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Homily for 11/8/09 - P2 - the mark of Christ

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  • Fr David Moser
    Gal 6:11-18 Almost everywhere we look we can find some kind of “brand placement” in our environment. The logo of a particular product is often displayed
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 8, 2009
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      Gal 6:11-18

      Almost everywhere we look we can find some kind of “brand placement” in
      our environment. The logo of a particular product is often displayed
      prominently in a film or television show in hopes that the viewers will
      see it and decide to purchase that item for themselves. We see product
      names and brands in advertisements in print, on television, and in
      stores. We are surrounded by the different product logos.

      The Apostle Paul today speaks of a different “brand” for he says of
      himself, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” This statement
      he puts forth as a proof of his authority and apostleship. It
      authenticates who he is, that He is a follower of Jesus Christ and that
      even his body bears the marks of his belief. He is referring
      specifically to the wounds and scars of the beatings, scourgings and
      sufferings that he endured for Christ’s sake in the course of his
      preaching of the Gospel. He is not alone, of course for the martyrs (and
      today we celebrate the memory of Demetrius, one of the Great Martyrs)
      also bore such marks of Christ on their bodies. But not all of us who
      are Christians, indeed not even all of those who are counted as saints
      bear such marks. Is there then a “mark” that we all bear that sets us
      apart as Christians?

      The Apostle refers also in his letter to a different “mark” upon the
      body – that of circumcision. This is not the mark of a Christian, rather
      it is the mark of the men of the Hebrew people. This mark of
      circumcision was given to the Hebrews in antiquity along with the Law as
      a sign of the covenant between God and His chosen people. (By the way,
      we should not confuse this ritual circumcision with the medical practice
      that is today offered as a matter of hygiene for infant boys. Although
      they are the same procedure outwardly, the medical procedure bears
      absolutely no spiritual significance) There were members of the Church
      in the time of the Apostle Paul, who saw Christianity as simply a form
      of Judaism (much as today we see the sect of “Messianic Jews” or “Jews
      for Jesus”) These Judaising Christians wanted to require that all new
      Christians undergo the Jewish rite of circumcision, thus becoming ritual
      Jews, before they could become Christians. The Apostle Paul condemned
      this practice and preached vehemently against it. Thus we see that
      circumcision is not the “mark of Christ” that we all bear.

      One thing that we all share as Christians is that we have been baptized.
      This rite is the sacrament that initiates us into the life of Christ. It
      is the means by which we die to our old sinful way of life and are born
      anew. We also share the rite of the sacrament of chrismation – that is
      that we are all marked by anointment with Holy Chrism on all of our
      senses and on our heads, our bodies, our hands and feet. This anointing
      seals us with the gift of the Holy Spirit. It could be said that these
      are the “marks of Christ” which we bear on our bodies; that baptism and
      chrismation are the marks that we all bear that signify us as
      Christians. That would be a true statement, however, these marks are not
      visible, to be seen by all. These marks do not “set us apart” from
      others in a visible way.

      There are some Christians among the Copts of Egypt that have a cross
      tattooed on their forehead and on their hands as a visible mark of their
      Christian faith. They live in an Islamic society that is certainly not
      Christian and that is often seen as hostile to Christianity. They do
      bear on their bodies a visible mark of the Christian faith. We also,
      when we are baptized are given a cross that we wear always next to the
      skin. Our baptismal cross is a symbol of our Christian faith and should
      never be taken off, but worn continually (just as we would never “take
      off” Christ for a little while). These visible marks could also be seen
      as a “mark of Christ” which we bear on our bodies, however, again, they
      are not the indelible marks of Christ. These are external marks which we
      put on and take off (even a tattoo can be removed) and so while they are
      important, they are not truly the “mark” of a Christian.

      The true “mark” of a Christian is something that grows out of the life
      of Christ that we live. It is a characteristic that is the fruit of the
      Holy Spirit living in us. It is a universal characteristic of all
      Christians, something by which we demonstrate the life of Christ in us.
      That mark is spoken of many times in the Gospel and by the Apostles.
      This is the mark of love. Our Lord commands us to love one another and
      this command is repeated again and again by the Apostles. The Apostle
      John tells us “this message we have heard from the beginning, that we
      should love one another. … for love is of God and everyone that loveth
      is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God for
      God is love.” (1John 3:11 & 4:7-8). It is love that is the mark of a
      Christian. We are known to be of Christ because we love as He does. We
      share the love of God for the whole world, for all of creation. Out of
      the world we also love all mankind and even as Christians we love our
      enemies. This all-encompassing love is the mark of Christ by which we
      are known and by which we proclaim Him to the world.

      First we love God. We love God because He first loved us. Our love for
      Him is the response of our soul when we see God’s love for us. We see
      the love of God for us in His abundant provision for us and for our
      salvation, however, the ultimate expression of God’s love for us is that
      He took flesh and dwelt among us and He voluntarily ascended the Cross
      for us. He suffered and He died for us. For us, He also descended into
      Hades and facing the evil one defeated him and bound him that we might
      be free to follow Jesus Christ into His Kingdom. Thus we love God with
      all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind and with
      all of our strength – that is, we love God with our whole being. We give
      all that we are and all that we have to Him and we follow Him wherever
      He will lead us.

      Secondly, we love one another. As the Gospel says, how can we love God
      Whom we have not seen if we do not love our brother who we do see. We
      are all bound together by the love of Christ. By His love we are united
      into one body. We rejoice over the joys of our brother and we sorrow at
      his sufferings for his joys are our joys and his sorrows are our sorrows
      – we are made one in Christ. While it seems natural to love those to
      whom we are joined in love, it is not always easy. Too often we despise
      and criticize and mistreat those who are nearest to us. We judge our
      brother and harshly condemn him. This is not the love of Christ which
      marks us as a Christian. Such behavior is the temptation of the evil one
      – it is our sinfulness trying to overwhelm our love. Against such we
      must constantly struggle. Love one another for we are bound together in
      the love of Christ.

      We also share the love of God for the whole world, and especially for
      our fellow men in the world. When the love of God lives in us, we become
      God’s expression of love for the world. We are the voice of God’s love,
      the hands of God’s love, the bodies of God’s love to the whole world. We
      are the means by which the world experiences God’s love on a personal
      and meaningful level. Most uniquely we express the love of God even to
      our enemies. We reach out to those who hate us, to those who cause us to
      suffer, to those who hurt us and despitefully use us and embrace them
      with the love of God. This is the love that our Lord showed even on the
      cross. He cried out, praying for his tormentors, for those who judged
      Him, who mocked Him, who beat Him and who put Him to death saying,
      “Father forgive them.”

      The love of Christ on the cross, sacrificing Himself for the life of the
      whole world, even for those who hated Him, is the supreme example of
      love for us. It is this self sacrificing and all encompassing love which
      is the mark of a Christian. It is this kind of love that we who are
      united to Christ bear in ourselves and which is the necessary expression
      of the love of God in us. We are marked as Christians by many things, by
      baptism and chrismation, by the sign of the cross, by our various habits
      and practices, but most especially and most clearly we are marked by
      love – the all encompassing, self sacrificing love of God for the whole
      world. “Love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God” – this
      is the mark of the Christian.

      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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