Follow Me

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Follow Me
Saturday of the 17th Week after Pentecost
10 October, 2009
1 Corinthians 15:39-45 ; Luke 5:27-32

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

In the Gospel reading, our Lord gives us today a very direct example and experience of repentance in the conversion and sudden, complete change of heart of Levi, the tax collector (who is actually the Apostle Matthew). According to the actual words of the Gospel, we see our Saviour come today to the tax office of Levi. He looks at him, and says : “‘Follow Me’”. Immediately Levi gets up and follows Him. Not only does he follow Him, but he makes a big dinner for all his friends who are likewise tax collectors. In Jewish society, such people were the worst of the worst, because in their environment they were traitors (one could say). They were Jewish people working for the Roman government. They were taking taxes (and excess taxes) because the situation then was certainly not like that of our dear old Revenue Canada where things are somehow regulated and controlled. In those days, tax collectors had to raise a certain amount of money for the Roman emperor, and whatever they wanted to collect for themselves, they could take. These tax collectors were not only working for an occupying government, and conquerors, but they were also taking from their own people. This is why they are called sinners, and why such strong language is used against them very often.

This is why we also see the scribes and the Pharisees asking our Saviour today : “‘Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’” The important word that the Lord has for them and for us is : “‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick’”. He came to look after those who are sick : these publicans, and people who are lost. The Pharisees knew the Law very well, and they were paying attention very carefully to the Law in their own lives. They were obeying the Law, even to an excess, sometimes. Regardless, the Lord says that if someone is on the right path, it is not a big deal. More precisely, what is His concern is these people who are completely lost. In one of the notes that I saw regarding the person of Levi, it is suggested that it is possible that Levi had already been baptised by Saint John the Forerunner. It is possible that he had been prepared for this meeting with the Lord by his previous encounters with the Forerunner. This may very well be. There might have been such preparation. For instance, just before this calling of Levi, there is the conversion of four fishermen who themselves had at least met the Forerunner. On the one hand, I think it is possible that the Forerunner had prepared Levi. On the other hand, it does not matter whether he did, or did not. What matters is that our Lord comes to him, and He looks him in the heart, not only in the eye. He looks him in the heart, and He says : “‘Follow Me’”. Immediately Levi’s heart responds to our Saviour’s words : “‘Follow Me’”. He responds to the intensity of His love.

Those of us who have been encountering and venerating the Pochaiv icon of the Mother of God as she is passing through Canada, have perhaps a taste of what this encounter is like. Encountering this icon is not like encountering anything else. When we are encountering this icon, we are definitely encountering the Mother of God. From this experience come love, healing, and change of life for many people. This is why it is no surprise for me that it could happen that Levi, sitting in his office collecting his taxes, could suddenly leave everything and follow our Saviour when He says : “‘Follow Me’”.

There is a tendency for us human beings to get confused about orders of beings, creatures, and so forth. We tend to blur everything together. For instance, there is a very old tendency amongst human beings to attribute to cats, dogs, trees, frogs, water, stones, mountains, and so forth, attributes of human beings. The Apostle is pointing out in his words to the Corinthians today that the Lord is not so limited as to have to blur everything like this. The Lord is the Lord of life. He is the Lord of all creation. From His love comes the whole of creation. It is He who clearly distinguishes amongst all the kinds of creation. “All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory”. Every order has its own nature and its own relationship with the Lord. As much as we love our cats, dogs and other animals (I know of many stories about horses, and cows, and their relationships with human beings), the cows, the horses, the cats, the dogs, the canaries and the parrots are not human beings. They are other orders of creatures that the Lord has created because of His love, with their own character and their own nature. This makes it possible, and gives us the opportunity in Christ to love not only ourselves and our kind as human beings, but God’s creation in its totality. We can be very content and thankful for all these cats, dogs, various sorts of trees, flowers, even rocks, mountains and oceans. There is so much beauty in what God created. How can it be anything except beautiful ? After all, He created it through His love. He created us to be co-workers with Him in the midst of this creation.

Let us open our hearts to the Lord more and more. Let us ask Him to enable us to love even these geese (who are honking away out there), to love each other ; to love Him and His creation. Let us ask Him to enable us to be ourselves more and more, as He created us to be. Let us open our hearts so that when the Lord speaks to us (as He spoke to Levi this morning), we will respond in the same way, and our hearts will open to Him (as Levi’s heart did). May our hearts respond : “Yes, I am coming, Lord. I am following You”. In this following, let us glorify our Saviour, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.