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Homily for 6/13/0 - P3 - Seek ye first

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matthew 6:22.33 In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our daily lives we often find that
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 13 12:56 PM
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      Matthew 6:22.33

      In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! Dear
      brothers and sisters in Christ, in our daily lives we often find that
      there exists a sort of contradiction: We call ourselves Christians, we
      are supposed to be filled with the joy and peace of Christ, and yet, we
      find that so much of our daily life is filled with pain, with sorrow and
      with anxiety; often, peace – especially inner peace – is so far from us.
      And so, we can ask ourselves, "Why is this so?" The Scripture readings
      for today, in a very direct way, give us the answer to this perplexing
      paradox.

      Our Lord tells us in St. Matthew's Gospel that no one can serve two
      masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will
      be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and
      mammon (Matt. 6:24). Here, I think, is the real source of our problem.
      We experience the anxieties of life and allow them to disturb our peace
      because, in effect, we are passing through life with double minds. We
      really don't know just Who to follow and we haven't really decided to
      center our love and devotion on God Who is the only source of true
      happiness and peace.

      We have to seriously ask ourselves, just whom do we serve. Is our life
      centered around God and His Holy Church, or is it centered around the
      things of this life? – our homes, our jobs, our possessions, our family
      and friends, our little pleasures and recreational activities? How many
      of us call ourselves Christians, call ourselves faithful and dedicated
      Church¬goers and yet, if we truly and honestly examine our personal
      lives, find that surely God and His Church does not come first?

      Yes, we find ourselves in church on Sunday mornings and a few feast
      days, but what about the other Divine services? Vespers, Matins, Vigil,
      and so on? How often do we find many excuses not to come to church?
      Perhaps, and this is especially appropriate at this time of year, we are
      on vacation. How much of an effort do we make to find an Orthodox church
      within which to glorify God on Sunday morning? Or perhaps we say that we
      can't come to a feastday Liturgy because we have to work – but there are
      still the beautiful evening services, the Vigil ¬which actually begins
      the feast. How wonderful it would be if we would come to services on
      Saturday night to begin our preparation for the Sunday morning Liturgy –
      we certainly are often able to find many other less important or useful
      things to do during this time!

      Even more important than simply attending Church services (though the
      services are themselves important), how much of the Gospel – the "Good
      News" of Christ – do we bring home and actually put into practice? How
      hard do we actually try to live our lives worthy of the Name
      “Christian”? Do we try to forgive those who hurt us or wrong us? (And
      here we don't mean just family and friends!) Do we try to love everyone
      we meet as if we have just met Christ Himself? Do we ask God’s blessing
      before every task and give glory to God for every good thing that we
      might do, realizing that without God's help, on our own we are incapable
      of doing anything good? Do we give thanks to God for every blessing and
      help that comes our way? Do we really believe, as Scripture tells us,
      that the sufferings of this life are a result of the spread of sin in
      the world and that, as St. Paul tells us, we [should] rejoice in our
      sufferings, for we know that suffering produces endurance, and endurance
      produces character, and character produces hope – the hope of sharing
      the glory of God (Rom. 5:3-4,2)? The Martyrs marched into the arena with
      hymns of joy on their lips, but how often do we complain at the
      slightest discomfort or inconvenience?

      In today's Gospel lesson, Jesus speaks to us about what the proper
      attitude should be concerning the material side of our lives: “I tell
      you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you
      shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life
      more than food, and the body more than clothing? … Therefore take no
      thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or,
      Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For … your heavenly Father knoweth that
      ye have need of all these things." (Matt. 6:25-31). The key to all this
      comes in the very next verse: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and
      his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (vs.
      33) (*). This is the standard by which we should guide our lives and
      from which our values are drawn. The first priority in our lives, the
      one consideration that comes before all other circumstances is to seek
      the Kingdom of God. God Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, has promised to
      us that if we focus all our efforts on seeking Him, then He will provide
      for us all that we need in this life. On the icon of our Savior which is
      in the entry way to our Church, we see that He is holding a scroll with
      this very Gospel written on it. This is our reminder as we come and go
      that wherever we are and whatever we are doing, our first priority is to
      seek the Kingdom of God.

      What then does that mean to us, to “seek first the Kingdom of God”? For
      those of us who live in the world and thus have “worldly cares” about
      which we must concern ourselves, this means that the Gospel and the
      heavenly Kingdom should always be a part of that concern. We must always
      be aware that we are citizens of the Kingdom of God and therefore we
      should live and act in accordance with the values and standards of the
      Kingdom (that is the Gospel). Therefore, in each aspect of our lives we
      must bring the standards of the Gospel to bear. Just as we heard last
      week in the Gospel we must strive to exhibit the qualities of poverty of
      spirit, the sorrow of repentance and compassion, meekness, desire for
      righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, peace and the joyful endurance of
      trials and suffering for Christ’s sake. When we make decisions about
      where to go and what to do and how to manage our own affairs, our first
      concern should be whether or not this is the best choice in pursuit of
      the Kingdom of God. When you consider a career, consider how you can use
      this career to act out the life of Christ. How will you spend your time?
      Our first consideration should be to choose those activities which are
      consistent with the life of Christ, those things which bring us closer
      to Him. It is a truism that we always make time for the things we really
      want to do. Therefore, if you are pursuing the Kingdom of God above all
      else, you will always have time to pray, you will always have time to be
      in the services, you will always be able to do those things which
      glorify God, for you will choose to do them above all else.

      When you are given possessions and riches, do not ask how you can retain
      them or enlarge them (this is the thinking of this world) but rather how
      you can use these things for the glory of God. In fact when we consider
      all that we think we have it is best to remember that, in Christ, we
      have nothing at all. All that I possess in this world (down to the
      smallest crumb of bread and the old pennies under the sofa cushions)
      comes from God. They are God's and He has given them to me that I might
      use them in His service. Thus all the things that I have - my house, my
      car, my food, my clothes, my books, etc, etc. - are not mine, but God's,
      I only use them for now. I have nothing of my own, I only have use of
      these things that God has given me - and if I have them tomorrow, it is
      because of His will and if they are take away, it is because of His
      will. I know that all that I need for this life and for the next is
      provided for me by God - it may not be my idea of what I think I should
      have, but it is what God, in His infinite wisdom and compassion knows
      that I need. So, despite the fact that I "have" a house, car, bank
      account, and an embarrassing multitude of possessions - I have nothing,
      it is all God's that He has permitted me to use.

      This is the key to the Christian life: to place above all else, the
      Kingdom of God. Everything else, every other consideration is of
      secondary importance. If we order our lives thus, then there is no
      question that God, who loves us and who cares for us, will provide all
      that we need. This is the true life of the Christian. “Seek ye first the
      Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given
      to you.”


      (*) The comments to this point are heavily quoted from a homily by
      “M.A.” published in the book “The Living Word, Vol 1”

      --
      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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