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Homily for 5/31/09 - Pascha 7 - knowing the truth

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  • Fr David Moser
    Acts 20:16-18, 28-36 In the Gospel our Lord likens the Church to a flock of sheep of which He is the Great Shepherd. The Holy Fathers also use this idea,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31, 2009
      Acts 20:16-18, 28-36

      In the Gospel our Lord likens the Church to a flock of sheep of which He
      is the Great Shepherd. The Holy Fathers also use this idea, speaking of
      the people of God as “rational sheep” – that is we are sheep in that we
      need a shepherd to guide us and protect us, but unlike sheep we have the
      ability to choose to follow our shepherd or not. Our Lord, knowing that
      we needed not only for a Great Shepherd to guide the whole flock to
      safety, also appointed the apostles who in turn appointed the bishops
      and priests of the Church as shepherds of their local flock. Each of us
      who stands before the Church as a shepherd stands in the place of
      Christ, having been given the responsibility by Him to guide the small
      flock He has entrusted into our care safely into the Kingdom of Heaven.

      In the epistle today, we heard how the Holy Apostle Paul called to
      himself the elders of the Church in Ephesus to instruct them before his
      departure to Jerusalem. These men were the shepherds of the local
      Church. The Apostle warns them to guard against the spiritual wolves
      that would try to ravage the flock of Christ and that there would arise
      false shepherds who would teach a perverted truth and who would attempt
      to take as disciples for themselves members of the flock of Christ. It
      was the duty of these bishops and priests to guard the flock which had
      been entrusted to them against such predators.

      This danger has not passed and is with us today even more than ever.
      There are many teachers of various religions, doctrines and beliefs in
      the world today. They teach about a spiritual life and some will even
      purport to teach about Jesus Christ and will refer to the Scriptures to
      support their false doctrines and heresies. The responsibility of the
      bishops and priests today is greater than ever to provide guidance to
      their flocks to keep them safe. As we are rational sheep, able to choose
      whom to follow, it is necessary for each of us, whether clergyman or
      layman to learn to recognize the true shepherds sent by Christ and to
      repel the pretenders and spiritual wolves. In order to do this we must
      learn to distinguish truth from error so that we can trust those who
      will lead us to safety in the Kingdom of God.

      The US Treasury teaches its employees how to recognize counterfeit
      currency not by showing them the fake money and pointing out its errors,
      but rather by showing them real money. By learning to recognize the true
      currency, the counterfeit bills become obvious simply because they are
      not the real thing. This is also how we, as Christians and members of
      the Body of Christ, should learn to recognize error within the Church.
      It is not necessary to study the errors and learn where and how they
      depart from the truth; it is necessary only to study the truth and to
      become so fully acquainted with it that when a teaching departs from it,
      that teaching stands out as a glaring error simply because it is not
      part of the truth. It is, indeed, the task of the shepherd who guides
      the flock to know a little more about these errors in order to guard the
      whole flock against them, however, it is also the task of the shepherd
      to help each person become familiar with the truth. There are many ways
      by which we can do this.

      First and foremost it is necessary for each person to have a time of
      prayer each day. This is not “optional” or something you do when you
      have a few extra moments in the morning or only when you have some great
      and pressing need. It is necessary to begin and end each day with a
      prayer rule. When you arise from sleep, before you begin the business of
      the day, it is necessary to stop and pray. At the end of the day, when
      you have finished your work before you get sleepy and tired, it is
      necessary to stop and pray. Your prayer rule should be a regular set of
      prayers so that it becomes less necessary to think about what you will
      say and to set your mind and your heart instead on the words of the
      prayer, immersing your mind in their meaning and your heart in their
      feelings, adopting the words and feelings of the even the most familiar
      prayers as your own. Use the morning and evening prayer rules collected
      in most prayer books as your own. These prayers of the saints will teach
      you how to pray so that as you become proficient in prayer, you may
      begin adding your own prayers or new prayers to your rule. Even if, at
      the beginning you only spend 10 or 15 minute in prayer, it is necessary
      to do this every morning and every evening.

      In addition to the prayer rule, we have also the prayers of the Church.
      The times when we gather together to offer not only our personal prayers
      but our corporate prayer. We are members of the Body of Christ and it is
      necessary that we come together to pray as one – just as the various
      members of your body must act together as one to accomplish any
      significant work. It is necessary to come to the services of the Church
      – and not just those that are convenient, but to come to every service
      that is offered. As we heard a few weeks ago, you are not just
      spectators watching the priest and choir do something for your
      entertainment – you must be participants in these services engaging your
      minds, your hearts, your voices, your bodies in the prayer that we all
      offer together.

      In order to recognize the truth we must fill our minds with the truth.
      Thus, it is also necessary to read the Scripture daily and to read other
      spiritual books. There are many rules for reading the Gospels and
      epistles on a daily basis, one to fit each ability and strength, but one
      must actually do the reading each day in order for these rules to be of
      any benefit at all. If you are not sure how to read the Scriptures or
      what rule to follow then your spiritual “shepherd” that is your pastors,
      your priest and bishop, will direct you. There is not a one size fits
      all plan for reading, but each rule can be tailored to the needs and
      ability of each person at every time in his life. So also we must read
      spiritual books to learn about our faith – what we believe – as well as
      how to live out our faith – how we believe. The basic catechetical books
      and the lives of the saints are good for all, and again, your spiritual
      father will guide you in choosing those books which are valuable for
      you. You do not have to read libraries full of books – but just read a
      little at a time. In our world today, we have many other resources for
      reliable spiritual material. There are tapes, CD’s and videos that we
      can listen to or watch that tell us about our faith, there are internet
      resources that we can search and read or hear or watch that tell us
      about our faith. It is necessary to make use of all these resources on a
      daily basis to become familiar with the truth and thus to follow Christ.

      As a rational sheep, a member of the flock of Christ, it is necessary
      (now more than ever) to be filled with the truth – to be so familiar
      with it that error will stand out like a sore thumb. You must maintain a
      daily prayer rule in morning and evening. You must attend and
      participate in the services of the Church. You must read the Scripture
      each day and you must also read spiritual books, listen to spiritual
      music and talks, watch spiritual videos, and use all the various
      resources to fill your mind and heart with the truth. All this must be
      done under the guidance of a shepherd – one appointed by God to watch
      over you, to care for you, to protect you from even the slightest hint
      of error. This shepherd is to be found in the Church and is one of those
      who have been given the grace of the priesthood by ordination and who
      has been given the responsibility by the Holy Spirit through the Church
      to care for you (that is your parish priest).

      Indeed there are great dangers, spiritual wolves waiting to devour us
      and take us down to Hades alive. The evil one and his servants are
      constantly grasping at us seeking to tear us away from Christ. But God
      in His great love and mercy protects us with the light of His truth
      which reveals all dangers and which lights our path to the Kingdom of
      Heaven. It is necessary for you to recognize that truth, to walk in that
      truth and to fill your life with the light of that truth.

      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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