Opinions differ, but Love and Forgiveness prevail

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Opinions differ, but Love and Forgiveness prevail
Saturday of the 5th Week of Pascha
23 May, 2009
Acts 15:35-41 ; John 10:27-38

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

Today, in our encounter with our Lord and the Pharisees who are debating with Him, we are seeing the too frequent appearance of human stubbornness and human resistance to Grace. The Lord, in His love, comes to us. He shows us His love over and over and over again. Over and over and over again, we tend too often to choose our reasoning and our perception of everything, and thus we treat our reasoning and perception as being superior to His love, and to the demonstration of His love. The works that the Lord is speaking about today are precisely those demonstrations of His love. There are healings. The blind see. The deaf hear. Paralysed people are walking. Dead people are standing up.

Our Saviour is saying, in effect, to those with hard hearts and stubbornness : “All right. Maybe you do not believe the words that I say. However, at least believe the things that have happened and understand what they mean”. He is saying to you and to me, too, as it were (because we, ourselves, are receivers of many such signs, also) : “If you have difficulties with words and with human beings, at least see that the works, themselves, these signs that are accomplished, are demonstrations of the work of God’s love”. These works demonstrate in themselves that our Lord and the Father are one. Of course, that is why the Pharisees immediately took up stones to stone Him. They were going to kill Him because they considered that He, as a human being, had made Himself equal to God. They had no way of truly comprehending to Whom they were talking. They were people (as I say over and over again) who were very insistent on the observance of the Law. Their observance of the Law was on the basis of human reasoning, which always gets us into trouble.

We have an example of that happening even today with the disagreement between the Apostles Paul and Barnabas. They had a very sharp disagreement which produced a separation between the two of them. To some persons who are accustomed to the very fallen ways of human beings, the fact that the two apostles could have a sharp disagreement such as this one, and then separate and go their own ways, seems to be some sort of betrayal of the Christian way.

It is important for us to remember that the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter had their differences, too. Their differences are described throughout the Acts of the Apostles. There were all sorts of differences of opinion amongst the apostles and other persons. However, differences of opinion always end up being resolved, because a Christian truly cannot live with that sort of irresolution. Christians must resolve these differences through forgiveness. Thus, we see icons of the Apostles Peter and Paul embracing each other. Ultimately, this is how they were towards each other. According to reasoning, they may not have always agreed 100 per-cent, and what two human beings ever do agree 100 per-cent ? I have still to meet such human beings. Even couples who have been married for sixty, seventy years have still some differences of opinion from time to time. Human beings are simply like that. However, love and forgiveness prevail over those differences of opinion. Even though the Apostles Paul and Barnabas separate and go their own ways, the Apostle Paul chose Silas and with him he returned to strengthen and confirm the churches which had been established in Asia Minor. Now, the situation provided the opportunity for the Apostle Barnabas to go to Cyprus. What do we have in Cyprus as a result of his going there ? We have an autocephalous Orthodox Church in Cyprus to this day, and the relics of the Apostle Barnabas in Cyprus to this day. The Lord is bringing good out of a difference of opinion. He is bringing the multiplication of the preaching of the Word of Life.

At the same time, from our perspective, we must understand that this difference of opinion and this separation of ways between the Apostles Paul and Barnabas does not itself indicate that there was some sort of irreconcilable difference preventing them from forgiving each other. This is not at all the case. The apostles, above all, are known for their example of following Christ and showing His way by their lives. If there is anything fundamentally characteristic of the Christian way, it is forgiving and praying for the one who is abusing us. We pray for and bless even the one who is going to kill us. We see this in the martyrdom of Saint Juvenaly (which I also cite over and over again).

Let us ask the Lord today to renew our own hearts by the Grace of the Holy Spirit so that our lives will never flag in living out and revealing the love of Jesus Christ, and in this love, proclaiming His Resurrection in this love. In some God-given way, may people who see our lives, see also the Saviour, the work of the Saviour and the activity of His love. May they be touched by His love and find Him, and thereby with us be able to glorify Him with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.