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Homily for 6/17/07 - P3 - Love God and hate sin

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matt 6:22-33 In this Gospel we find a very important truth. No man, says our Lord, can serve two masters, either he will hate the one and love the other or he
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 17, 2007
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      Matt 6:22-33

      In this Gospel we find a very important truth. No man, says our Lord,
      can serve two masters, either he will hate the one and love the other or
      he will hold to the one and despise the other. In this saying we find
      the path that leads to God. Very often when we engage in spiritual
      struggle, our minds and hearts are turned towards contending with
      temptation and evil. We focus on resisting the passions and putting them
      aside. We deny ourselves and take up our cross. All this is good,
      however, in this saying we find a more perfect way to turn away from sin
      and to follow Christ.

      The Gospel tells us that if we love one master, then we will hate the
      other. Thus if we work to develop within our hearts the love for God, we
      will naturally come to hate sin and to flee from it. If we hold to God,
      then we will despise the temptations of the passions and of the world.
      This is the secret then to overcoming sin – to love God. If we truly
      love God then sin will have no hold on us. Indeed this is exactly the
      advice once given to me in confession. I had been struggling with a
      particularly difficult sin – I had put forth all my effort to resist
      temptation when it came and yet inevitably I fell. I brought this
      struggle in tears to confession. My confessor pointed out that such
      habitual sin has power over us because we do not love God, for if we did
      love God then that sin, which is so persistent, would no longer appeal
      to us for the very reason stated in this Gospel. If we truly love God,
      then we will hate sin for no man can serve two masters.

      The Athonite elder Porphyrios gives the same instruction when he says,
      “Devote your efforts to spiritual things and ignore the other things. We
      can attain to the worship of God easily and bloodlessly There are two
      paths that lead to God: the hard and debilitating path with fierce
      assaults against evil and the easy path with love. … I find that the
      shorter and safer route is the path with love. … You can make a
      different kind of effort: to study and pray and have as your aim to
      advance in the love of God and of the Church. Do not fight to expel the
      darkness from the chamber of your soul. Open a tiny aperture for light
      to enter and the darkness will disappear. The same holds for our
      passions and weaknesses. … The object is not to sit and afflict and
      constrict yourself in order to improve. The object is to live, to study,
      to pray and to advance in love – in love for Christ and for the Church.
      What is holy and beautiful and what gladdens the heart and frees the
      soul from every evil is the effort to unite yourself to Christ, to love
      Christ to crave for Christ and to live in Christ, just as St Paul said,
      ‘it is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me.’ … What must dominate
      is love for Christ. Let this be in your head, your thought, your
      imagination, your heart and your will. Your most intense effort should
      be how you will encounter Christ, how you will be united to him and how
      you will keep him in your heart.” Here Fr Porphyrios tells us again the
      same thing as the Gospel and as my confessor – if you fill your heart
      with love for God, then sin will have no place in you.

      How then do we accomplish this task, how do we pursue the love of God.
      First, my confessor told me, it is necessary to ask God to give you that
      love for Himself. In prayer always be sure to ask of God that He would
      kindle in your heart that flame of love for Him. Whenever you then sense
      even the slightest warmth in your soul towards God, then immediately
      focus on that spark of love and nurture it into flame. Fr Porphyrios
      also tells us how to pursue the love of God. He says that we must “study
      the words of the Fathers, through memorization of the psalms and of
      portions of Scripture, through the singing of hymns and the through the
      repetition of the Jesus Prayer.” And again he says that one should
      “occupy yourself with hymns of praise, with the poetic canons, with the
      worship of God … All the holy books of our Church – the Book of the
      Eight Tones (the Octoechos), the Book of the Hours (Horologian), the
      Psalter, the books with the Offices for the feasts and saint day
      commemorations (Menaion) – contain holy, loving words addressed to
      Christ. Read them with joy and love and exaltation. When you devote
      yourself to this effort with intense desire, your soul will be
      sanctified in a gentle and mystical way.” Finally he says, “(Reading)
      the lives of the saints … the saints are friends of God. All day long
      one can meditate on and take delight in their achievements and imitate
      their way of life. … By reading these books you will gradually acquire
      meekness, humility and love and your soul will be made good.”

      So here we have some very specific instructions in how it is we nurture
      the love of God in our hearts that drives away sin and draws us to Him.
      First there is prayer – to ask God to kindle love in our hearts. There
      is no better way to begin to love God than to talk with Him. Begin your
      quest to love God with prayer and let prayer be a part of everything
      else that you do. In this way, you will carry the awareness of God’s
      presence with you at all times and in all places.

      Second there is the reading and memorization of Scripture, especially
      the Psalms and the Gospels. Take a little time each day to read the
      scripture. At least read those portions of the Epistle and Gospel that
      are appointed to be read in Church. These are printed out on the yearly
      calendars that are made available to everyone and then again are
      compiled in our parish newsletter each month. For those who wish to read
      a little more, then begin also to read the psalms – just a few a day,
      starting at the beginning until you finish, then begin again. One can
      also take on a schedule of reading the Gospels and Epistles prescribed
      as a part of the cell rule of various monasteries. This is to read each
      day one chapter of the Gospels beginning with Matthew through the end of
      John and two of the Epistles, beginning with the Acts of the Apostles
      and finishing with the Apocalypse. In this manner the reading of the
      Gospel and Epistles comes out almost even and when you are finished,
      begin again. It is not important which “discipline” of reading the
      scripture one takes up – it is only important that you read the
      scripture daily.

      Third, Fr Porphyrios prescribes reading the holy books of the Church.
      These books that he names, the Octoechos, the Horologion, the Psalter
      and the Menaion are the books used in the services of the Church. These
      books are read to you every time there is a service here – and so when
      you come to the services and listen carefully, or even better when you
      come and help with the singing and chanting, you hear and read these
      holy books. If you skip out on the services of the Church, if you make
      excuses for yourself why you cannot come – then you miss this vital and
      important help towards loving God. What is there in your life that is
      more important than nurturing the love of God that keeps you from the
      services of the Church. In these services we pray, we read the Scripture
      and we hear these holy books read to us – all the things that have been
      suggested as ways to develop the love of God, and yet it seems we always
      find some reason not to come, there is always something more important.
      What is more important than loving God?

      Fourth there is the reading of spiritual books, especially the lives and
      writings of the saints. Always have some kind of spiritual reading at
      hand and every day read at least a portion of the life of a saint or
      some of the sayings or writings of the saints. These lives and sayings
      are the expression of the love for God manifest in the daily life of a
      person who like you and I live in the world and who successfully
      nurtured the love of God in themselves. What better example can we have
      for loving God in our own lives? The saints are our friends, they are
      our heavenly companions and they are united with us in the Body of
      Christ. Their lives, their sayings, their writings are an inspiration
      and example for us to follow in our own lives.

      These are the things that we can do to kindle and nurture the love for
      God in us – pray, read the scripture, read and listen to the services of
      the Church, read and meditate on the lives and sayings of the saints. If
      you spend all your energy on these things, then the love of God will
      grow in you – and as you come to love God, then you will hate sin and as
      you hold to God you will despise sin. Take up this “easy path”; this
      light yoke of Christ; this labor of love and the love for God will grow
      in you and sin will lose its appeal and hold upon you. It is true that
      no man can serve two masters – therefore choose to serve Christ and
      choose to develop within yourself love for Him.

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