Radiating and sharing our Saviour’s Love

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Radiating and sharing our Saviour’s Love
18th Sunday after Pentecost
11 October, 2009
2 Corinthians 9:6-11 ; Luke 7:11-16

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

There is no doubting the generosity of the Lord and His kindness towards us. A profound example of this generosity and kindness towards us is given to us today in the Gospel reading as we see our Saviour resurrecting the only son of the widow in Nain. Nain is a small village near the base of Mount Tabor. His compassion is visible, and almost touchable (one could say) for us today because we can understand the position of this poor woman who did not have the benefit of Canadian widows’ supplements, and welfare systems. In that society, that widow, burying her only son, would, after his death, be doomed to living on the streets and begging. That is how the society generally worked, and that is how it is even today in places like China.

That is why there was such grieving after the earthquake in Szechuan, because the older people are depending on their children to look after them in their old age and to protect them, as they have protected their children while they were growing up. Those older people (actually, people only in their fifties) in Szechuan, were deprived of their one-and-only child in most cases. Therefore, they had no-one to look after them in their old age. It means for them a terrible situation.

It is precisely the same case for this poor woman in Nain. With her son dead, she has nothing, and no resources for the future. This is why our Lord, in His compassion coming to meet her today, brings her son back to life in order to look after her. This poor woman is overcome with grief not only at the loss of her son, but also at the wretchedness of her situation.

The Lord is extending His compassion to us all over and over and over again. It is important for us to understand, we Orthodox Christians in particular, that the first priority in our life is to be putting ourselves in such a position that the Lord can speak to us, and that we can encounter Him in our hearts. We are very busy. We satisfy ourselves with coming to serve Him at the Divine Liturgy (and in many cases, it is only sometimes). We satisfy ourselves with coming to serve Him at the Divine Liturgy, hearing words about His love, hearing words about Him, and saying all sorts of things about Him. However, we do not necessarily stop and let Him speak to us. Too often, we do not let Him tell us in our hearts about His love for us specifically. He loves each one of us specifically, personally and uniquely. He created each one of us personally and uniquely. He loves each one of us personally, as well as all of us generally. He cares about each one of us particularly. It is important for us to stop sometimes in our lives, to be quiet with Him, to look at Him, and to allow Him to speak to us.

The example of this loving-kindness and mercy was shown to us here in Canada, in the recent Progress through Canada of the icon of the Mother of God of Pochaiv, which is a Wonder-working icon. As far as I know, there is not anyone who came close to this icon, who did not realise that the Mother of God, herself, was present amongst us. There are many people across the country who have been healed of physical diseases, relational diseases and wreckage, also. In other words, the Mother of God, herself came in and through this icon to us, in order to encourage us, to help us to “pull up our socks”, to help us to come to her, and to her Son in particular. This little mission which has been sitting here in n, witnessing for the Lord for all these years, was blessed by the Mother of God (even though everyone was not able to be present). This came about because this mission became the first stop after her arrival in Toronto. She came here first, and there were a few people who were available right at that moment. She came and she blessed here, first. Even though all of us here today were not able to be present at that time in order to come and venerate her icon (and because of the circumstances of life many did not have the chance to venerate this icon at all), it is important for you all to understand that the Lord sent His Mother here, in particular, to bless this little mission. This mission has been working so hard and so faithfully for so long in this difficult city. She showed her love, and the love of her Son for you, here. Even if you were not able to be there, she is reassuring you all that she cares about you, and that her Son cares about you. The Lord cares about you. This blessing of the icon’s presence here is for you all. It is not only for the people who managed to venerate it on that day. This is the way that the Lord works in His love for us.

Who are we Canadians that we deserve anything ? We tend to be very quick to forget the Lord, and be busy about everything else. We often neglect the Lord, and look after ourselves first. This is our nature in Canada, it seems. However, the Lord sees some potential in us, obviously. He sent this icon to us to give us a “shot in the arm” (as we say), and to help us to have courage to persevere, to continue living for Him, and to try to deepen our relationship with Him.

The Lord is generous. The Lord cares about us. We are called to be the same as He : generous, open-hearted, open-handed, open-armed. Just as He is showing His care and His love for us, we are likewise to be caring for those around us. That is what the Apostle Paul means when he says that “‘God loves a cheerful giver’”. Very often we do not give, and are holding back. We can even be “tight-fisted” (as the saying goes) because we are afraid of what might happen. We are afraid that the Lord will not look after us, even though He said He would. We are afraid, somehow, and so we hold on. We do not truly open our hands and our hearts fully.

I know very well about these fears myself : I am not simply talking about theories. To help us to overcome these fears, I will give the example of a pilgrimage of Canadians to Ukraine. I think it was in 1994, the first time I went on a pilgrimage to Ukraine, and it was a time of famine in Ukraine. People did not have very much to eat, but everywhere we went, villagers knew that we had come from so far away, and that we were coming to visit them, their monasteries, and to venerate their icons and the relics of their saints. They received us with this sort of open-handedness and open-heartedness about which the Apostle Paul is speaking to us today. They shared all the nothing that they had so that we would have enough to eat. It was a very difficult position for this busload of “fat-cat” Canadians to be in, because on the one hand we had to eat enough to honour their generosity, and at the same time to eat little enough so that they would still have something left to eat. It is a very difficult balance we have to keep when we are trying to live as Christians and to be sensitive to the situation of people around us. The temptation for us Canadians is, of course, to say : “They are filling up that table, and they expect us to eat it, so we eat it”. We can be like locusts, sometimes.

The Lord, in His mercy, did look after those people who looked after us. It is very important for us to remember this. It is necessary that we remember that the Lord loves us. He cares about us. It does not matter what happens to us in our lives – the pains that we receive as the result of the fallenness of human beings, and all the other difficulties that we face. The Lord loves us. He cares about us. He is with us. He is in us.

Where do we look to find the Lord when we are saying the Prayer of Jesus ? We do not look for the Lord outside. Rather, we look inside, in our heart. The Lord, who created us and who is sustaining us, is at the centre of our very being. If we are saying the Prayer of Jesus in order to have the possibility of encountering the love of the Lord so that we understand it, we have to look in the centre of our being, not outside someplace. The Lord is not near or around us. Rather, He is here, in the heart. We have a strange way of speaking when we are talking about inviting the Lord in, or asking Him to come to us, somehow. We keep speaking like this, asking Him to come to us when He is there already in the heart of everyone of us. Our challenge is to open that space in our heart where the Lord already is so that He will be able to shine His love in our lives, and help us to become the true human beings that He created us to be.

Because we are so often living in fear and forgetful of His presence here, thinking that He is far away, we are often living lives that make us caricatures of ourselves. We are big distortions of ourselves instead of being our true selves that the Lord created us to be. Let us ask the Lord to renew our willingness to be co-workers with Him, co-lovers with Him of His creatures, co-nurturers with Him of His creation. Let us ask Him to help us to accept His presence in our hearts. Then, with heart-felt confidence we can sing (as we often do) that God is with us, and in us. Let us allow His love to radiate in our hearts and in our lives, so that His mercy will be shared freely and openly with everyone we encounter.

The Lord may not call us to raise a person from the dead (that does not happen so often, although it does happen), but He will ask us to care for those in need. He will ask us to speak a word of encouragement or hope to someone even if we have no idea that we are doing so. He will move our hearts to do what is right always. Let us ask the Lord to help us, through the prayers of His most pure Mother, the prayers of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, the prayers of Saint Herman of Alaska, to glorify Him in all our life : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.