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Homily for July 11, 2004 - called to the life Christ

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  • David Moser
    Romans 12:6-14; Matthew 9:1-8 The Holy Apostles were men who had a great impact on the world. they went to every corner of known civilization and even beyond
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 11, 2004
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      Romans 12:6-14; Matthew 9:1-8

      The Holy Apostles were men who had a great impact on the world. they went to
      every corner of known civilization and even beyond carrying the Gospel to
      the whole world. But these men were not born great, they were simple men,
      fishermen, students, even a tax collector. They became great, not as a
      result of their own efforts, but rather as the result of the grace and
      calling of God. The responded to the call of the Savior to leave all that
      they had in the world and to come and follow Him. This they did and as a
      result they saw every aspect of His life, heard His every word, witnessed
      the self revelation of God to the world. In turn they were filled with the
      Holy Spirit and given the gifts of grace that enabled them to go to every
      corner of the world (no easy feat in those days) and to preach the Gospel to
      every nation.

      This miracle is part of the life of the Church. The Holy Apostle Paul, in
      his letter to the Romans as we heard today, tells us of the variety of
      callings within the Church. Some, he says are called as apostles, some as
      prophets, some as ministers, some as teachers. There are those who are
      called to exhort others, to give, to lead, to show mercy and so on. We honor
      tomorrow the Holy Pre-eminent Apostles Peter and Paul and on Tuesday all the
      Holy Apostles - and yet they are but a part of the Church, they represent
      only those called to go and proclaim the gospel throughout the world. The
      Holy Apostles are called to a particular task within the Church and they are
      given the grace of God to fulfill that task. They exhibit the gifts of
      grace, that is the abilities given by God, proper to their calling and they
      then used those gifts to the best of their ability for the glory of God and
      not their own glory.

      The Holy Apostles are only a part of the Church, there are many others in
      the Church and each of us has his or her own role to play. Some are called
      to prophesy - that is to speak the word of God; others to minister - to
      serve the Body of Christ; others to teach - to instruct their fellow
      servants in the Orthodox Faith and practice. Some are called to exhort by
      word and deed, encouraging those around them to live a life of holiness and
      piety. Some are called to give above and beyond the normal measure, others
      to be examples of God's mercy, and others to a life of prayer within the
      Church, interceding for the brethren and for the world. We could go on and
      on describing the variety of callings within the Church - the Apostle did
      not name them all here, nor is it necessary or even profitable to list them
      all. The important point is that each of us who are members of the body of
      Christ are called to a certain place and role within the Church, not because
      of our own ability, worthiness, or talent - but by the grace of God. And as
      we fulfill this calling in faith, God gives to us that which is necessary.
      To the prophet He gives the ability to grasp and express the Truth; to the
      teacher the ability to communicate to others in a way that they will learn;
      to the giver His gives the substance to give; to the merciful He gives a
      particular compassion and forgiveness and so on. We read the lives of the
      saints and we see many of these functions in them. Sometimes we see more
      than one in the same person - for this is what was needed by the Church at
      that time and in that place. The multitude of callings and service that we
      see in the Church is the evidence of God's love and care for the Church.

      This is all good, but all of us experience times when it is difficult, even
      impossible, to fulfill our calling within the Church. We seem to exhaust God
      's grace, if that were possible, and to run out of the energy and resources
      that once were so freely expended in the service of God. We become paralyzed
      as it were, unable to even move, let alone to labor in the vineyard of
      Christ. Does God withdraw His grace from us - is He the cause of our
      failure? No, of course not, how foolish to even consider that. In the Gospel
      today we see the reason for such failure, the reason why we are paralyzed,
      unable even to move ourselves in cooperation with God's grace. The root of
      our paralysis is our sin. Note how when our Lord approached the paralytic He
      first addressed his sin saying "Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven
      you." By this He released the bonds which brought on the paralysis in the
      first place. Then, having done away with the barriers which held this man
      inactive our Lord says to him, "Arise and walk" which he then does -
      completely healed of his paralysis. When we sin, we too become chained with
      the bonds of our sins. When sin has a hold on us, no matter how small it
      might seem, we are hampered in cooperating with the grace of God - we are in
      fact spiritually paralyzed. The more we allow sin to work in our lives, the
      less we are able to act on the grace of God, each movement becoming more and
      more difficult until finally there is nothing left. We are bound with the
      chains of sin - just as surely as the demon possessed men of whom we heard
      last week were bound with chains. We are held helpless by our sins, just as
      surely as the paralytic was held helpless by his disability. The only remedy
      is forgiveness which comes from God and the door to forgiveness is

      For this reason we are given the sacrament of repentance - that is the
      sacrament of confession. In this manner the chains of sin which bind us are
      dissolved and released when we come before God and confess aloud our sins in
      the presence of the priest, then the hold that these sins have on us is
      destroyed. When the priest witnesses the repentance of sin, when he has
      elicited and exposed all that which is soul destroying, he then places over
      the head of the penitent one his stole which is they symbol of God's grace
      being poured out upon us (When the priest vests he places the stole on his
      neck with the prayer, "Blessed is our God Who poureth out His grace to His
      priests like unto the oil of myrrh, which runneth down upon the beard, upon
      the beard of Aaron, which runneth to the fringe of his garment") and he
      prays that God will forgive these sins and eliminate their power and hold
      over the penitent. He then declares to the penitent the forgiveness of Jesus
      Christ in the name of the Holy Trinity. By this act the paralyzing power of
      sin is broken and the penitent is able to return again to the life empowered
      by God's grace.

      There is yet one further element which is necessary to fulfill God's
      commandment in your life and that is to chose to act according to His grace
      and calling. The apostles, when they were called, had to assent, they had to
      choose to leave their work in the world, as fishermen, as scholars as tax
      collectors, and to take on instead the labor of Christ. We must also make
      that same choice - to leave behind the labor of the world, that is the
      amassing of wealth, the building of a personal reputation and fame, the
      pursuit of pleasure and self indulgence and instead take on the labor of
      Christ which is the labor of love for one another and for the world. We must
      choose Christ, we must act on His command. The paralytic by faith had to
      choose to follow Christ, to act on His command to "Arise and walk",
      otherwise he would have remained lying there, voluntarily maintaining his
      paralysis. So we too, upon hearing the forgiveness of Christ must then
      "arise and walk" that is begin again to act according to the grace that He

      After describing for us the various callings and gifts of the Church, the
      Holy Apostle Paul goes on to describe the choices we make, how to choose
      Christ. He says: Love without hypocrisy, abhor what is evil, cling to what
      is good, be kind and affectionate to one another, be humble, be diligent and
      fervent. Rejoice in hope, be patient, continue steadfastly in prayer. Give
      to the needs of the saints, be hospitable, bless and do not curse all men,
      even those who persecute you. As you hear these prescriptions again from the
      Apostle, it is easy to think how difficult or even impossible it will be to
      fulfill this kind of life - but then we return to the grace of God. We live
      and follow Christ not by our own strength, not by our own resources - but by
      the grace of God. If we choose to follow Christ in all things, then He will
      make it possible for us to follow Him. His grace gives us strength and
      energy and the resources to be holy - we cannot do it on our own no matter
      how much we try, no matter how strong we might be, no matter how good our
      intention. Without Christ you can do nothing - but with Him you can move

      You are called to the life of grace, to life in the Church. This life is
      lived and obtained not by earthly or natural means, but by the grace of God
      alone. Only your sin can keep this grace from you and so God extends to us
      His forgiveness and release from sin in the sacrament of confession. All we
      must do is to choose Christ, to step out with faith in obedience to Him
      trusting that He will provide all that is necessary for our life in Him.
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