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Homily for 9/22/13 - P13 - faith and love

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  • David
    1 Cor 16:13-24 St Paul in closing his letter to the Corinthians leaves a legacy û a list of reminders to help those in the Church to effectively work out
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 22, 2013
      1 Cor 16:13-24

      St Paul in closing his letter to the Corinthians leaves a legacy – a
      list of reminders to help those in the Church to effectively work out
      their salvation. He reminds them:
      1. Be watchful
      2. Stand firm in your faith
      3. Be courageous (acquit yourselves men)
      4. Be strong
      5. Do everything with love
      Of these five points, three of them have to do with attitude, to be
      watchful, courageous and strong. These are necessary attitudes for each
      Christian in relation to his spiritual life. To be watchful is to be
      attentive and aware. We should watch for the opportunities that God
      provides for us to exercise our faith and make it a real part of our
      lives – always looking for opportunities to grow spiritually. Not only
      that, but it also means to always be on guard against the wiles of the
      devil, as the enemy of mankind seeks to deceive us and pull us away from
      the path of salvation.

      In all these situations, we are called to act with courage. The older
      English construction used here to “quit yourselves like men” is not in
      any way a sexist or misogynist expression, for it does not use men to
      refer only to those of the male gender, but it uses the word “men” in
      the broader sense of “mankind”. The Apostle here is telling us that we
      must not descend to the level of beasts but that in all things we should
      recall that we are more than mere animals – we are human persons who
      have received from God not only a physical nature, but also a spiritual
      nature. The call here is not mere “courage” or bravery, but rather to
      rise above our physical nature and no longer consent to be enslaved by
      it. We are being called to act like “men” not beasts. The ascetic life
      of the Church helps us to break the power of the natural passions and
      desires over us which then allows us to rise above them and to act
      according to the image of God in which we are created.

      Such action is not a simple thing, but requires great effort on our
      parts and for this reason the Apostle calls us to “be strong”. At this
      juncture it is good to remember whence our strength comes. It is not our
      natural strength, but rather our strength is in the Cross, dying to the
      world and allowing the grace of God to work in us. In order to “be
      strong” we must surrender ourselves completely into the loving hands of
      our Lord Jesus Christ and rely on His strength as our own. Thus we rely
      wholly and completely on His care and provision.

      The remaining two points remind us of two great tools at our disposal in
      living the Christian life – faith and love – and it is these that we
      will look at a little more closely today.

      Stand firm in your faith. This brings us to the very important question
      of “what is faith?” We often talk about faith, but do we really
      understand what faith means in a spiritual context? In order to
      understand about faith in our spiritual life, we have to look at faith
      in our daily, worldly life. Every day we all have faith in many things –
      in fact without faith our world would grind to a standstill. When we
      walk or drive down the street, we have faith that the other drivers will
      follow the rules and stay in their own lane and not try to run us over.
      When we fly somewhere, we have faith in the principles of physics that
      allow the plane to fly; we have faith in the pilot that he knows how to
      fly the plane; that he can get us safely from one place to another and
      so on. At home you have faith that when you throw the switch, the light
      comes on; when you turn the tap, the water comes on; when you turn up
      the heat the furnace comes on and so forth. All of these things take a
      measure of faith.

      When you go to the doctor, again you have faith in the doctor that he
      knows what he’s doing and that he will be able to discover if you are
      healthy or not and that his prescriptions and therapy will be effective
      in making you well. This faith persists when you go home and fill your
      prescription and change your diet and exercise according to the doctor’s
      instructions. You are acting according to the faith that you have in his
      skill and ability to make you well.

      Thus it is with our faith in God. We have faith that God knows what is
      needful for our spiritual well being. We have faith that He has provided
      the path to our salvation and spiritual health in the life of the
      Church. We have faith that He gives to us the things that we need for
      our salvation – even those things that might be unpleasant (just as a
      medicine might taste bad, or a particular exercise might initially bring
      about soreness or stiffness). We have faith that He loves us and that He
      cares for us and that He will see us through everything that comes to us
      and that He will bring us grace to change our lives through all those

      When the Apostle Paul says to “stand fast in faith” he is reminding us
      to trust in God, to follow God’s directions for us in the life and
      tradition of the Church. Sometimes we don’t understand how this or that
      might be beneficial – but we go ahead and do those things because of our
      faith in God. Sometimes God’s care and protection are obvious and so we
      rejoice in that. Sometimes we don’t see His wisdom until it’s all over
      and long past and when we look back we see that He was with us and was
      caring for us. But whether we see or not, whether we understand or not,
      whether it’s pleasant or not, we still stand fast in our faith and thus
      where God leads we will follow.

      The second great tool is that of love. This is the subject of a whole
      chapter of this letter in which the Apostle describes the nature of love
      and ends by reminding us that of the three principle virtues; faith,
      hope and love, that love is the greatest. When we are filled with love
      for our neighbor, this creates in us the love of God – and when we are
      filled with the love of God, it naturally overflows in the love of
      neighbor. No matter how many good things we do – if we do them out of
      any motivation other than the self sacrificing love of God for man, then
      our good things are of no spiritual value and are empty and worthless.
      The Optina elders consistently remind us of the necessity of filling our
      good works with love. St Nikon, one of the last of the Optina elders
      says to us, “Not every “good” deed is actually good, but only that good
      deed which is done of the (love) of God.” and St Macarius adds that love
      must be a part of any good deed, “without which any works we might do
      will bring us no benefit – only harm…”.

      In this way, St Paul reminds us of the great commandment – to love God
      and to love our neighbor. This love of God must be a part of everything
      that we do. It is the love of God that keeps us from sin and it is the
      love for our neighbors that make us a beacon of light shining out to the
      world with the divine light of Christ. Because this is so important,
      always ask God to help you to love Him more, always pray to God that He
      will fill you with His love. When we follow the life in Christ that our
      faith shows us, then we are in turn filled with the love of God which is
      a part of that life.

      Faith and love, these are the two great tools of the Christian life.
      Faith shows us the way and helps us to keep on it and it is love that
      fills our efforts and transforms our lives and realizes His likeness in
      us. Love is the energy of God that fills us that makes us like Him and
      as we gain His love through faith and share His love with our neighbor
      and the world around us, we ourselves are transformed so that we too
      will stand with Christ in glory as did Moses and Elijah at the
      Transfiguration witnessed by Peter and James and John and thus enter
      into His Kingdom.

      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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