On the Sunday of All Saints
Sermon by Fr. Antony Hughes for Sunday, June 22, 2008
The Reading is from Matthew 10:32-33; 37-38; 19:27-30
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Blessed Feast to all of you on this day of All Saints.
Christos Yannaras has written that the Orthodox life is a series of risk-takings. In fact, risk-taking is at the heart of the Gospel. Creating the universe, particularly human beings, was a tremendous risk on the part of God. Investing the Hebrews with the Abrahamic covenant was risky to say the least. The Incarnation was risky and bold beyond human imagination. God is a risk-taker because God is love. Love is always risky. To love God is the riskiest adventure of them all.
Why? Because if we begin to love God we will change. We will eventually come to love Him above everything else.
Loving God first we would discover Pure Love and would find ourselves unable to wean ourselves away from it. We would discover that the love we experience from spouses, children, family and friends cannot compare to the love of God. The love of God compared to the love of human beings is like comparing the Sistine Chapel to paint-by-numbers. We would begin to let go of the belief that life and happiness can be found in this changing world and our attachments to it would begin to break down. We would become mystics, burning with divine fire, overflowing with love for all and joy unbounded and who, in their right mind, would want that?
The reality is that putting our hope in anything subject to change and death always leads to disappointment and suffering. This is what is meant by attachment: a compulsive desire for external things we believe will bring us happiness. It is like the man who builds his house on sand or the woman who refuses to leave her burning home or the one who won’t abandon the sinking ship. All external things eventually crumble and die. Attachment always disappoints and when attachment to one thing or person fails to satisfy, we run to another.
Ultimately attachment is idolatry because only God is worthy of such attention. It leads to addiction and to suffering of all kinds because the things we cling to can never live up to the hype in our heads. They are all passing away and once they do we are left empty-handed. Only God is unchanging and undying. Only He can fill the void. All that we seek and all that we need is in Him who is alone the Source of all good things.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures in earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is there you heart will also be.”
The Lord does not want us to stop loving our families and friends, but simply to love them wisely, not expecting from them what only God can give. When Jesus uses the word “worthy” he is not referring to our intrinsic nature, but to a lack of wisdom. Those who love anything more than God are foolish. Wisdom reveals that the One who deserves our love is the One who first loved us. Those who love anything more than God have not yet met Him.
Acknowledging Christ before the world means first acknowledging Him primarily in one’s heart. It is not so much a matter of words, but a matter of being. We do not need to preach on street corners brow beating potential unbelievers. We need to become yeast. Taking up the cross and following Christ taking the path of inner transformation that changes us into yeast that can, even without words, bring healing and light to the world around us. Transformation is not an instantaneous thing. It is a process. Transformation comes only through great effort and sustained cooperation with Divine Grace. It is hard work, no doubt about it, but the result is everlasting joy.
To be acknowledged by God is to be known by Him, to live in communion with Him, to be filled to overflowing with Him, to become ourselves fountains of living water as He is. His acknowledgement of those who acknowledge Him “before men” is the gift of deification. Our acknowledgement of God “before men” is a life of complete dedication to loving Him and serving others in abject and utter humility.
So we must first see our attachments and then liberate ourselves from them. In this way we must make space for God in our lives.