Hope is a Who

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Hope is a Who
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
28 June, 2009
Romans 5:1-10 ; Matthew 6:22-33

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

In his second letter to the Apostle Timothy (see 2 Timothy 3:12), the Apostle Paul tells us that there is no human being who is trying to live the Christian life who does not face adversity of some sort or another. He clarifies for us that we Christians end up facing more difficulties, more trials, more obstacles than many others do. Fundamentally, this is because we are following Him who is the Light. We will recall at the beginning of the Gospel according to Saint John that we are told that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5).

There are various ways in which we see that the darkness is attempting to overcome the light. This is the repeated experience of every last one of us who is following Christ. There are experiences day after day in our lives in which the Tempter comes to try to divide us from the Body of Christ, and to separate us away from the Body of the faithful. He inserts divisions between us one way or another, usually by insinuating suspicious thoughts in our minds or doubts or questions or anger or some other sort of passion. Our Saviour says that the Tempter is the great separator because he is the great father-of-lies.

The Apostle is making a major point when he says that all these difficulties produce the strengthening of a person, and finally through strengthening of character there comes hope. What is hope ? Again, the question is not right when we might say : “What is hope ?” This question is similar to the question that Pontius Pilate posed to our Lord : “‘What is truth?’” (John 18:38) Pontius Pilate was looking at the Truth. That is why there was no answer. If we are looking for the truth as a “what”, we are not going to find it because in this world there is not any. In the same way, if we look for justice in this world, we will not find it because there is not any in this world. If we look for hope as a “what”, again, we will not find it, because hope is a “Who”. Our hope is He who is the Truth, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He is our Hope. That is why the Apostle says that hope is so important, so pivotal and so foundational in our lives because our Saviour, Jesus Christ, is our only Hope.

In today’s Gospel reading, our Saviour Jesus Christ reminds us once again about priorities. He says to us that we should not worry about clothes or anything at all because He says : “‘Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?’” This example may have seemed to be extreme to His hearers (and also to us), but it is a fact. In the Old Testament many people depended on the Lord in this way and were not disappointed. This experience shows how much more important to Him we humans are than birds (or anything else in creation), because we are made in His image. We are the ones that are being fashioned directly as creatures of His love for the express purpose of working together with Him in the whole creation, looking after these birds, these grasses and these flowers. He says to you and to me that we must have our priorities straight.

What comes first in our life ? What must come first in our life is the One who is the Source of our life. Everything else stems from and follows from our relationship with the Lord, the Source of our life. The birds of the air do not worry about eating because the Lord provides for them. They trust Him to provide for them. Except for those cases where we human beings make a mess of that provision (which is quite frequently, and more frequently these days), the Lord looks after His creatures. He provides for their needs. He provides for your needs and my needs also, but most of the time we do not bother to ask Him because we consider ourselves to be self-sufficient. As true Canadians, we tend to be definitely self-sufficient engineers of our own destinies, our own life-styles and everything else. “We can do it ourselves.”

In our normal life, being a “do-it-yourselfer” has some interesting consequences. The average Canadian “do-it-yourselfer” often does not know so well how to do it him- or her-self. We read a book, do research on the internet, and get some very good ideas. Then we go out shopping, go home, and construct something that we want to change at home. Maybe it goes together (although sometimes not even self-assembled furniture goes together the way it is supposed to). Usually, the result of our “home plumbing”, “home electrical work”, “home window repairs”, “home floor repairs”, “home furniture-building” implies that some sort of professional repair-man (or woman) will be showing up soon because our attempt does not work quite right or it falls in on us or something happens. As a rule, our do-it-yourself things are not very successful, whereas this building where this mission is serving has been here for 100 or more years. It was not built by amateurs, and it is standing very well even to this day. From the look of it, as long as maintenance is carried on, this building should carry on for another 200 or 300 years. This is unusual for Canada (or at least for modern Canada anyway), and it is unusual for us do-it-yourselfers.

What lasts is what is done in harmony with, in consultation with, in obedience to, and as a fruit of the love of Jesus Christ. If we want to be able to produce true beauty, true beauty can only reflect the beauty of the Source of beauty, who is Jesus Christ, who speaks everything into existence. If we want to live a life that is beautiful and as peaceful as possible, then, we can only begin to approach living by constant consultation with the will of Him who made us, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We have to learn not to turn to the Lord as the last resort, but as the first resort. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve first consulted the Lord about everything. Their communion of love with Him was such that they instinctively knew what was right to do. The beginning of a question mark already produced the answer in their hearts because their hearts were in unblocked communion of love with their Creator.

The communion with God which we have been given in our Saviour, Jesus Christ is much deeper, much greater than that of Adam and Eve. Our responsibility as members of the Body of Christ, as members of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, is much greater even than that of Adam and Eve. We have been baptised into Christ. We have put on Christ. Our Saviour has promised that He will always be with us.

The Saviour is always with us. Let us ask Him to give us the strength unceasingly to remember this truth, this reality that He is with us. Let us ask Him to build in us that Hope, which is Himself, founded on that Love, which is Himself ; nourished by that Love, which is Himself. As we are passing through the days of our lives, with all the difficulties that we face because we are following Him, may our hearts first turn to Him. May our hearts first cry out to Him : “Help”. May our hearts first turn to Him for strength, guidance, direction, hope, and the renewal of the joy of His presence.

Let us ask Him to build a right heart within us, and fill us freshly with the Grace of the Holy Spirit so that as we come to Him today with our hearts open to Him, our hearts may truly be refreshed by the renewal of His love and His presence. Therefore, in our hearts and in our lives at all times, and in all things, may the all-holy Trinity be glorified : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.