just as
      we can look at St Paul and see how his belief was completely integrated
      into his life so also the New Martyrs lived according to their faith no
      matter what difficulties and trials arose. Here we see the truth of the
      Apostles words that, “all who desire to live godly in Jesus Christ will
      suffer persecution.� St John Chrysostom equates “persecution� here with
      afflictions, sorrows, grief, tribulation and temptation. In other words
      those of us who strive to live Godly lives in this world will inevitably
      face these things. This is the case not because God desires that we
      suffer, but rather because as the prophet says, “There is a time for
      every purpose under heaven�. This life is the time for labor, not for
      rest. This is the time of the contest, the fight, the struggle which is
      followed by the victory celebration. We are athletes in the middle of
      the contest who look not for immediate rest, but rather who look toward
      the goal of winning the battle. Our afflictions and sorrows, that is our
      “persecutions� now are simply a part of the contest in which we are
      engaged – the goal of which is victory over sin death and the devil. Of
      course we know and believe that our Lord Jesus Christ has won this
      victory for us for all time, however, we now are engaged in the battle
      to make this victory real in our own lives, to claim it for ourselves.

      The strategy of this battle is tried and true. It is given to us by our
      Lord Jesus Christ, the Victor over sin death and the devil. It is
      guaranteed by Him. All we need to do to be victorious is to follow the
      plan which He sets out for us. This plan is laid out for us first and
      most clearly in the Gospel which illumines the rest of the Scripture,
      the law and the prophets and the epistles and which is lived out before
      us in the Tradition of the Church. Therefore the Apostle Paul exhorts
      Timothy and us to “continue in the things which you have learned and
      been assured of…� These are the things which we have learned by the
      reading and hearing of the Gospel, by reading spiritual works, by prayer
      and by living the life of the Church. Through all these things we learn
      about God’s love and care for us, we learn that He has won the victory
      and we only need to follow Him. We learn about the life in Christ, the
      spiritual realm and the Kingdom of God. All this and more we learn from
      our holy mother Church, who teaches us and nurtures us.

      Not only is it about what we have learned, but also what we believe
      through faith (that is “the things of which you have been assured�) It
      is not enough to know about God and about the spiritual life and about
      heaven. Through faith, we must grasp these things as the truth and
      believing them to be true, make this belief a real and active part of
      our lives.

      Now we come back again, full circle to the first comments of St Paul
      which we heard today, “You have carefully followed my doctrine (that
      which I believe and teach) and my manner of life (how that doctrine
      affects the way I live)� What we believe, that is our “doctrine� affects
      our manner of life (the way we live). If we truly believe that God
      created us in order that we might share in His life and if we believe
      that He loves and cares for us and if we believe that our purpose and
      goal in life is to live in union and communion with Him, then how does
      this affect how we live in this present life in which we are sunk in the
      midst of conflict and temptations and sorrows and afflictions. St John
      Chrysostom tells us that our belief then, offers a greater context for
      this life through which we can truly value and evaluate our experiences.
      With this greater context we can gain a proper perspective about what is
      good and therefore to be desired above all. Thus he summarizes for us:
      “Virtue is good, vice is evil; but riches and poverty, life and death
      …diseases, ill-treatment, false accusations and the like are things
      indifferent� These things that are indifferent, that is the conditions
      of this life, are merely the tools which we use to acquire virtue (that
      which is good) or vice (that which is evil). Whether we suffer through
      riches or poverty, or any other condition is of little consequence, but
      it is how we bear these conditions of our lives that will make the
      difference. Our doctrine, what we believe, affects the manner of our
      lives, that is, how we bear the conditions of this life.

      We are now preparing to enter the season of Great Lent. This is the time
      when we intensify our struggle against the passions and lusts that seek
      to pull us away from God and which stand as barriers to the grace of the
      Holy Spirit working in us. If we enter this struggle with a lack of
      belief, then all this self inflicted suffering will appear pointless and
      we will lose heart and despair. But if we hold strong to our belief that
      this life is a contest, it is a battle and that we will reap the rewards
      of that battle in eternity, then our belief will influence our manner of
      life and we will be able to endure just a little more and to go on just
      a little longer and to gain just a little more ground in our efforts to
      make the victory of Christ’s Resurrection real in our own lives. We will
      not lose hope for we look past today, past tomorrow, past the end of
      this earthly life and we fix our hope and our vision on the Kingdom of
      God. Therefore now, as you begin to prepare for the fast, fortify
      yourself with faith and belief. Enrich yourself with the knowledge of
      God by reading the scriptures and reading spiritual works. Allow only
      those things which will provide spiritual strength to be a part of your
      life. Thus cut back on the toxic input of the world – music, novels,
      television and movies, internet, games, parties, entertainments,
      distractions and the like – and increase those things which are
      spiritually enriching such as reading and listening to the Scriptures;
      reading edifying books, listening to spiritual music and programs,
      watching films and videos of an spiritually beneficial nature; giving of
      yourself and your resources to help others; and of course above all,
      prayer. These things will build up your belief which will then
      positively affect your manner of life enabling you to successfully
      struggle against the vices of the world and gain instead the virtues of
      the Kingdom of God.

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