Our Deacon Joseph gave this very well put together homily on the Second Sunday of Matthew. I find it highly encouraging and wanted to share it with you all. With his permission, I am posting it here. Glory to God for all things +
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit +
The Gospel in Matthew 4 gives us a brief account of the calling of the Apostles Peter, Andrew, James, and John. The story itself is remarkable. The events of that day are quite simple, and yet very profound.
Following Jesus’ baptism by John the Forerunner, and spending forty days in the wilderness, wherein He conquered temptation of the world, the flesh and the devil for Man, reviling the Enemy of God, and upon hearing of John’s imprisonment, Jesus left Judea and began to dwell in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee.
This area was commonly considered second class by the Jews of Judea. Because there was a mixed population here. Along with Jews, many Gentiles lived in the area, and even though many converted to Judaism during the Maccabean period, they were looked down upon and not thought to be truly Jewish because of the influence of Greek culture on them. Not the neighborhood where you expect the Jewish Messiah to show up;
Nevertheless, Jesus comes to questionable Galilee to launch his ministry as He begins to preach; “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
So, here are some Galilean Jewish folks in the family fishing business on the great lake, the Sea of Galilee. Two brothers are with their father on one boat, and two other brothers on another boat, fishing. This was the livelihood of their families and they were going about their daily business on a day like any other.
Jesus walks by. He stops. The brothers Andrew and Peter are busy casting their net for fish. Watching them, Jesus calls, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Fishers of men? How odd. What a strange thing to say! Yet, they immediately drop their nets, leave their boat, and follow him. A little farther along the seaside, He repeats this with the other set, James and John. They are docked by the shore mending their nets for another day’s work with their father. Jesus calls out, “Follow me.” I am sure it was to the amazement and bewilderment of Zebedee, that his sons, without hesitation, climb ashore and walk off with this man. There was no sales pitch, no expounding of theology, no reasoning or persuasion, just a simple command, or invitation, ‘Follow me.’
Now, it is possible that these men had heard the preaching of John the Baptist, and perhaps even witnessed the baptism of Christ. It could be they were among the crowd that heard John proclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The scripture does not state they witnessed these events, but when Jesus interrupted their normal routine and business of the day, they somehow knew that Heaven had broken in upon them. Unlearned though they were, Jesus’ very presence called them, resonated in them.
Though they had no inkling at the time of the great mystery before them, or where it would lead, the Truth spoke to them, and they stepped into the adventure.
The Gospel then challenges us; regardless of what we do not know, or even what we think we do know, do we have a hunger for the Truth? Will we follow when He unexpectedly interrupts our routine, our busyness, and our set way of thinking, and Jesus calls to us personally, “Follow Me”?
As the Epistle today also reminds in St. Paul’s letter, it is those who Do, not just hear, the law who are justified before God. It requires action on our part. Action to respond, to leave behind our capitulation to the routine of life as we perceive it, and to follow Christ. But what is this “Law” of which St. Paul speaks? – Romans 2:13
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of blessed memory, bishop of the Diocese of Sourozh, the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain and Ireland, put it this way:
“… the will and word of God have no authority in the sense of a law which is imposed. It is a voice which reveals to us the reality and truth of things. If we respond to it, we do so because we are sensitive to the truth of what is proclaimed to us and we reach out towards this reality, which is the only means we have of becoming fully free and fully ourselves. The will of God is not a law nor an imprisonment… the will of God is a malediction for the demon, it is the law for the unregenerate man, and it is freedom for those who have attained salvation.”
St. Justin Popovich stated, “In Christianity truth is not a philosophical concept, a theory, a teaching, or a system, but rather, it is the living theanthropic hypostasis – the historical, and living, Jesus Christ.”
This is why the fishermen left their boats and nets and followed Jesus. There was a hunger for Truth in them. It was not because they were following precepts, rules, or the expounding of an idea. They encountered and followed the Living God made Man, the Living Truth of all things. When Jesus calls, “Follow me,” it is a call to follow Him on His path, it is a journey, for He is not stagnant, nor staying in one place or time. What He did and spoke over 2000 years ago on the hills of Galilee and streets of Jerusalem, He does and speaks today.
He proclaims, “I am, (the great name of God given to Moses, when he heard the call, the ‘I AM’) Jesus proclaims, “I AM the way, the Truth, and the Life.” Follow me in the way, learn the Truth, join me in the path of Life. Pilate questioned the condemned Jesus, “What is truth?” Jesus replies, to his question and ours, “I AM.”
That which they could not comprehend, they followed, drawn to this Truth. Because they followed, though still not comprehending the Divine Mystery, they were privileged to witness in horror the crucifixion of the Truth, and in astonished wonder, the Resurrection of the Truth and His Ascension.
On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit of that Truth filled them and exploded into life this very Holy Church in which we partake, the fellowship of the Living Truth of God and reality of all things in Heaven, on Earth and the Cosmos.
Though we do not see beyond the veil of mystery and do not completely comprehend what and Who is present, it is here that we hear the voice which reveals to us the reality and truth of all things.
If we are drawn to Him, respond to Him, if we become sensitive to the Truth of what and Who is proclaimed to us, and we reach out towards this greater reality, we find the only means we have of becoming fully free, fully ourselves, fully human and partakers of the Divine Nature.
Our Faith, the Orthodox Faith, is not given as only precepts to follow, but it is always to be experiential. To be an encounter. It is an entrance into Truth, it is to answer the call and follow Jesus, the God-Man into the greater reality.
We must resist the illusion of making Jesus into a mere religion instead of a journey toward union with God. We must not become satisfied with a religion of simply ‘belonging and believing’ instead of an encounter of transformation.
We must not be satisfied with showing up, saying the words and going through the motions, beautiful as they are, if we are not actually following Jesus in the path He walked, the path that leads through the valley of death, but on to the heights of resurrection, and ascension.
In the Ascension, Jesus did not leave this earth and return to being deity after dying as a man. It is the God-Man who sits upon the throne of Heaven at the right hand of the Father. Humanity fulfilled and completed in God.
Following Jesus on the path requires the valley of death to our self-will and selfishness, and being resurrected in the image of Christ, putting on the mind of Christ, living the very heart of Christ. The daily journey we must choose to make, getting up when Jesus calls and following Him, is a uniting Heaven and Earth in the sacrament of our own life and in the community of the Holy Church, alive here.
Following Christ is also entering into community, for we are not called alone and solitary. Our individual faith is incomplete if it is not corporate faith, also. As the apostles and disciples before us, we join with others following the Savior of all mankind. We are joined not with those we choose, to our own liking, but rather to those He chooses. We are knit together with those whom Jesus has called here, as the fishermen were joined with the tax collector, the Virgin and the mistress, the learned and unlearned. So are we joined on this journey by those disparate from ourselves and also with all those Saints, known and unknown, who have gone before us.
As the disciples of old learned, so we must learn that in truly answering the call to follow Jesus, the path leads unalterably into the cross of humility, the death of ego. It is to choose continually NOT to defend our own little kingdom of self, chiefly with anger, the body guard of Pride, and by attacking the worth of our fellows, but rather to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, here in our hearts and in theirs.
It is to choose Love toward all on the path, and all creation, above our self-interest. Genuine love for God is always expressed in our love for others, as Jesus commanded. Not merely in sentiment or rhetoric, not a feeling, but in action. It is finally in how we live in our daily lives, not what we preach, where others encounter Christ in us if we are truly following Him.
Therefore, we are careful to guard our tongues and direct our thoughts toward others with the choice of kindness. And if we are tempted to compare ourselves and our call to follow with another’s, or to criticize, recall our Lord’s response to the Apostle Peter inquiring about John; “What is that to thee? You, follow me.” This is His challenge to us here today, individually, and as a community of Faith.
When we allow Jesus to interrupt and break in upon our ordinary busyness, when we are willing to abandon our plans without excuse, and leave the nets and boats behind to truly answer that call, we will encounter the Living Truth. We can then say with those who followed Him before us;
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” – 1 John 1:1-3
Brothers and sisters on this journey, Christ is Risen!
Let us follow Him. +
Deacon Joseph Mannion – On the Second Sunday of Matthew 6/21/2020