Will I, shall I follow Christ ?

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Will I, shall I follow Christ ?
Saturday of the 3rd Week after Pentecost
4 July, 2009
Romans 6:11-17 ; Matthew 8:14-23

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

Despite all the greyness that exists in our life one way or another because of our way of life, our relationships with each other, and the multitude of uncertainties in which we live, nevertheless, in the Lord there is no such thing as “grey”. When it comes down to it, in the Lord things are very clear and clear-cut. He says to us, as He says to the scribes and to the others : “‘Follow Me’”. When He says : “‘Follow Me’”, He means precisely that. He means that He must be the priority in our lives.

When the Apostle is speaking to us today, he is clearly stating that every day is a day of decision, a day of discernment for each one of us. Every day, with an act of the will, we have to decide : To whom do we belong ? Are we slaves of the Lord of life ? Are we slaves of Love (and life-giving Love at that) or are we slaves of selfishness, sin, darkness and death ? These are the two choices before us every day. We try to make our way and meander in between these two choices (which is why things are very grey for us). We make a sort of fog, as it were, between ourselves and the Lord by our indecision, our uncertainty, asking : “Which way is the right way ?” We tend to be indecisive and uncertain because by and large we have forgotten how to listen to our heart. That is, we have forgotten how to listen to the Lord in our heart. The Lord speaks to us constantly in our heart, and it is in our heart that we find Him.

People who practice the Jesus Prayer are always correctly saying that it is the Prayer of the Heart because they focus on the heart, and there they find the Saviour. The Saviour is in the heart because He is in the centre of our being. We do not find the Lord somewhere “out there” or even “somewhere over the rainbow”. We find Him right here, where I am pointing : in the heart. As the Psalmist says : “There is no place that I can run away and hide from You. It does not matter where I go : You are always there, and You are there even before me” (see Psalm 138).

The Lord is with us. He is the Creator. We cannot exist without Him. However, because of our brokenness, our self-deception, we seem to forget that He is with us always, and therefore we think that we, ourselves, are the centre of the universe, distinct from Him. There is no such thing as being distinct from Him. If we were distinct from Him, we would be extinct : we would cease to exist altogether. Therefore, as the Apostle says to us, we have to make a decision every day : “Do I will to follow Christ ? Will I follow Christ ?” When I say “I will” in English, properly speaking I am saying that I have made an act of the will to follow Christ. Thus, if I say : “I will follow Christ”, this does not mean that I shall do this in the future sometime. I am saying that it is my will to follow Christ (whether I can live up to this decision of my will is another thing). Nevertheless, it is my will that I shall make every attempt to follow Christ.

That is why it is important every day, every morning when we are getting up, to focus on the Lord first thing, make the sign of the Cross, and ask the Lord’s blessing on the day in one way or another. We are always asking Him to be with us. However, He is always with us. Rather than try to go it alone, it is better for us to ask the Lord to help us to remember that He is with us at all times, and to remember to consult Him in everything during the course of the coming day. It is better for us to ask Him not to let us forget, rather than simply trying by ourselves not to forget. Forgetfulness is from below, and it is very insidious.

What does our Lord do when He is in our midst ? Today, He is with the mother-in-law of the Apostle Peter. She has a seriously high fever and is sick in bed and cannot do a thing. Our Saviour touches her, and immediately she is well. Immediately, she gets up and does what is in her heart – as a loving, God-fearing, God-serving person, she serves them. It is not simply because she is a woman, not simply because she is a mother-in-law that she does that (although that somehow goes with the role of mothers, mothers-in-law, and grandmothers, and so forth). However, it is not only they who do this serving. It is grandfathers, fathers-in-law and husbands who do serving, also, because it is the way of all Christians to serve. We could just as easily say that if our Lord had come into this house and He had healed Peter’s father, or someone else from sickness, that person would have gotten up and done the same sort of thing : serve in one way or another. The Christian way is always the way of service.

The Lord is delivering people from bondage to the devil, bondage to sin, bondage to death. The Lord, in His love, wants us all always to be free, free in Him. Even though there are those who say to Him : “I will follow You”, our Lord replies : “The Son of Man has nowhere to put His head”. That means that we have to be prepared to have no earthly home, as it were, except in the Kingdom. It is the Kingdom that matters ; earthly homes come second. In effect, He is saying the same thing to the person in the Gospel reading today, who says to Him : “Lord, let me first go and bury my father”. Our Lord says to him what seems to be very harsh : “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead”. However, it is not so harsh as all that. Essentially, He is saying in effect : “Put first things first”. He means (as it has been interpreted) : Let those who are spiritually dead look after everything that is dead. You, follow Life. That essentially is what He is saying to this man.

Let us ask the Lord to renew today in our hearts this love for Him that allows us to put Him first always in our lives. Let us accept this freedom, His radical freedom, His radical life-giving, life-creating life. May we glorify Him every day in everything that we do, with joy, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.