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Homily for 6/26/11 - P2 All Sts of NA and Russia - The Law and Grace

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  • Fr David Moser
    Rom 2:10-16 Matt 4:18-5:12 God created mankind with the purpose of living in union and communion with Himself. However, because of our sin, we fall short of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 26 10:07 PM
      Rom 2:10-16
      Matt 4:18-5:12

      God created mankind with the purpose of living in union and communion
      with Himself. However, because of our sin, we fall short of this
      purpose. Our Creator, however, did not abandon us in this sad state but
      has made a way for us to regain that place which we had lost. He has
      shown us the way; He has given us the tools; and He Himself became man
      so that He might open the doors and raise the barriers which our sin had
      erected between man and God. Through His actions and His grace, His
      followers have returned to the path of salvation and have entered again
      into this high purpose for which we were created.

      By the hand of the Prophet and God-seer Moses, our Lord gave to us the
      Law, summarized in the ten commandments. This law sets before us the
      limits of how we should live – what to avoid and what to do. By the
      force of the law our lives are shaped into a form that resembles the
      life of Christ. The law, however, only acts on the outer life – on what
      we do and how we act. The law does not change the inner man. If we had
      only the law and conformed perfectly to it, we would become only empty
      vessels – beautiful on the outside, but empty (or worse yet filled with
      evil) on the inside. In order to correct this, Jesus Christ, God the
      Son, became incarnate that He might pour out on us the Living Water of
      His grace so that we who were empty might be filled and the interior of
      our lives might be transformed to match the exterior shaped by the law.

      In the Gospel today we heard the beatitudes given by our Lord in the
      sermon on the mount. These 9 beatitudes of grace are frequently set up
      beside the 10 commandments of the Law to form a complete whole. There
      are those who make the mistake of setting aside the commandments, saying
      that the beatitudes have superseded them and that we now no longer need
      them. They say that grace displaced the law and replaced it. They say
      that we no longer need the law but that we need live only by grace. This
      is not at all true. The law and grace have two different and
      complementary functions. The law shapes the exterior vessel into its
      proper form while grace then fills that vessel, completing it and
      perfecting it. The commandments of the law affect what we do and how we
      act – the beatitudes do not instruct us in what to do, but rather
      describe for us what we are. The commandments are about doing and the
      beatitudes are about being. In another sense, one could say that the
      commandments primarily affect the body while the beatitudes primarily
      affect the soul. These two elements do not conflict with one another or
      replace one another, but rather they complement one another and work
      together for our salvation. We need both the law and grace for we are
      complex creatures composed both of a body and a soul and our salvation
      is not just of the body or just of the soul, but it transforms our whole
      being. For this both the law and grace are necessary.

      Last week we remembered all the Saints, known and unknown, who live in
      that union and communion with God for which we were created. By their
      witness we are reminded again and again that our own salvation is
      possible, for no matter our situation, no matter our condition, no
      matter the particulars of our lives – there is a saint who, through such
      a life was able to work out his salvation and live the life of Christ.
      Today we celebrate the memory of our local saints – all the saints of
      our own land and our own culture. These saints stand before us that our
      salvation is possible even while living in this world, in this nation,
      in this culture wherein we find ourselves. They faced the same kind of
      environment, the same characteristics of society and culture, the same
      unique temptations and trials that we face. The life of Christ does not
      require some foreign culture, some foreign life, some strange and alien
      society – but it can be lived here and now in this place and in this
      time among our own people. Our own local saints of North America and
      Russia remind us that we can live the life of Christ here and in this
      society and culture.

      The saints are those who have lived not only according to the law but
      also according to grace. Through the commandments they shaped their
      lives and actions to resemble that of Christ. Through the beatitudes
      they transformed their souls and their very being. They followed in the
      footsteps of Christ; they were filled with the power of His grace and
      they were completely transformed, both in their external lives and their
      internal being, into the image and likeness of Christ. And they show us
      that the same is possible even for us, no matter the circumstances in
      which we find ourselves.

      The saints not only show us the way of salvation, but they themselves
      also serve as a means by which we can enter into our own salvation. Our
      Lord said of the apostles (and of the saints), “He that receiveth you,
      receiveth Me and he that receiveth Me, receiveth Him that sent Me.” (Mt
      10:40). What does this mean to “receive” the saints and to “receive”
      Jesus Christ and to “receive” the Father? It is not just to welcome
      them, or to entertain them, or to make them comfortable – but rather it
      means that we obey them. If because of our sinfulness, we fall short of
      receiving Christ in perfection, then by turning to the saints who bear
      in themselves the image of Christ, we find a way to enter into the life
      of Christ. The saints bring Christ to us, by their lives, their prayers,
      their teaching, and their help. Even when we are sunk deep into sin and
      fall into despair and cannot face Jesus Christ directly because we are
      ashamed of our sin, the saints come to us and offer to us a hand and
      show us in their own lives the path to Christ and in them we can see
      Him, and with their help we can find our way to Him. If we do not
      understand how to follow Christ or how to obey Him in this or that
      aspect of our lives – we need only to look to the saints and imitate
      their example as they obeyed Christ in those very aspects of life. In
      this way we receive them and through them we receive Christ and through
      Christ we receive the Father Who sent Him. And as we receive Him through
      obedience, He receives us to Himself through divine love and brings us
      into that union and communion with Him for which we are destined.

      By the working in us of the commandments of the law and of grace, we are
      brought into the presence of God and transformed into His image and
      likeness. By this means we enter into union and communion with Him. The
      saints stand as our examples and our helpers, demonstrating for us that
      our salvation is possible in every circumstance, in every place and in
      every condition. They show us how to “receive” Christ and help us to
      acquire His grace and to use it in our lives. In this way we enter
      together with them into our destiny, into the Kingdom of God, into the
      life of union and communion with God for which He created us.

      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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