To Whom do we belong ?

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
To Whom do we belong ?
4th Sunday after Pentecost
5 July, 2009
Romans 6:18-23 ; Matthew 8:5-13


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

In the Epistle reading today, the Apostle is saying to us again just about the same things He was saying to us yesterday. He is emphasising the need for us to remember to whom we belong. To whom do we belong ? Do we belong to sin and death ? Are we slaves of sin and death ? Or do we belong to the Lord, and therefore to life and love ? It is important for us every day to keep this in mind, and to be making this choice because the devil is never going to leave us alone. No matter what day of our lives, the devil will not leave us alone. We are forced to make that choice every day of our lives. Do I serve life ? Do I serve death ? Do I serve the Lord of life ? Do I serve the lord of death ? Do I serve Him, who is the Truth ? Do I serve the father-of-lies ? Whom do I serve ?

Do I live for myself, or do I live for the Lord ? If I live for myself, I have chosen the way of darkness. If I live for the Lord, I have chosen the way of light. The devil never does leave us alone in this regard, and I suppose, actually, that it is just as well for us. If everyone is anything like me, it is easy to forget, slip along sometimes, and simply take it easy. However, every time I have ever “taken it easy”, I have found myself having unwittingly made a choice, and it is a negative choice. If we are going to serve the Lord, we have to make that choice regularly, steadily, every day.

Who is this Lord whom we are serving ? It is the same Lord whom we see encountering the centurion, and healing his very much distressed, tormented and paralysed servant without ever going to see him personally. Our Lord is the Lord of compassion. He reveals His love on every occasion that we encounter Him. There is not one occasion when our Lord is not expressing this life-giving, light-bearing love. Almost every time we see Him in the Gospels, He is changing people from paralysed to free-moving, from blind to seeing, from sickness to health, from death to life. He is showing us that the Christian way is simply the way of repentance. All the time, our Lord is saying to us : “‘Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’” (Matthew 11:28). He is saying this to us all the time. He is inviting you and me all the time, every day, to take His strength for living this difficult life.

Which is better, then ? Is it better to serve the lord of darkness, who is always paralysing us with fear, and taking us down into death and eternal darkness, or is it better to serve the Lord, who loves us, who sets us free, who fills us with love and life every day ? In my estimation, this is not a hard choice to make. However, we usually do not behave so logically. Because of how we are held by fear in one way or another (there are so many little hooks of fear here and there that we are not aware of in our lives), we slip, get distracted and fall down from time to time. However, the Lord is constantly there with us. He is not outside us. He is inside us. He is constantly with us. He is there with us, waiting for us to take His strength.

On this day on which we are celebrating the two great monastic founders, Saint Athanasius of Mount Athos and Saint Sergius of Radonezh, let us ask the Lord to give us the same strength and love for Him that they demonstrated in their lives. These men were men who simply wanted to love and serve the Lord. They did it with all their heart, and all their being. That is not to say by any means that we are all called to be monks. Nevertheless, being a Christian at any level still means to serve the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, with all our strength. However, we can take their example of perpetual repentance as an encouragement, their example of being filled with love for the Lord as an encouragement. We can do as our Saviour has been saying to us day after day, and week after week to, along with those whom He has encountered : “‘Follow Me’” (Matthew 4:19). We can do it. We can do it because He is with us, and He will help us.

Let us ask Him to renew the Grace of the Holy Spirit in our hearts today. In this way we will have the strength to follow Him with joy yet one more day, yet one more week, yet one more month, yet one more year, following the exhortation of Saint Herman of Alaska, who says to us perpetually : “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all, and do His holy will”, and glorify the all-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.