Bright Saturday

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
The Lord is All in All
Bright Saturday
10 April, 2010
Acts 3:11-16 ; John 3:22-33


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is risen.

Today, we have two examples given to us about how we are supposed to be living as Christians. They are very important lessons. The first one is from the Forerunner himself. When his disciples are complaining to him that Jesus is baptising nearby, and people are going to Him (instead of to John), the Forerunner is saying to them, in effect : “I have told you that I am not the Christ. He is the Bridegroom, and I am the friend of the Bridegroom”. The Forerunner is making it very clear to his followers who is Who : Jesus the Christ is from above. He knows everything. He is above everything. He understands everything. Therefore, the Forerunner exclaims that his joy is complete : “‘This joy of mine is fulfilled’”.

The Forerunner also says these most important words that we all have to recall throughout our own lives, and apply daily in our life : “‘He must increase, but I must decrease’”. He must increase because He is all in all. From Him comes everything that we are, and everything that we have. Nothing that we have or are, is without Him. Even people who deny Him exist because He is, and because He loves. Their very existence comes from the Lord, whether they accept it or not, whether they can see it or not, whether they understand anything or not. The Lord’s love is such that He gives life. He gives to every person (and probably even to every creature) the opportunity to live eternally in harmony with Him, in life-giving love with Him.

Today, in the Epistle reading, we see in the Apostle Peter the opposite of what is usually happening in our society. In the reading yesterday, we saw him approaching the lame man who was begging for alms outside the Temple. When he approached this person who had been born without any power in his legs, who had spent his whole life begging in front of the Temple, and had been living on the gifts of people who came by, the Apostle Peter said : “‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk’” (Acts 3:6). The apostle took him by the hand, and up he got. As you can imagine, he was leaping and jumping about, praising God, and glorifying God everywhere in the Temple. When people began to give credit to the Apostle Peter, the apostle responded, in effect : “There is no credit at all for me. The One whom you crucified raised this man from his fragility, inability, and impotence”. The Lord Himself who is risen from the dead, gave life and the opportunity to make a living now to this man who had only been able until that day to subsist on the proceeds of begging. The apostle took no credit for himself.

In the course of our lives (opposite to our society’s ways), it is essential that we take no credit for anything good that we are doing. What good we are doing is being done by the Lord in and through us. It is He that does the good. We are His agents, but it is always to Him that glory is due. He is the One who is healing people through our prayers. He is the One who is releasing people from bondage through our prayers. He is the One who brings joy to other people through our witness, and our life and love in Him. It is He who accomplishes all things.

It is important for us in our lives to remember this important fact that the Lord is everything. He is all in all (see Colossians 3:11). He is our all, as He is the Apostle Peter’s all. If there is good that is accomplished in our lives, glory be to God. He is accomplishing His good in and through us. We do not do anything by ourselves. As soon as we take credit for ourselves, we are stealing from God His due glory. It is very serious when we say : “Look at what I did – I am so great ! I am just the best thing since sliced bread !” When we say these things, this is really stealing from God. It is true that we fall into these temptations, and we forget and sometimes steal from Him His glory. However, God is merciful. When we tell Him we are sorry and mend our ways with His help, He is forgiving and loving, and He restores us. He renews His Grace in us, and continues His work of love in us.

We keep forgetting about these important perspectives because we live in a world that has nothing to do with these perspectives. Our societies are concerned about “me, me, and me”: “me” being comfortable, my rights, my point-of-view, my opinionated views, my deserts (not as in sweets after dinner, but what I deserve). Our societies are all concerned with self-satisfaction, the “individual” and the “individual’s” needs. This word “individual” is about isolation, whereas “person” implies involvement and relationship with the other. The Orthodox Christian way is the complete opposite of isolation. As a Christian, the affirming of “me” is first accomplished in my glorification of God, and then by my serving people all around me with love. Although we may not have anything much to give to someone who is in need, we do have the love of Jesus Christ to share. Perhaps the Lord does not bless us to heal people as He blessed the Apostle Peter in yesterday’s Epistle to raise the man from his paralysis. However, the Lord does give us the ability to intercede in prayer. Over and over and over again I have seen how people’s lives have been deeply affected by the intercessory prayers of believing Orthodox Christians. Over and over and over again, intercessory prayer has protected. It has healed. It has given new life. That is not to say that, through prayer, a person is never released from paralysis (as it happened yesterday with the Apostle Peter). It does happen. However, when it does happen, it is the Lord who knows when, and why. It is He who knows the heart of each of us, and He knows always what is best for us. The Lord does not impose Himself on us. He does not force His love, His life on us. Rather, He waits for us to receive Him and to accept His gifts.

There is yet another thing that we do tend to forget about. (There is a broad meaning in this word “forget”.) In our everyday life, the constant slipping from our memory of Who is the Lord is related to the influence of the opposer-down-below (whom I like to call “Big Red”). Being the father-of-lies, he is also the master of forgetfulness. It is he whose influence helps us to forget from time to time. It is easy to forget who we are. It is easy to forget Whom we serve. It is easy to forget, because we live in an environment of such forgetfulness. However, it is important for us not to beat ourselves up always because of this forgetting, but to say to the Lord : “Help me to remember Who You are. Help me to remember who I am in the context of Your love and Your light. Help me to know myself as I really am in You”. By His help and support, we will be able always and everywhere to remember to glorify the most Holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.