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Homily for 3/20/05 - 1st Sunday of Lent - "By Faith"

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  • David Moser
    John 1:43-51 Moses was a man who had everything. He was the adopted son of the daughter of the emperor and had everything in life that a man could desire -
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 22, 2005
      John 1:43-51

      Moses was a man who had everything. He was the adopted son of the daughter
      of the emperor and had everything in life that a man could desire -
      possessions, power, respect of men, freedom ... everything. But Moses had
      something beyond that - he had faith. As he was growing up, he was taught
      to believe in the One True God by his true mother who acted as his
      nursemaid. This faith, as the epistle tells us, was the reason that Moses
      forfeited everything else he had and chose to "suffer affliction with the
      people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of the world" For
      Moses, faith was not some abstract belief, rather is was a real force that
      changed the way he lived his life.

      The Holy Apostle goes on to speak of others for whom faith was a real force
      in their lives. "By faith" those such as Gideon, Sampson, David, and others
      guided their lives. They did not make lifestyle choices based on their own
      preference or comfort or worldly success - rather they chose "by faith";
      they chose how to live their lives based on their belief in the One True
      God. This is the example held up for us today at the beginning of the Great
      Fast. Having struggled through the self denial, the increased prayers and
      temptations of the first week of Lent, it is not uncommon to look back at
      the past week and look ahead to the many weeks that remain and ask "why" -
      "Why am I doing this? What purpose does it serve?" And the answer comes to
      us today in the simple word "Faith"

      The lenten fast is not about suffering and it is not about deprivation. The
      lenten fast is the beginning of our spiritual springtime. For a moment
      think about what springtime means - look around you for a moment to the
      springtime of the world and see what is happening. The sun shines a bit
      longer each day, the air is getting warmer, the cold snows of winter become
      the life-giving rains of spring. Around us the plants are beginning to show
      green, to bud and grow. We can even begin to see some of the flowers
      already bringing color back to a grey world. This is the springtime of the
      world - the warming and reemergence of life that has lain dormant throughout
      the winter. The springtime of the spirit is Great Lent. Through the
      discipline of Lent, the soul is put into order and realigned with the
      spiritual world. The warm breath of the Holy Spirit begins to warm and
      awaken the cold heart, the first hints of spiritual life begin to make
      themselves known. The lenten discipline does not destroy life or deny
      life - rather it brings life, but this life is not the life of the world, it
      is the life of the soul, the life of the Holy Spirit with which we are
      animated throughout eternity. All this is accomplished by faith.

      To build a bonfire, one must first take care to lay out the fuel properly,
      making sure that everything is in order with the tinder and small twigs
      nearest the center and the larger sticks and branches next and finally the
      large logs. Then you light a match or strike a spark and bring a small
      flame to the waiting tinder. That small flame must be nurtured, fanned, and
      fed with only the smallest of twigs until it begins to catch fire. The
      flame then spreads throughout the carefully laid tinder and the hot center
      of the fire begins to burn. Inexorably, it seems, that flame spreads from
      the tinder and small twigs to the larger sticks and branches and finally to
      the outer logs until the whole bonfire - so carefully constructed - is
      ablaze. It seems as though the result is inevitable - that once the flame
      is touched to the tinder that soon the whole bonfire will be roaring with
      flame, but it is not so. Much care is required to make sure that the fuel
      is properly laid out, the flame must be carefully brought to the just the
      right spot where the tinder rests. Once lit, the flame must be carefully
      nurtured and fed until it is established. If the fuel is too big to catch
      or if it is wet or if a cross wind blows too hard the flame can die out
      without engaging the whole stack of fuel and there is no bonfire, just a
      stack of logs. Even once the flame begins to burn on its own, it can be
      stopped by water or wind or if the fuel runs out.

      This is the same with the warming of the soul. In order for the soul to
      become ablaze with the love of God it first has to be carefully ordered so
      that everything is prepared for the coming of the flame. This is the
      beginning of Great Lent, when we set our lives in order so that when the
      flame of the Holy Spirit touches us by our prayer it begins to burn and
      establish itself. Even once it burns the flame requires nurturing and care
      so that it always has the right amount of fuel and air to grow and spread.
      The flame must be protected from the winds of the cares and temptations of
      the world as well as the drowning splash of sin so that it does not go out -
      and it must be continually fed with more and more fuel so that it begins to
      burn with greater heat and energy, spreading little by little throughout the
      whole soul. This is the purpose of Great Lent - to set the soul aright, to
      bring the flame of the Holy Spirit to it, to provide the proper fuel to
      allow the spiritual flame to grow and to protect that flame from the cares
      of the world, from temptation and the dampening effect of sin until it is
      well established in us.

      How does all this happen? "By faith" - faith that makes a difference that
      affects the way we live and choices we make. By faith, we choose to suffer
      affliction with the people of God rather than the passing pleasures of the
      world. By faith we choose the love of God rather than the love of men. By
      faith we conform ourselves to the life of the heavenly kingdom, forsaking
      the life of the worldly culture. By faith, we alter our lives to acquire
      the Holy Spirit. From whence does this faith come? From whom do we receive
      it? Our faith is handed to us, taught to us, instilled in us by our holy
      mother Church. The life according to faith is described to us and laid out
      for us in the tradition and life of the Church. We come to Christ as
      infants, as children, willing to be led and taught and molded and shaped,
      not according to our own ideas and dreams and desires and comfort, but
      rather according to the will of God. By faith, we become children - the
      children of God - and like children we are taught and led by our Mother -
      our Holy Mother Church. A child has implicit faith in his parents that
      they will lead him and teach him, that they will protect him and not allow
      him to come to harm. What a parent teaches a child, especially at the early
      ages, is accepted without question and shapes what that child will become in
      later life. In coming to Christ, we too must become like little children
      and instead of acting by our own reason and knowledge and desire must act
      instead by faith; faith in our parents - God our Father and the Church our
      Mother - following the direction and instruction that we receive from them,
      following the examples that they put before us, following even when we don't
      yet see the end. By faith we follow them that they might lead us into the
      heavenly kingdom, the life of eternity in the presence of God, to grow into
      adulthood - not the adulthood of the world, but the adulthood of the Kingdom
      of God for which we were created. By faith we follow not the path of the
      world, but the path of the Church that we might be filled with the Holy
      Spirit, aflame with the love of God, that in our hearts might bloom the
      flowers of the virtues bringing to our dormant and grey souls the color of
      eternal life. All this is accomplished by faith and by faith we are called
      to live. By faith Abraham and Moses and Sampson and Gideon and David and
      the thousands of prophets, martyrs, ascetics and faithful in Christ are
      called to the promise of God - and by faith, we are called to be with them,
      to enter with them into that promised land, the Kingdom of God. All this is
      accomplished - by faith.
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