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homily for 9/28/08 - P15 - exchange for the soul

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  • Fr David Moser
    Mark 8:34-9:1 Matthew22:35-46 What will a man give in exchange for his soul? This question has been the subject of legend and literature throughout the history
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 28, 2008
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      Mark 8:34-9:1
      Matthew22:35-46

      What will a man give in exchange for his soul? This question has been
      the subject of legend and literature throughout the history of the
      Christian society Sometimes the answer to that question has been the
      love of a beautiful woman, sometimes great wealth, sometimes fame,
      sometimes unequaled skill in a particular area, sometimes temporal
      power, sometimes occult or supernatural ability, and so on. The common
      thread here has always been that what is given in exchange for the soul
      is something exceptional, something big, something that is unusual. This
      is what the evil one would like us to think – because we can then always
      fool ourselves into thinking that we would never fall into so obvious a
      trap and so relax our vigilance.

      But the big things aren't usually what we end up giving in exchange for
      our soul. All to often we are like Esau of the Old Testament. He came
      home hungry one day and gave his birthright – his entire inheritance
      from his father – in exchange for just a bowl of stew. This wasn't a
      “bottomless” bowl, but just something that would satisfy his momentary
      hunger. He exchanged his future for the satisfaction of a passing desire
      (in this case a feeling of hunger). All too often we follow the same
      pattern and compromise the eternal future of our soul for the
      satisfaction of a passing desire.

      One of the basic activities of the Christian life is regular prayer. We
      pray in the morning when we arise, we pray in the evening before we
      sleep. This is a regular discipline, as regular as breathing and yet it
      is one of the most often neglected tasks of our spiritual life. How
      often does the priest hear in confession, “Father I've neglected my
      prayers. I'm too tired at night to pray and the mornings are too busy”
      When this happens we exchange our soul not for eternal rest, but for a
      few moments of nightly sleep. One less use of the the “snooze” button
      and we would have an extra 10 minutes in which to pray – but too often
      we take that extra 10 minutes of sleep in exchange for our morning
      prayer. On the other end of the day, we fill our evenings with all kinds
      of activities. We entertain ourselves with television, with books, with
      games, with social events, with all kinds of recreational activities and
      yet we don't set aside even a few moments to pray. We exchange our soul
      for a few more minutes of recreation.

      Rather than exchange our soul for great wealth, we tend to exchange it
      just for a few dollars. We let our work take precedence over our
      spiritual life. When work calls we are there, but when God calls we put
      Him off. We all make it to work on time – but to make it to the services
      of the Church seem impossible. It is simple to fulfill the demands of
      someone who will give us a few dollars, but to enter into the presence
      of the Lord is difficult. For a few dollars more, we sacrifice eternal
      riches.

      Another thing that we give in exchange for our soul is the satisfaction
      of our personal desires – not some great thing, but some trivial
      inconsequential thing. We are pulled towards some sin, whether it is the
      desire to acquire some unnecessary but pleasurable thing, or to engage
      in some activity that is detrimental to the soul or to simply luxuriate
      in sloth and do nothing. Rather than resist these sins, we sacrifice our
      vigilance and resistance to sin and give in for a moment's enjoyment. We
      give up our eternal soul which our Lord valued with His own life for so
      little, just the privilege of being undisciplined and neglectful.

      The pattern here is obvious – we could go on and on with such examples
      and we could see just how easily we are enticed to exchange our soul for
      some trivial, even foolish desire. The only remedy for this is to find
      the true value of our immortal soul and preserve it and care for it.

      Once when making my own confession, I said to my spiritual father that
      there was a particular sin that seemed to plague me and against which I
      felt defenseless. I couldn't seem to offer even the slightest resistance
      to temptation. He responded by pointing out that such a condition is
      indicative of a lack of love for God. Because I did not love God, there
      was no energy or even desire to please Him. Because I had no energy or
      desire to please God, then there was nothing to prevent my drifting away
      from Him. I thought this odd because after all, I am a priest, of course
      I love God, how could he say such a thing. But it was true. I did not
      love God sufficiently to do those things which would bring me closer to
      Him, but instead I did those things which would keep Him at a distance.
      Just near enough to deceive myself that I was indeed following Him, but
      not so close as to actually change my life for Him. Indeed I did not
      love God, I only pretended to love God, while I loved my own selfish
      pleasures more.

      The Gospel which asks us what we give in exchange for our soul fits
      quite closely with the second Gospel today which reminds us that the
      first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart and
      soul and mind and strength – that is with our whole being. It is the
      love of God which values our soul most highly and by which we gain not
      only temporal and mortal pleasures, but rather we gain eternal life and
      joy for it. This is the remedy for our sad situation – to love God with
      our whole being.

      How do we develop this love for God in our hearts? First we ask for it.
      In your prayers, ask God to plant His love in your heart and to cause it
      to grow in you. Don't just ask this one time, but every time you lift up
      your heart and mind in prayer, ask for this. Our God Who loves us and
      cares for us will give us this gift freely and in great abundance.
      Secondly, once that love is planted in your heart then develop it by
      constant remembrance of God's love and care for you. Dwell on the
      kindness and abundance of God's love for you and express your own
      gratitude in thanksgiving to Him. The natural response to such a great
      benefactor is indeed love. Third, is the simple remembrance of God in
      your daily life. Do not let Him out of your thoughts and awareness.
      Constantly remind yourself of God's presence with you and His active
      involvement in your life. Attune yourself to notice the effects of God's
      presence in you and to note the presence also of the saints and the
      heavenly host – those lovers of God – in whose midst you find yourself.
      This awareness can be heightened by the daily reading of scripture – not
      just a few verses once a day – but read throughout the day, a chapter
      here and there until you have completed the Gospels and then the
      Epistles of the New Testament. When you have finished, then go back and
      read them all again and again. Make the scriptures so familiar to your
      inner life that they begin to fill and influence your every action and
      every word you speak. This constant remembrance of God brings a constant
      awareness of His presence and nurtures your love for Him.

      Finally, being filled with the love of God, give it expression in your
      life by imitating God and love your neighbor, for this is the second
      great commandment. Let yourself become the expression of God's love to
      the world around you. Love all men, whether great or small, whether
      friend or stranger, whether they love you or not. Love all men with the
      love the God gives and you will not run out of God's love, but instead
      His love will increase in you.

      What will you take in exchange for your soul? Will you take only the
      little insignificant and temporary pleasures of this world or will you
      accept instead the love of God which leads to eternal joy and life. This
      is the question that you must answer not only today, but every day. Meet
      everything that comes your way each day with the same question – what
      will I give in this situation in exchange for my soul; will I receive
      only a trivial exchange, or will I receive the incomprehensible grace
      and love of God leading to eternal life.

      --
      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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