Why are we here ?

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Why are we here ?
34th Sunday after Pentecost
20 January, 2008
Colossians 3:4-11 ; Luke 18:35-43

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

According to the sensibilities of some people, the informality of this particular community’s worship might feel a little bit uncomfortable. However, the fact is – this is rather how I think worship normally should be. It should be organic. It should be an expression of who we are. We are offering ourselves to the Lord, after all, in our worship. We are offering Him not some sort of false front. Because He knows everything, and He sees everything, we cannot make any pretense about anything in front of Him. We must be true about ourselves in the presence of Him who is the Truth. We offer to Him who we are. We do this honestly, and at the same time respectfully. In the informality with which we are serving here, today (partly because of necessity, but still it is not anything less because of the necessity), we are offering to the Lord, with respect, with love, with organic informality, who we are. I believe that this sort of attitude – being who we truly are – is very pleasing to the Lord.

When our Saviour is addressed by this blind man today in the Gospel, He gives the blind man what he is asking for. You remember that the blind man, when he hears that it is Jesus that is walking by him, cries out : “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”. In English, we are very often mistaking what is this “have mercy” because of the way we are taught by the usual sort of books that we are reading. The first meanings of the Oxford dictionary probably, too, will suggest that when we are saying : “have mercy”, it means to be spared or rescued from anger or punishment or death or whatever else. This is not only what the Greek verb “eleison” can mean, and that is also not what the meaning is in other languages which translate this same word into their terms. Slavonic and its derivative languages use “pomilui”. Romanian uses “milueste”. In neither case does the meaning of the word agree with the Oxford use. I am saying that we have to “Orthodox” the English language a little more (or at least we have to find a way to “Orthodox” our understanding of these words).

When we are saying “have mercy”, in effect we are asking the Lord to pour the oil of His love upon us. This essentially follows what the Greek verb seems to be trying to convey in its meaning. To an extent, this can mean that we are being spared from some sort of punishment. However, the main thing is that we are asking the Lord to love us. We do not ask Him to love us more, nor do we ask Him to love us less. His love for us and for all His creatures is always constant. This “mercy” word, by the way, in English, comes from the French “miséricorde” (just to prove that English is French badly spoken). “Miséricorde” comes from the Latin “misericordia” which means a heart of love. We are asking the Lord to pour out on us His love, from His Heart of Love ; and that is precisely what this blind man is doing today. He is asking the Lord to pour out the oil of His love upon us (because in the Greek word, this oil and love are somehow connected by implication). We are asking the Lord to pour out His love and His care upon us. The blind man, in asking this, gets what he asked for – the expression of the Lord’s love. He is asking for his sight. The Lord, out of His love and compassion (perhaps “compassion” is the best way to talk about this “mercy”) gives sight to this man. The man immediately follows Him, praising God.

We are not all blind physically, and we do not all necessarily have such dramatic healings. However, when we are asking Him all the time, as we are, to have mercy on us, this does not mean that the Lord is not pouring out His compassion on us. Rather, He is constantly pouring out this compassion on us. The Apostle is saying today that we have put on Christ. We have put on a new life. We have put on the New Man (see Ephesians 4:24). This is the expression of what happens when you and I are renewed in the love of Jesus Christ. He changes us. He changes our life. He heals the wounds of our heart. He heals the wounds of our spirit. He heals sometimes, also, the wounds of our body. He, in His compassion, in His love, in His mercy, in His “misericordia”, comes to us, and He meets our needs.

This is why it gives us joy to be here, today, offering to Him the totality of who we are, both singly and all together, because we are all in the same boat, as it were. In the first place, we are all people who have put on Christ. We are all people who are trying to live in Christ. We have experienced His love. We are, also, all sinners, more or less in the same way. Sometimes we think that our sins are so peculiar and unrepeatable. However, when hearing confessions, one has the opposite impression. It is all the same sort of sin that people are confessing before the Lord. It is all the same, with very little variation. People are all afflicted, from bishops down to little children, with the same sorts of temptation, with the same sorts of obstacles in living the Christian life. We ask the Lord to have mercy on us, as this blind man is asking for mercy. The Lord takes away the blindness from our hearts, and He renews our lives ; He strengthens us. He gives us the purpose in living that we need to have, and that we are looking for. We all have a sense that we need to have a purpose in life.

We often ask ourselves : “Why are we here ?” The main purpose for any of us to be here in this life is first of all to glorify the Lord who created us, and who gives us life. That is our first purpose – to respond in love to His love. After that – to be good to other people : to bring the love of Jesus Christ to other people around us. The Lord gives us all sorts of talent ; He gives us all sorts of other things besides, but this is still the essence of it : to be good, to carry Christ to other people. On top of all that, the Lord’s other blessings come. Nevertheless, it is our purpose in this life to make a difference. The difference that we are here to make in this life is primarily to help other people have hope, and to help them to encounter the love of Jesus Christ. If by our lives we help other people encounter Jesus Christ, experience Him and His love, and help them to have the hope that we have, then we are already well on our way to doing what the Lord is asking each of us to do in this life. We are fulfilling our purpose by conveying the love, the life, the hope, the joy of Jesus Christ. Besides this, the Lord may give us many other things to do, but I do not think that anything is as important as this conveying, living, revealing Jesus Christ. Others may find Him by seeing how we live ourselves, by how we treat each other, how we pray for each other, how we have “misericordia” : mercy, compassion for each other, and for people in need, who are all in the same boat as we are, facing the same difficulties.

This is a long, winding way around the words of our Lord today. It is important for us to remember that when we are saying : “Lord have mercy”, we are asking the Lord to have compassion on us, to pour out His love upon us. Then it is for us to do the same. The Lord does pour out His compassion upon us. He does pour out His love upon us. We, in Him, need to pour out our compassion upon other people. In this way we will do exactly what the Apostle was asking us to do earlier : to turn away from the ways of darkness, and the selfish deeds and behaviours that human beings get caught up in. Instead, like Christ, let us give ourselves in love to everyone around us, and shine with light like Jesus Christ, the Word of God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, our Saviour, our Guide. Let us glorify Him in every part of our life, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.