Homily for 6/10/07 - All Sts of NA & Russia - Follow Me
- Matt 4:18-23
“Follow me” This is the call of our Lord Jesus Christ to the apostles as
He began His earthly work. Andrew and Peter and James and John, who were
fishermen, upon hearing this call, left their nets, their boats even
their families and followed Him. Such a simple call, and yet it is the
call that leads us into the Kingdom of Heaven.
When God created man, He began to show our first father Adam the way to
go so that he might grow and develop and become like God. In the garden
of Eden, God said to Adam, “Follow me” and Adam with our first mother,
Eve followed … for a while. For a while, they lived according to the
instruction of God, growing and developing according to His plan. But
the evil one, seeing the wonderful bond between Creator and creature (of
which he had been deprived because of his rebellion), sought to destroy
that bond because of his own envy. Taking the form of a serpent, he
spoke to Eve, tempting her to break the law of God and eat of the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve stepped outside the law of God
and took of the fruit of the forbidden tree and having herself
disobeyed, she in turn brought this temptation to Adam, who followed her
in her disobedience. This begins the familiar account of the fall of
mankind from his original state of communion with God. Adam and Eve, who
had been following God, stepped off the path of salvation and ended up
losing their way.
But God in His infinite love for mankind, did not abandon them or us for
He Himself took on our fallen and flawed flesh and became Man. He did
this so that He might restore us to the path of salvation from which we
had strayed and then show us the way to live so that we might
successfully walk that path into the Kingdom of Heaven. And so, just as
He said to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, “follow Me” now He calls
the Apostles and to us saying “Follow Me”.
This is the call of Jesus Christ that we hear today, “Follow Me”. It is
simple and direct. God has become man and dwelt among us that He might
first restore us to the path of salvation and then lead us along that
path into the Kingdom of Heaven. We have only to follow Him, to do as He
instructs us and we will enter with Him into the Kingdom of Heaven.
There are, however, many difficulties along the way. Although the path
is simple, it is not easy. Just as Adam and Eve were tempted by the
words and snares of the evil one, so we also face these same nets of
temptation. Constantly the demons seek to lead us astray by suggesting
to us that we will find something better off the path, a shortcut, an
easier way, a better way; or perhaps we will be able to “take a break”
from following Christ and briefly indulge our own will and desire until
the path of Salvation and the way of Christ is but a distant memory.
These nets of temptation try to pull us away from following Christ and
return us to the captivity of sin death and the devil from which we were
freed. Just as the Gospel tells us that Andrew and Peter, “left their
nets and followed Him” so we also must resist the temptations of the
demons, leave behind the nets that would seek to entangle us and enslave
us, and follow Christ instead.
Other difficulties in taking up this path remain for we have many things
in our lives which compete for our attention with the path of Christ.
Because of our fallen nature, we have lost sight of the heavenly kingdom
and we see only our own worldly concern. Sometimes worldly cares,
attachments and goals loom so large that they block out the sight of the
Kingdom of God. Our careers; the desire for worldly prestige, status and
acclaim; worldly possessions; and so on can compete in our minds and
hearts with the call of Christ. In order to follow Him, we also have to
trust Him that He will provide for us all that is necessary and we have
to see that the Kingdom of Heaven is of greater value than that which
the world offers. Like James and John we must leave behind the “boat” of
our worldly ambition and activity and follow Christ.
The Gospel tells us also that James and John left their father Zebedee
to follow Christ. In this way we are also reminded that even the
strongest earthly ties, the ties to those that we love, must take second
place to the call of Christ. When a family is united in following
Christ, this is a blessed thing for there is then a common goal to the
family life and the family members encourage each other and help each
other to follow Christ. But when the ties of love and friendship and
family conflict with following Christ, then like James and John, we must
even leave those behind. By our willingness to follow Christ we may
bring others along with us, for remember that elsewhere in the Gospel we
see that the mother of James and John, who had initially been left
behind, became a follower of Christ, even one of the myrrhbearing women.
Nothing can be allowed to stand between ourselves and Jesus Christ.
Nothing can remain that will hold us back or pull us off the path of
salvation. We must forsake all for Christ.
Remember last week the words of the Apostle Peter when he said to our
Lord, “We have left all to follow you, therefore what shall we gain?”
And Jesus answered him saying, “In the resurrection, when the Son of Man
sits on His throne of glory, you who have followed Me will also sit upon
thrones…and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or
father or mother or wife or children or lands for My name’s sake shall
receive an hundredfold and shall inherit eternal life.” This is indeed
the goal – to be with Jesus Christ in glory and to receive eternal life.
We have talked in the past and will continue to talk in the future about
the path of salvation and how to follow it. For today let us simply heed
the call of Christ to follow Him on that path and to leave behind
anything that would encumber us or hold us back. Let us then abandon the
web of temptations and desires that pull at us. Let us leave our boats
and all the worldly cares that are thereby represented trusting in our
Lord Jesus Christ to give us all that is necessary. Let us forsake even
the worldly ties of family and friends should they try to compete with
the call of Christ. Let us then hear and obey the call of Jesus Christ
to us today for He says to us, as He said to our first parents and to
the Holy Apostles, “Follow Me.”
Archpriest David Moser
St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)