St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

On the Sunday of All Saints

Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, June 10, 2012

Matthew 10:32-33; 37-38; 19:27-30 (All Saints Sunday)

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.

The Greek word for “acknowledge” in today’s Gospel lesson means to confess. That is to openly declare faith in the Lord Jesus.  But since many will come before him on the day of judgment who have even worked miracles in his name and will still hear the words, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity, for I never knew you,” there must be more to confessing and acknowledging Jesus that just an open, verbal declaration or demonstration of faith in him.

Last week we learned that praying “in the name of Jesus” means much more than using the right words, it has more to do with the existence of a certain spiritual state of the soul than with words.  St. Paul points to the condition necessary to praying “in the name of Jesus” as having no self except Christ living in us.  To pray in his name is to allow the living Christ to pray in us. It is about a truly Christian and mystical state of being.

So acknowledging or confessing Jesus openly before men is not about not words and external forms, like preaching on street corners, it is about allowing the Christ who lives in us to be seen through our deeds, words, and silence. It is about living as he lived, loving as he loved, speaking as he spoke, and sacrificing everything for the sake of others as he did.

If our words are right, but our life is not, then what good are our words?  Holy Scripture tells us that good fruit cannot come from bad trees. Good words, to be good, must proceed from a pure heart.

When the heart is good, the words will also be good, and many will be attracted to the goodness. Beautiful actions proceeding from a pure heart is the most effective way to preach the Gospel.

 “When the flower blooms the bees will come uninvited.”

I hear Christians complain about an increase in hostility to the faith, but before we complain about contemporary persecution and opposition to the Church in American society it would be more helpful, I think, to look at ourselves. Why is it that people seem more resistant to the Church (at least some think so) now than in times past?

Could it possibly be that the flower is no longer blooming?  Perhaps the scent of holiness is no longer detected from us.  Have the scandals and hypocrisy that we have seen in the churches these days dimmed the light so much that people can no longer see it? 

I like what Dr. Kalomiris said about atheism.  His take on it was that there are no atheists there are only people who hate the God in whom they have been taught to believe. The other side of this argument is that the example Christians set has an definite effect on how the world responds to the Church. If the whole cosmos moans in anticipation of the revealing of the sons and daughters of God, it is no surprise when the world moans even louder when the self-proclaimed children of God turn out to be frauds.

People are attracted by true holiness. In the presence of the holy we find ourselves at home.  People are attracted by love and not condemnation. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. We must not be oppressors. Is the message preached from the pulpits and airwaves oppressive?

People are attracted by a message that makes a positive difference in their lives, that makes life appreciably better. Are we so busy talking about pie in the sky that we have forgotten that Christ is with us now and the kingdom is within? Does the message we preach offer a way to make life better now or only in the future?  If not, it is no wonder people look elsewhere for solutions to the difficulties of life.

It is also true that holiness and goodness are not a sure defense against persecution. But whatever the case we are only blessed if we are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, not for being jerks.

The point is not to worry about persecution. If it comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. Our job is to spend each moment loving God and our neighbors no matter what happens.

The heart of the faith is this: having a direct experience of God who is Absolute Being, Absolute Love, Absolute Mercy in an immediate, fully awakened engagement with Christ in the living of everyday life. Anything other than that is missing the point.