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Homily for 4/10/11 - L5 - totally committed

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  • Fr David Moser
    Mark 8:32-50 Earlier this week, when we sang the service of the Great Canon of St Andrew, we heard read as a part of the service the entire life of St Mary of
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 10, 2011
      Mark 8:32-50

      Earlier this week, when we sang the service of the Great Canon of St
      Andrew, we heard read as a part of the service the entire life of St
      Mary of Egypt. This last Sunday of Great Lent is also dedicated to the
      memory of St Mary of Egypt. St Mary is held up to us as an iconic
      example of the power of repentance. She began life as a profligate
      sinner who not only sinned without remorse, but who enjoyed her sin and
      actively sought to corrupt as many others by it as possible. Even such a
      great sinner, however, is not beyond the love and compassion of our God.
      It was appropriate that on the feast of the elevation of the Holy Cross,
      she was touched by God and saw in contrast her own sin and instantly
      repented of it in her heart. The remainder of her entire life was spent
      in working out that repentance. St Mary saw that the sin which had held
      her captive for so many years was not an easy thing to throw off, but
      that it had gained a deep and multifaceted hold upon her heart. She fled
      to the desert to flee the temptations which beset her from even the most
      innocent sights and sounds of life among people. There in the desert,
      cut off from all external temptations, she faced the struggle of her own
      memories and desires which arose unbidden from the depths of her being
      which sought to drive her back into the slavery to sin from which she
      had fled. By herself this struggle would have been impossible and she
      would have either failed and gone back into her life of sin or she would
      have fallen into utter despair. Her constant companion and source of
      strength however, was her prayer – her heartfelt cries to our Lord Jesus
      Christ and to the Virgin Mary – which opened the heavenly floodgates of
      grace which preserved her and strengthened her throughout her life. From
      this we see that not only is St Mary an example of repentance, but she
      is also an example of the wholehearted devotion to Christ that is
      necessary for each of us who desire to be saved.

      In the beginning of her life, St Mary was wholeheartedly devoted to sin
      and to the satisfaction of her carnal desires no matter what the cost to
      herself and to others. After her spiritual awakening and call to
      repentance, that same wholehearted devotion was directed no longer to
      sin but to following Christ. From that moment on every fiber of her
      being was devoted to fleeing sin and drawing near to Christ. Every
      thought, every action, every breath she took became the means by which
      she sought Christ. Every time any thought or desire or memory that was
      not part of that quest came up, she ran from it and increased her prayer
      until it passed. Her only desire was for Jesus Christ and she made sure
      that her every energy, every action and every moment was dedicated to
      fulfilling that desire. This is the single-mindedness and
      wholeheartedness for which we all should strive in our own spiritual life.

      The Gospel tells us that where our treasure is so also is our heart.
      When we desire one thing above all – when it becomes our treasure – then
      that desire becomes the ruling force of every other part of our lives.
      For St Mary, that desire was for Jesus Christ and that desire then drove
      her to the extremes that we see in her life. What then is your desire,
      what then drives your life?

      In the Gospel today we heard our Lord remind the Apostles that He would
      indeed suffer and be killed but that He would also rise again. The
      disciples James and John, somehow missing the struggle and suffering
      which was to precede His glory asked to share only in that glory. To
      this request Jesus replied that if they wished to share in His glory,
      then they would also have to share in His suffering. If we want to share
      in the life of Christ, then we will have to share in the whole of His
      life, not just part of it. We will share not only in the glory, in the
      joy and blessings, but we will also share in the sorrows and sufferings.
      This is because joy and blessings by themselves are empty and worthless
      while suffering without reward is hopeless and in vain. Jesus does not
      give to us only the suffering and sorrow, but rather transforms that
      suffering and sorrow into joy and blessing. Nor does he give us only joy
      and blessing without foundation, but gives us also the sorrow and
      suffering as the root and foundation of joy. He withholds nothing from
      us but gives us His whole self. In return, He asks us that we give to
      Him our whole selves.

      The life of Christ is not confined to this world and this life, but
      extends into the next life and even beyond the end of the world into
      eternity. In order to understand both the sorrows that we face today and
      the joys that we will inherit, it is necessary to lift our eyes up to
      heaven – to see that our life too is not limited to this world, to this
      lifetime, but that it is joined to the life of Christ. It is this whole
      life – this eternal life – that He offers to share with us. In order to
      share in this life, we must in turn give our whole life just as St Mary
      did. Jesus Christ must become our whole desire, our treasure, and
      anything that is not directed toward the fulfilling of that desire is
      out of place in our lives.

      We accomplish this whole hearted pursuit of Christ in the same way that
      St Mary did. As with the lives of all the saints, we do not literally
      imitate every action but rather we take as our own the same process and
      principles of transforming our lives as did the saints. In the life of
      St Mary we see first this profound shift of desire such that Jesus
      Christ became the sole desire of her life. This is the first thing that
      we imitate in our lives – this is what it means to “convert” to Christ;
      we “convert” the object of our desire from whatever it might have been
      before over to Jesus Christ and Him alone. He becomes not only that
      which we desire most but He becomes our only desire. This conversion is
      the object of our new birth – we are “born again” into a new life which
      has as its desire and goal and treasure only one thing, that is, Jesus

      Secondly, like St Mary, we begin to change our environment. We leave
      behind anything and everything that pulls us away from Jesus Christ, our
      only desire. We change our environment, eliminating all those things
      which distract us from pursuing our desire. For St Mary, that meant
      going to the desert because everything in the world had been corrupted
      by her own sin and thus connected her to her sin. For us it means
      cutting out of our lives everything that is not part of our pursuit of
      Christ or if we do not cut it out then we convert it to a means of
      pursuing Christ. We have many things in this world – families, homes,
      jobs, bills, debts, obligations, responsibilities and so on – that we
      cannot just leave behind. For this reason, we need to convert these
      things to our pursuit of Christ. Our families become our brethren in
      Christ, our home becomes a little Church, our jobs and other
      responsibilities become acts of obedience to Christ to fulfill not for
      our own benefit, but for His honor and glory. We no longer work for
      ourselves and for our satisfaction, but we work now for Jesus Christ and
      everything in our lives no longer belongs to us for our own use, but it
      belongs to Him and we use it all for His glory.

      In addition to converting that which exists in our lives to the pursuit
      of Christ there is also the necessity of adding and subtracting things
      to our lives. We subtract that which either pulls us away and distracts
      us from Christ or which is incompatible with the life of Christ. We add
      those things which enhance our spiritual lives. This is sometimes a very
      difficult thing – and we only have to look at the life of St Mary to see
      just how difficult. Her memories and old desires would plague her even
      in the desert and she would spend days in intense prayer begging God for
      relief from these temptations. For us it will sometimes take the same
      effort to rid ourselves of the distractions and pleasures (no matter how
      large or small) of this life which pull us away from Christ.

      Our Lord offers us the chance to share in His whole life – to share in
      His eternal life. He offers us all of Himself and in order to accept
      this gift and to obtain it, we give Him in return our whole life. He
      becomes the sole desire of our life and every energy, every action and
      moment of our lives is dedicated to fulfilling that desire. St Mary of
      Egypt is our example of such a life. Just as Jesus Christ was the sole
      desire of her life, so we must make Him the sole desire of ours.

      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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