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Homily for 7/31/05 - Eternal Life

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  • David Moser
    John 17: 1-13 Why did Jesus Christ come into the world? Of what consequence is the incarnation to us? Why are we even here in this Church, what do we hope to
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 7, 2005
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      John 17: 1-13

      Why did Jesus Christ come into the world? Of what consequence is the
      incarnation to us? Why are we even here in this Church, what do we hope to
      gain?


      The answer to these questions and more are right before us today in the
      Gospel. Our Lord says of Himself that His purpose is to give eternal life
      to the world. This is the purpose of His coming to give to us - to you and
      me, to all of us here - eternal life. Stop for a moment and contemplate
      what this means for us. God, the only self-existing One, the only One who
      is Himself Life by nature has come into the world to share that Life with
      us. If He brought that Life into the world, then before He came to give it
      to us, it must have been inaccessible. But no longer - we are given Life by
      Jesus Christ.



      But what is this Life, this "eternal Life" that we are offered? There are a
      lot of ideas about "eternal life" and what it is. For some it is simply
      everlasting existence. But this belief also implies that one can also cease
      to exist and disintegrate into nothingness. This simplistic belief in
      "eternal life" as "everlasting existence" denies the fact of the immortal
      soul in man. Another idea of "eternal life" allows for the continued
      existence of the soul but it defines a quality of existence as something
      good and enjoyable as opposed to eternal death which is unpleasant or even
      torturous. However this idea also generally ignores the existence of the
      body and assumes that the soul is the only thing in a person that counts -
      the body is relegated to an inconsequential unimportant accident, or it is
      defined as "evil" and an obstacle to be done away with. Eternal life is
      sometimes seen as a "reward" for doing or believing the "right" thing. If
      we say a certain prayer, if we act in a certain way, if we "behave
      ourselves", if we belong to the right religious group, then we get rewarded
      with something called eternal life. The eternal life brought to us by Jesus
      Christ is really none of these things. The question then remains what is
      eternal life?



      Again our Lord tells us the answer to that question, "And this is eternal
      life, that they (you and I) may know the only true God and Jesus Christ..."
      The eternal life which Christ brings to us is His own life. To know God is
      to share in His eternal life, to participate in the life that is within
      Himself which is without beginning or end, which transcends time and space,
      which is filled with joy. Eternal life is to know God and so that we might
      know Him, He has revealed Himself to us by taking on flesh as we have and
      becoming man as we are. This is the significance of the incarnation, for in
      becoming man, God has made it possible for us to participate in Him. In
      order to enter into this life, all that is necessary is to know Him.



      To know God is not the same as knowing about Him. Knowing someone implies a
      relationship and the closer the relationship the better one knows the other.
      Thus eternal life is all about having a relationship with God. Knowing
      about Him is only the most basic step in the direction - in order to know
      God we must first align ourselves with Him, we must talk with Him and listen
      to Him. We go through good times and bad together with our friends and so it
      is with God - He is always there and will never leave us nor forsake us, no
      matter how difficult things get. Even when we behave badly and selfishly
      offend Him, He does not abandon us but rather waits patiently until we are
      ready to continue with Him and then readily forgives us and takes us back
      into His Life. To know God is to have Him as a real friend, a close and
      intimate friend, one Who shares His own life with us.



      Our Lord speaks of those who have come to him out of the world saying, "I
      have manifested your name to the men whom You have given me ... and they
      have kept your word. ... I have given them the words you have given me and
      they received them." See here the love and compassion of God for us. He
      has give us His own words, He teaches us from His own mouth how to
      participate in His life. He gives us instruction, He gives us examples, He
      shows us not only what to do but the principles behind the actions. And
      once we have all this, we only have to receive it, that is believe that it
      is true, and act on it. Thus did the Apostles who were chosen by Christ and
      so they have passed this knowledge and experience on to us.



      We have been given in the Holy Tradition and life of the Church a way of
      life and a way of understanding that enables us to share in the very Life of
      God Himself. He has opened Himself to us, He has revealed to us the path of
      salvation, He Himself instructs us, talks with us, cares for us along the
      way. Such is the beauty and glory of the Orthodox Faith for it is nothing
      less than sharing the life of God.



      Occasionally though there are obstacles, bumps along the way. This is true
      of every relationship. There are days when everything works perfectly in a
      relationship, but there are also days when everything goes wrong. We offend
      one another, we hurt one another, we break the bonds that hold us together.
      This is usually the result of selfishness, of caring only for our wants with
      no regard for the other person. In our relationship with God these kind of
      obstacles and "bumps in the road" of our relationship are called sins. Our
      sins are those things which steer us away from our ongoing relationship with
      Jesus Christ and which prevent us from sharing His life. But as huge and
      insurmountable as sin may appear, it is easily done away with. In the
      Gospel today we also heard of the healing of the paralytic. When he was
      brought before Christ, the first thing our Lord said to Him was "Son, be of
      good cheer, your sins are forgiven." Consider just for a moment how
      wonderful this is. Our Lord, upon meeting the man for the first time
      addresses him as, "Son..." Such a close endearment which indicates the
      closeness that we can have with God, that He does not consider us to be
      strangers, or even acquaintances, but rather His own child. "Son," He says,
      "be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven." Just like that, no fanfare, no
      great acts of contrition or penance, no punishment or currying of favor -
      simply, "you sins are forgiven." This is how God deals with those "bumps in
      the road" those obstacles called sins which stand between us. He wipes them
      away with unconditional and immediate forgiveness. What did the paralytic
      do to trigger this forgiveness - he simply came to Christ, nothing else.
      Whenever we come to God, whenever we return after having fallen away from
      our relationship with Him, we are restored by His simple and yet profound
      forgiveness.



      There are those who tend to spend a lot of time focusing on their sins
      rather than on their relationship with God. They count their sins,
      contemplate their sins, mull over them again and again. They berate
      themselves because of their sins, they undertake elaborate rituals to feel
      clean. They never seem to get past their sins. But this is not the way
      with Jesus Christ - He simply says, "your sins are forgiven" and then goes
      on to heal us, to restore us into our relationship with Him. When we look
      at the lives of the saints we see this same simple forgiveness in them.
      Certainly they are aware of their own sins, but they don't obsess on them,
      rather they simply confess their sins, repent and continue on past them to
      the joy of living in the presence of God. This is our example this is what
      we should do. Acknowledge that you have sinned, resolve not to continue in
      sin and then in approaching Christ, He will forgive you with no further
      fanfare and moreover will restore you to life with Him, healing and by His
      grace doing away with all those things which have come between you and He.



      And what is the result of all this? "Be of good cheer." said our Lord to
      the paralytic who came to Him, "you sins are forgiven." When we leave our
      sins behind and come to the Lord, we participate again in His life which is
      full of joy and His love for us. "Rejoice," He says to us, "be of good
      cheer".



      Jesus Christ came into the world to give us eternal life. That eternal life
      is to know Him and to know the Father Who sent Him. This knowledge goes far
      beyond simply acknowledging the existence of God or knowing about Him - to
      truly know God is to enter into a relationship with Him, to share in His
      life. This is the great promise of God, this is the path of salvation
      offered to us by Jesus Christ through His Church - to be welcomed into His
      life, His existence, His love, His joy. When we come to Him, no matter how
      weak, how disabled, how crippled we might be - He forgives us and heals us
      and accepts us with no further ado into His life. To live with God, to
      participate in His life, to experience His love and His joy - that is the
      promise of eternal life that is offered to us, that is why we are here, why
      we are Orthodox Christians.
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