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593homily for 6/15/14 - P1 - the family of God

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  • David
    Jun 15, 2014
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      Matt 19:27-19:30

      One of the closest bonds between people that we know in this world is
      that of “family”. When all others fail, the family remains with us. When
      there’s nowhere else to turn, we turn to our families. When there is a
      great joy and happiness in our lives, no matter who else we tell, we
      share the joy with our families. The tie with family is strong.
      And yet, our Lord tells us today that if we do not love Him more than
      our families, we are not worthy of Him. If our love for God does not
      surpass the love for our parents, our children, our family – then it is
      lacking. If our bond with God is not stronger than our bond with our
      family, then we are too far from Him. Our love for our Lord Jesus Christ
      must be greater than that which we hold for our fathers, our mothers,
      our children – it must even be so great that we would give up our family
      in order to follow Christ.

      What is it that makes the family tie so strong? We are tied to our
      families because we share the same essence with them. We share our
      bodies and blood with one another, drawing from the same source. We
      share the experiences of our lives from the very first moments with our
      families. Everything you learned about relating to other people, you
      learn first from your family. Every personality trait, every like and
      dislike, every skill, ability, strength and talent has its roots in your
      family. Your family makes you who you are and influences who and what
      you become in your life.

      If we are to love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love that surpasses that
      of the family; if we are to be closer to Him than to our own father or
      mother or closer than we are to our own children, then we must share
      with Him the same things we share with our families. We must first and
      foremost share the very core of our being. We must be born – or reborn –
      from the same root as He. His Blood must run in our veins and His Body
      must be united with ours. He must be incorporated into every part of our
      lives so that our likes, our dislikes, our joys, our sorrows, our
      skills, abilities and talents must all be touched by Him and infiltrated
      by Him. He must make us who we are and influence who and what we become
      in our lives.

      How then do we accomplish this? The only way to begin is to be born
      again into the family of Jesus Christ through the rebirth of Baptism. We
      enter the waters of baptism and there die to our old self, the old man
      saturated and surrounded by sin. Having died to the old man, we arise
      out of the water and are born a new man, surrounded by the grace of God.
      That grace is the energy of God which fills us inasmuch as we allow it
      and which transforms us as we cooperate with it from the fallen creature
      which we were into the new creation and citizen of God’s Kingdom. The
      Holy Spirit, which is given to us in Chrismation, works within us,
      receiving from us the offering of our whole selves – our skills, our
      abilities, our joys and sorrows, our talents and personality. With our
      cooperation He transforms all that we give Him so that in every aspect
      of our being we are united to Christ. We receive the Body and Blood of
      our Lord in the sacrament of Holy Communion so that we are united to His
      Body and we have His Blood running through our veins. In this way we are
      united to Jesus Christ more than to our own fathers and mothers and
      children, more than to our own families.

      The one thing that this process requires from us is our cooperation. Our
      Lord does everything, He provides the grace, He gives Himself to us; He
      unites us to Himself. The only thing that we contribute to this process
      is our cooperation – that is, to offer ourselves freely to Him and to
      trust His working in us so that He might freely transform us into His
      likeness and unite us to Himself. We deny ourselves, we take up our
      Cross and we follow Him – the end result is that we have given ourselves
      fully to Him and He receives us to Himself. Those who have been united
      to Him we call saints and on this day we celebrate the memory of all the
      saints – we celebrate the memory of our whole family, for because we are
      united to Christ, so we are also all united to one another.

      St Gregory Palamas reminds us that “God is glorious in His saints” (Ps
      68:35) and encourages us then to “call to mind the martyrs’ superhuman
      struggles, how in the weakness of their flesh they put to shame the evil
      one’s strength, disregarding pain and wounds as they struggle bodily
      against flame, the sword, all different kinds of deadly tortures,
      patiently resisting while their flesh was cut, their joints dislocated
      and their bones crushed, and keeping the confession of faith in Christ
      in its integrity, complete, unharmed and unshaken. As a result there
      were bestowed on them the incontrovertible wisdom of the Spirit and the
      power to work miracles. Let us consider the patience of holy men and
      women, how they willingly endured long periods of fasting, vigil and
      various other physical hardships as though they were not in the body
      battling to the end against evil passions and all sorts of sin, in the
      invincible inner warfare against principalities, powers and spiritual
      wickedness (Eph 6:12). They wore away their outer selves and made them
      useless, but their inner man was renewed and deified by Him from whom
      they also received gifts of healing and mighty works. When we think on
      these matters and understand that they surpass human nature, we are
      filled with wonder and glorify God who gave them such grace and power.
      For even if their intentions were good and noble, without God’s strength
      they could not have gone beyond the bounds of their nature and driven
      away the bodiless enemy while clothed in their bodies. … Whereas God,
      according to the Psalmist, gives all his people strength and power – for
      He shows no partiality – He is glorified only in His saints … not
      everyone takes advantage of His grace and power to practice and perfect
      virtue or show forth miracles, only those with a good intent who
      demonstrate their love and faith towards God by good works who turn away
      completely from everything base, hold fast to God’s commandments and
      lift up the eyes of their understanding to Christ the Sun of righteousness.”

      See how greatly the saints love God and have given to Him every part of
      themselves, placing all their trust and hope in Him. As they reach out
      to Him, so He reaches out to them and providing all that is necessary,
      draws them to Himself and unites them to Himself. That same call is
      given to us – to follow the path shown to us by the saints. They have
      given themselves over completely to God and have incorporated His grace
      into every part of their being – and now that same font of grace falls
      over us and God calls us to join His family, to be united to Himself and
      through Him to be united to the family of the saints.

      There is no natural bond, no love, quite so strong as that of the
      family. God calls us to surpass that natural bond and that natural love
      and to bind ourselves to Him and to love Him so that He might call us
      into His family along with all the saints who are ready to embrace us
      and to call us brother and sister.

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