Let my Light shine

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Let my Light shine
17th Sunday after Pentecost
12 October, 2008
2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1 ; Matthew 15:21-28

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

Today, our Lord goes to a region outside the traditional Jewish territory. Anyone who knows anything about the ways of Jewish culture in the time of the New Testament, would understand that Jewish people did not have anything to do with anyone else. However, even if they did not have anything to do with anyone else, they still lived in diaspora. That means that some Jewish people were living in the region of Tyre and Sidon ; they were living in various parts of North Africa ; they were living in parts of what is now Turkey, and Greece, and they were certainly living in Egypt.

Tyre and Sidon, which are now in Lebanon, were ancient non-Jewish Semitic cities which became part of the Phoenician-Greek trading region. We are not told why, but our Saviour Jesus travelled to that region in order to speak with some of the people. Now we see that a woman of the Canaanites (which relates her to the Syro-Phoenicians) comes to speak to Him. As we have just heard, our Saviour speaks rather sharply with this woman. This sort of sharp exchange, in which He speaks clearly and directly about the details of life, is similar to the exchange which (after Pascha) we observed Him having with the Samaritan woman. Today, when this woman is asking for help for her daughter, He says very clearly that they were not supposed to have anything to do with each other. The woman insistently persists. Then He responds to her : “'It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs'”. She then replies : “'Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table'”.

Our Lord is obviously making these strong statements (which imply a question) in order to reveal to everyone round about just what sort of humility this woman had. Her humility and her love truly are great. She does not ask anything at all for herself : only for her daughter. I have met many such people in my life already, too, and it gives me a great deal of hope that there are still such people amongst us. This illustrates exactly the Christian way of living, and it shows us how the love of Jesus Christ is lived.

When we, who try to follow Christ, are truly following Christ, then we are putting everyone else first in front of us. We are doing this in the same way as our Saviour, who serves us to this day. He did not come into this world to please Himself or to make a comfortable place for Himself here. He came to give life. He came to save us. The way of saving us is the way of His love. It is only His love which gives us peace and joy. It is only His love that gives eternal life.

The Apostle Paul is telling us today, in connexion with this, that we are not to be associating with the world and the ways of darkness. All around us are people who are associating with the world, trying to get comfortable in the world. They use the ways of darkness. We are living amongst them every day, and they can have a negative influence on us. It is our responsibility, therefore, to know who we are, and Whom it is we that are serving. We have to know the difference between the Way of life, light, and love, and the ways of death, darkness and fear. It is really crucially important for us to know the difference. We, like our Lord, must shine with light and life. The purpose of this light shining is to enlighten and illuminate the people who are in darkness. We do not bring people to the life and love of Jesus Christ by living in the ways of darkness. We have to live amongst people who are searching, it is true. However, in living amongst them, we need to be living examples of how there is a better way.

Right now, we are living through a terrible period. The stock markets and the economies of the world are all in turmoil. People are panicking. This is precisely the way of the world (and the way of the devil in particular). All this turmoil develops because someone initiates a rumour that spreads fear. For instance, people are afraid that they are going to lose money. They sell in panic, and the more people panic, the worse things get. These things are not happening merely by accident. As far as I can see in my experience in life, there are plenty of people who understand the weaknesses of human beings, and they play with them cynically. I can see all the tell-tale signs of this cynical exploitation happening now. Our responsibility as Orthodox Christians is not to live in this panic, which is simply fear. Where is our hope ? Where is our stability ? Where is our peace ? It is not in the size of a bank account. It is in Jesus Christ, our life. If we keep the eyes of our heart and mind on Him, then He will guide us in peace through all these dangers and turmoils.

It is important for us to ask the Lord what is His will. What are we to do ? If we listen to our hearts, the Lord speaks to us in peace. If we feel peace in our hearts about a particular direction of action, this is likely to be the way the Lord wants us to go. No matter what, everything for us Orthodox Christians has to be motivated by the love of Jesus Christ. We must always be remembering every day to ask His blessing on everything.

Today, we are serving with one bishop, one priest, and five deacons. This gives me great joy. It is a bit confusing for the deacons, because I do not think any of them is used to serving with four others, and it can be hard to know who does what. Nevertheless, there are many places in the world in which we might find ten or more deacons serving with a large number of bishops and priests. There, we would see that the services proceed very “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40) in accordance with the exhortation of the Apostle Paul. Our deacons here are doing very well. This diaconal multiplication here, today, is really a sign of our Church’s life and future. By their lives, by their service, by what they do, they are examples to the rest of us of how Christians are supposed to be behaving. The deacons are the ones who are serving. They are caring about the service, and they are caring about every other detail of life, too. In the life of a parish that truly reflects the New Testament, a deacon is in charge of social service, helping to meet the practical needs of people. That is what we are all supposed to be doing. So, I want to say “Glory to God” for this opportunity to serve with five deacons. Glory to God for everything. May this same Lord help us to be faithful to Him in love, so that our whole lives will glorify the All-Holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.