St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

No Longer I

 

Sermon Preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, November 10, 2019

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

That verse has always inspired me and mystified me. I hope that one day I can say that of myself as St. Paul did with confidence, having come to the place where it is true that I have become empty of self as he did and become one with Christ as we are all called to do.

The more I read and meditate on the New Testament, the more I see just how central the theme of self-emptying is. It is the beginning and the end of everything.

In the beginning God poured himself out and created all things.

God the Son emptied himself and became a human person and transfigured all things.

God the incarnate Son emptied himself every moment he lived on this earth, healing, teaching, dying and rising so that others may live.

Today the Lord invites the lawyer to join him in the vocation of self-emptying.

Knowing all of this, Paul tells us that we are to put on the mind of Christ, this very mind whose every thought was not for himself, but for others, saying, “Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus.”

Only then can we be truly ourselves, authentic human beings made in God’s image.

Thomas Merton wrote of this most beautifully:

“To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.”

And how many ways do we find to excuse ourselves from selflessness?

I must not love those who disagree with me, who belong to a different religion, who are a different color, or gender, or sexual orientation, or ethnicity, or national origin, or social status, or who are poor, or prisoners, or physically challenged, or who do not fit in the category society has decided is attractive these days.

One day, perhaps, we will recognize how feeble our reasons are and stop making excuses.

This is the very reason (among others) that Christ tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable Jesus overturns everything with one of the greatest meditations on the true nature of holiness in all of scripture. That is why in Matthew 25 Christ tells us that we will be judged on how well we have loved and on nothing else.

Hear this confirmation from St. Maria of Paris whom I consider a very great saint indeed:

"No amount of thought will ever result in any greater formulation than the three words, 'Love one another,' so long as it is love to the end and without exceptions."

There it is! The unimpeachable proviso…”love to the end and without exceptions.”

Sometimes we are so Pharisaical. We make rules and set up roadblocks to exclude others from our lives, from our families, from our churches saying, “You are welcome here and you are not.” But this is not Christ’s way. This is not our way. Our doors must remain open, our hearts welcoming, our willingness to empty ourselves for the sake of others limitless and our acceptance of all persons unbounded, that is, if we want to inherit eternal life.