Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Walking in the apostolic Path
Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (Transferred)
5 July, 2008
2 Corinthians 11:21-12:9 ; Matthew 16:13-19

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

We are celebrating the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul in this Temple dedicated to these Holy Apostles, in-between the new calendar and the old calendar feast-days, because sometimes it has to be like this. That does not mean that we are making a habit of moving feast-days around, but on certain occasions it has to be like this. For my part, I am grateful that it is possible to make this sort of bending, so that I can finally come to this place after more than twenty years of travelling around the diocese. Finally I get to Saskatchewan north. I have to apologise for the length of time that it took me to come here.

The Apostles Peter and Paul, in the course of their lives, suffered many difficulties. It was not just a matter of preaching and talking about Who is Jesus Christ, and then everyone would automatically respond, saying : “Yes, that is true”, and they would accept the truth of Jesus Christ. There were very many question marks (especially amongst the Jewish people) about how this could possibly be. Amongst the Greek philosophers, there were also perpetual questions : “How can it be that God can really take flesh and live amongst us like a human being ? How can it be ?”

Human beings are most often asking silly, unanswerable questions such as this. Those questions do get asked over and over again. By the way we behave sometimes, it appears that we think that we are God. It is the same story of incomprehension, even today, some 2,000 years later. We cannot, even now, comprehend just exactly how it can be that the Word of God, the love of God can take flesh and live as a human being, still being God, and then die. How can God die ? Nevertheless, by their life, by their witness, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the apostles, this Grace coming from their mouths convinced other people that even if they could not understand it, the words of the Gospel must be true.

The fact is – Christ did die, and He arose from the dead, which is something that is not known of, otherwise. It is true that resurrection does happen. The Grace of God brings it about in particular circumstances, but never in circumstances just like our Saviour’s Resurrection. In cases of human beings coming back to life in other instances in history, we would really have to call it more like resuscitation than resurrection. The Resurrection of Christ is a concrete example of what happens to us, the members of the Body of Christ, after our death. He rose from the dead, therefore, with a glorified Body, a Body which could still be recognised as His because it still has the marks of the Crucifixion. Yet, His Body is glorified. The Risen Christ appeared and disappeared. He was not impeded by walls and doors, and so forth.

When our Saviour raised Lazarus from the dead before His own Resurrection, Lazarus returned to life as a regular human being. This event is called “resurrection” by the Church, and so it is. Nevertheless, at the end of his days, Lazarus again died. At the end of his days, after he died, he would ultimately fully experience the Resurrection of Christ. This Resurrection of Christ is different – absolutely unique and different, and not in any way temporary or transient. Yet, the Resurrection of Lazarus is the living out in its own way of the words of our Saviour, Himself, who says : “'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life'” (John 14:6).

Our Saviour’s own Resurrection, and the resurrection which we, ourselves, are to experience after our end, is the playing out, the exact application of what He means when He says : “'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life'”, especially the Life, of course. However, He is also the Way, because He is the Way for us to the Resurrection. More than that, He is the Way of Life for a person who is created in the image and growing into the likeness of God. He is the example for us of how we are supposed to live.

He is also the Truth. I say this so many times, over and over again ; but I cannot say it enough. In our Canadian society, we are being bombarded with the idea that there is a multiplicity of truths. There is a truth for one person, and another person has a different truth. When you are talking about truth, and you talk about multiple truths about the same thing, it is logically ridiculous. It is one of those Canadian-word-game-accommodations that we play, as we pretend that there might not be something wrong somewhere. Thus, we say that it really does not matter, and that it is all the same : “What I believe to be the truth may be for you a different sort of truth”. We are being too super-nice in our stereotypical Canadian way, but in so doing we are not telling the truth, ourselves. We are hiding from the Truth.

There is only one truth about anything. Only one. About any one thing, there can only be one truth. This is merely simple and basic logic. When we are talking about absolute Truth, there is only one, and that is Jesus Christ, Himself. He is the Way. He is the Truth. He is the Life. It is this Way, this Truth, this Life that is revealed in love by the Apostles Peter and Paul that converts people to Jesus Christ, that convinces them that Jesus Christ is truly the Giver of life. He is truly the Word of God who speaks into existence everything that exists. The apostles imitated this example of the love of Jesus Christ whom they knew personally. They lived this love. They were resisted by the powers of darkness, just as our Saviour, Himself, was resisted by the powers of darkness (see Luke 22:53 ; John 1:5). The apostles were resisted, but the Truth, Jesus Christ, prevailed, and prevails to this day, even though there is resistance.

Why should there not be resistance ? People have been disappointed so much. Why should they not ask questions ? People have been deceived so much. If you and I, following in the footsteps of the Apostles Peter and Paul, are going to be convincers of other people that Jesus Christ (who is the reason for our existence, the reason for our life, the only source of our hope, our joy, our love) is the true Way, it can only be done by the way we live, by how we live truly, ourselves.

Most specifically, then, how do we go about living out this selfless, life-giving love of Jesus Christ ? How do we imitate Jesus Christ as did those Apostles Peter and Paul ? How do we imitate Jesus Christ ? By this question, I am asking : How do we serve ? Our Saviour, Himself, says : “'The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve'” (Matthew 20:28). The way of Christian love is always definitely not the prideful : “You-look-after-me, I-am-number-one” sort of attitude. The Christian way concerns itself, rather, with the nurturing of the attitude expressed by the question : “How can I be of help to you ?” “How can I be of assistance ?” “How can I be of help to someone else ?” “How can I put into concrete action the love of Jesus Christ that I feel for you ?” “It is His love that I feel, so how can I share this love in a concrete way ?” Perhaps I could bring a pie for some occasion. Perhaps I could help to fix a car for free, or something similar. “How can I be good to you, as our Saviour is good to me ?” These all are the marks of the way of the Christian.

We notice, also, in reading the Acts of the Apostles, that the Apostles Peter and Paul had their differences, and they had their weaknesses. Both the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul had personal weaknesses. However, we see in the Acts of the Apostles that they are always calling to the Lord for help to overcome those weaknesses, and He gives them the Grace to overcome those weaknesses. They also have differing ideas about how things should be done, and who should do them. You can see several times in the Acts of the Apostles how the Apostles Peter and Paul are sharply criticising each other, especially the Apostle Paul because he is so straightforward (see Galatians 2:11-14). We cannot let ourselves get the idea that just because they had these strong differences of opinion that they were somehow divided. They were not and are not divided even though they sometimes talked bluntly and honestly to each other. This bluntness and this honesty led to the expression of the truth in Jesus Christ because both of them were ready and willing to accept what our Saviour would give to them. The holy Apostles Peter and Paul died on the same day, the 29th of June, in a different part of Rome, in the same city. They were both killed for the sake of Jesus Christ. In iconography, you often see them embracing each other. This goes to show us that even though they had differences of opinion, they still lived in harmony. They sought the harmony of the love of Jesus Christ, and they did, and do live in this harmony.

They also lived in forgiveness with each other. This is another fundamental prerequisite of the whole life of every Christian. We are to live in forgiveness with everyone, and with everything, always. We hold no poisoning and life-killing grudges. Instead, we pray for those who persecute us. We pray for those who offend us. We pray for those who hurt us, and the Lord brings forgiveness to us and to the person who has hurt us. The Lord does bring this forgiveness. The apostles are living in this forgiveness. They are living examples of this forgiveness. They show us that difficult as this forgiveness might sometimes be, it can be done, and it must be done. This is the way the love of Jesus Christ moves us. Our Saviour, upon the Cross, from this Cross forgave the people who were killing Him. He said : “'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do'” (Luke 23:34). This same Saviour showed the apostles how to forgive. He shows you and me, also, how to forgive with love. It is the Lord God, Himself, who judges everything. We are not the judges of all right and wrong, and everything. We are not the enforcers, either. The Lord, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, does all this.

I really want you to understand how the love of the Lord works, and how it is important that we live in the Scriptures. We should be reading the Scriptures every day – not just the two New Testament readings that are provided so that we read through the New Testament every year. We should also read the Old Testament on a regular basis. You cannot understand the New Testament unless you also understand the Old Testament to which the New Testament is constantly referring, and to which our Saviour, Himself, is also very often referring. It is important for us to know the crucial importance of the love of Jesus Christ. How important it is that this little church standing here be an example in the lives of the people. I think that I have seen evidence that this does exist already. It is important that this evidence be there of how Christians, like those Apostles Peter and Paul, must live in harmony and forgiveness, being servants of all, as our Saviour is Servant of all.

Let us ask those holy Apostles Peter and Paul to pray anew and afresh for us. Let us ask them to ask the Lord to send the Holy Spirit freshly upon us so that the Grace of the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon us, and we will be able more and more to live like Christ, in Christ, in the Grace of His love. May we shine with hope, so that people who are without hope (and there are many of them), after they have tested us and found that our love is real, will, themselves, be able to find their hope which is the same as our hope : their joy, their life, their strength, their power in Jesus Christ. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, to whom be glory in everything, always, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.