God's Grace flows through us

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
God’s Grace flows through us
19th Sunday after Pentecost
18 October, 2009
2 Corinthians 11:31-12:9 ; Luke 6:31-36

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

In the Gospel reading, our Lord is speaking to us today about being merciful to others in the same way that He is merciful to us. Many times we have seen already in our experience with our Saviour, in His telling of parables, that He is merciful. Likewise, in our experience with human beings, we find that the Lord is merciful. However, we ourselves in response are too often not so merciful. In fact, not only can we not be merciful, but we can also be ungrateful. When the Lord is pouring out His Grace upon us after we have been asking for help, very often we find ourselves somehow paralysed by fear, and prevented from being the same way towards other people. Sometimes, like the unjust steward (see Matthew 18:28), after we have been forgiven, ourselves, we punish other people who owe us. We ask God to have mercy on us, but we do not necessarily have mercy on other people. It seems to me that we do not have enough trust in God that He will continue His mercy through us towards other people. How can we, nevertheless, do anything except to be compassionate, merciful and patient with people around us ?

We Canadians are living our lives mostly for ourselves, and mostly we are trying to be comfortable in the world. We come to church sometimes, but not every Sunday. We make excuses for ourselves not to be at feast-days. According to the Gospel, perhaps the worst is that we can run away from helping people who are in need. In this context in which we are living, the Lord recently showed His great mercy to us. We only asked : “Would it be possible for the icon of the Mother of God of Pochaiv to come to Canada ?” It was a natural question for us to be asking because the foundation of our Orthodox Church in Canada is from Ukraine. There was no strong expectation that the answer would be “yes”. I know from what I have been told that there were many questions asked in Ukraine about whether to bless or not to bless sending the icon to Canada. The answer could easily have been “no”, because it is understood in Ukraine that our Orthodox life in North America is very sick. Therefore, there were some difficulties.

However, the Mother of God blessed. The Mother of God was determined to come to us, and to bring healing to us, and repentance to us from her Son. Here in this city through this icon, she brought healing to some people. I have heard of some of the healing, myself. However, not everyone (because we are Canadians) will say anything about what the Lord did for them. If this encounter with the Mother of God has brought a change in your life – whether this change in your life is by physical healing or by spiritual renewal or by repentance (or by whatever means) – it is very important that you express your gratitude to God, and to the Mother of God for what she has done by her love and her prayers. If we do not at least say thank-you to her, we could lose the blessing. This is not because the Mother of God or our Saviour would take away the blessing. Instead it is because we would be letting it go or even throwing it away by our ungratefulness.

It is extremely important in our Orthodox Christian life to express our gratitude to God. Here in this Divine Liturgy we are expressing our gratitude in a general way. We are giving thanks to God for everything. How much more necessary is it then, when specific things happen as a result of God’s love, that we say thank-you to Him for those specific things, too.

As she passed through Canada, the Mother of God, in this icon from Pochaiv, brought healing in almost every place. There are many reports of how people have been healed of illnesses. One woman had been given one year to live because of cancer. After she venerated the icon, and went for a scan, there was no cancer left. In n, there was a woman who had very, very bad asthma and life-threatening allergies. For at least the past seven years, it was not possible for her to be in the Temple for more than ten minutes at any time. If it would not be flowers, it was incense that would cause her extreme pain in her lungs. She came with her mother to venerate the icon. The next day, I saw her in the Divine Liturgy, throughout the whole Liturgy, and she came to Holy Communion. Last Sunday she was singing in the choir where she used to love to sing. The Mother of God has been bringing healing to us here in Canada. She is reminding us of our responsibility as Orthodox Christians.

We, Orthodox Christians, have the responsibility to be faithful to her Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We have the responsibility in our own lives to keep our love for Him alive in the way her love for Him is alive. We have the responsibility not to be ashamed of the fact that our way of life is different from the average Canadian way of living. The Lord put us here so that we can be different like this. Most Canadians who do not know the Orthodox way, in fact, are looking for what we have. People are hungry for the love of Jesus Christ which we know and experience.

Let us ask the Mother of God to continue to support us by her love and prayers, so that we can be faithful to her Son, and glorify Him, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.