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Homily for 10/3/10 - Sunday after the Cross - Not I but Christ

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  • Fr David Moser
    Mark 8:34-9:1 How confusing this must have been for the people who heard Jesus that day. He spoke to them about “taking up their cross”. In hindsight we
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 3, 2010
      Mark 8:34-9:1

      How confusing this must have been for the people who heard Jesus that
      day. He spoke to them about “taking up their cross”. In hindsight we who
      have come after the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ see in
      His words the call to enter into his own death and resurrection,
      however, at this time none of that had even taken place. Death on the
      cross was for many an unthinkable fate for it was a shameful execution,
      reserved for the worst criminals. To hear that they must “take up the
      cross” was a very strange thing to His disciples and those who came to
      hear Him teach. Jesus did not clear up the confusion at all for He
      immediately followed this strange notion with the saying that “he who
      saves his life will lose it and he who loses his life will save it”.
      Again for those of us who have come after the resurrection, who have
      known of the lives and struggles of the martyrs, who see the ascetic
      life of the saints – this is not a strange idea for we have seen it in
      the lives of countless saints. But for those who heard Jesus speak this
      was all new and most likely confusing.

      How could one lose his life by preserving it and how could one preserve
      his life by sacrificing it? This was the quandary (the conflict, …) for
      these people. It is also, though the challenge for us. How do we
      sacrifice our life and yet live it at the same time? Are we all supposed
      to be martyrs and die a torturous death at the hands of those who hate
      Christ? Are we all supposed to become monastics and hermits, leaving the
      world behind and fleeing to the desert? Are we all supposed to
      impoverish ourselves and neglect any worldly responsibilities? How do we
      follow Christ’s command?

      The Holy Apostle Paul gives us some direction concerning this when he
      writes: “ I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but
      Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live
      by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
      In this quotation we find the key to sacrificing our own life and
      gaining life at the same time. He says “I live, yet not I, but Christ
      lives in me”. In order to follow Christ and to lose our lives that we
      might gain life, we give up living our own self centered lives and
      choose instead to live the life that Christ gives us. This is the core
      and if we can understand this, then we can understand the path of salvation.

      “I live, yet not I …” this is the first step, the step of self denial.
      Our lives are centered on fulfilling our needs and desires. Everything
      we do goes back to this. Generations of psychologists have become famous
      telling us this basic truth. From one we hear about id the ego and the
      superego – that is the desire of the self, the rational self and the
      moral self – all about the self. Another gives us a hierarchy of needs
      which ranks the needs from basic for the preservation of life to the
      search for personal meaning and tells us that our whole lives are
      determined by the drive to fulfill the needs in this hierarchy. Our
      whole life is about fulfilling the needs and wants of the self. Jesus
      tells us instead that in this is not the essence of life – seeking to
      gratify the self – but rather that if we step outside this self centered
      need based way of life, that we can gain instead eternal life.

      But this way of life is “natural” to us – that is it is natural to our
      fallen nature. In order to give up our self centered way of life, we
      have to first trust someone else to provide for those things which are
      necessary. That “someone else” is none other than Jesus Christ Himself.
      We need to step back to the time before our first parents sinned and put
      ourselves in complete dependence upon the provision of God – content to
      receive what He gives us in the full confidence that He will not abandon
      us, nor will He give us anything that is harmful or beyond our strength.
      This trust of God and His provision is the only way that we can leave
      behind the self centered need based way of life. If we trust God to
      provide for us, then we are no longer driven to pursue our own needs for
      God gives us all that we need. And we can be content with what we have
      for we know that all good things are given us by God. This is how we
      abandon our own life – by giving ourselves wholly into the hand of God.

      Then the Apostles says “not I, but Christ lives in me.” This is the
      second step, the way in which having given up our life, we receive a new
      life. This is what it means to “follow Christ.” We no longer live for
      ourselves alone but we live the life of Christ. We conform our will, our
      desire, our hopes, our whole self to Jesus Christ. His will becomes our
      will, His desire becomes our desire, His life becomes our life. We
      become His instrument in this world; we are the ones who are the
      expression of His love for the world; we are the ones who feed the
      hungry, give drink to the thirsty, comfort the sorrowing, encourage the
      faint hearted, heal the sick, and so on. Becoming in our lives the
      expression of God’s love to the world is the way that we fulfill these
      words – “not I but Christ lives in me.”

      Jesus gave us this great quandary – to save your life is to lose it, and
      to lose your life for the sake of Christ is to save it. Although it
      sounds impossible, it is the key to our life in Christ. We must indeed
      give up the self centered need driven life that we all pursue from
      birth. We must entrust ourselves to God alone and be content with His
      provision. Then when we no longer pursue our self interest, we pursue
      instead living out the love of God for the world. All that we do and
      indeed all that we are no longer is done for our own sake, for our own
      praise, for our own glory – but instead we do all things for the glory
      of God. By giving up our life and living instead the life that God gives
      us, we become filled with His divine love and that divine love becomes
      our life and transforms us so that we no longer belong to this world, no
      longer do we belong to ourselves, but we have become like Christ and we
      do all things to His glory. In this way we join the Apostle and declare,
      “I live and yet not I, but Christ lives in me!”

      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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