Cathedral of the Theotokos of Great Grace

Cathedral of the Theotokos of Great Grace

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Homily for the Third Sunday after Pentecost 2017

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

This morning, Jesus tries to help us distinguish between what is good, better, and best about living our lives in this fallen world. He tells us that no one can serve two masters. Have you ever tried doing that? Being faithful to God while at the same time pursuing the allures of the world? The effort it takes to do both will undoubtedly wear you out and make life very uncomfortable. Jesus says that we will either hate the one and hold to the other. Or we will hold to the one and despise the other. When it comes to God and money, we cannot serve both. Either we will turn from God and pursue the money, or we will despise wealth and live in God. The truth is, money and material wealth do not bring us real happiness or fulfillment. Neither can we find fulfillment in God if what we really want are the things that money offers.

The world tells us to get things. In fact, the world tells us to get whatever we can get at any cost. This thinking extends to our relationships as well.  Sadly, many people maintain relationships with others based upon what the other person can do for them or what they can get from them, and oftentimes at their expense. What often happens as a result, is that our desires for things usually end up hurting a lot of people, creating many long-lasting emotional and psychological scars along the way.

Jesus warns us about the perils of having a divided heart when it comes to the things of this world. Solomon was a man whom God blessed with many good and wonderful things. In fact, he had an abundance of riches beyond his wildest dreams. He was the richest king there ever was. He had 700 wives and 300 mistresses. I can only imagine how much effort he put into taking care of and satisfying them all. Solomon had a lot to contend with aside from ruling a kingdom and dealing with so many family issues. But God blessed Solomon with extraordinary wisdom. Solomon said this about all the getting we do in this world: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom and with all thy getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7). Jesus put it in plainer language for us: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

The people of Jesus’s time were not that different from you and me. They had bills to pay and taxes to pay.  They had hopes and dreams for their children’s future. I am sure they wanted a new home with a two-chariot garage. And, I am sure they wanted to have a place by the lake where they could spend their summers. But are these things really the most important goals in life?

Jesus’ words are meant to untie the knots their wants and our wants. He explains to us that our Heavenly Father supplies and fulfills our needs. The things that we want or desire are usually our own foolish desires and really have nothing to do with our happiness. Our wants are all too often unnecessary excesses.

We have no reason to worry about chasing after the things of this world when we have a Father who provides everything we need. God causes the trees to produce fruit and the ground to produce food. He has given us rivers and streams to drink and fish from. He has covered us with the arms of those who love us. Everything we really need has already been provided for by Him. But many of us are not content with having our needs satisfied. We have wants as well. And the world multiplies those wants, again and again, to pull us away from what God has provided so that we are no longer content with just having our needs met.

Jesus paints a beautiful picture for us in this morning’s Gospel reading as He tells us to consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Jesus tells us that they are provided and cared for by our Heavenly Father in wonderful ways even though they are unable to reap and sow. The birds still sing and the flowers give up a beautiful fragrance even though they are far more insignificant to our Heavenly Father than us. Jesus says that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed as beautiful as the flowers of the field. And if God takes such care to take such care and attention to feed the birds and dress the flowers, how much more will He care for you?

So, dear ones, Jesus tells us to stop worrying about this and that and tomorrow’s problems today. Each day has enough for us to contend with. Walk by faith, trusting in God to take care of everything. Our hearts should desire the things of God instead of the things of this world. What things has the world got you caught up in seeking after today?

Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Our Heavenly Father knows what we need and those things have eternal value, not just temporal or worldly value. In all things that God gives us, we receive wisdom, and in getting wisdom, we get understanding.

Never forget, beloved, that no one loves you more than your Heavenly Father and that He shall always supply all your needs according to His great goodness and infinite love through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Good Shepherd of all. Good shepherds care for their flocks, and Christ cares deeply about each one of us.  Our Lord loves us with a love that knows no bounds; so much so that He gave up His life for us that we may be freed from bondage to sin and be reunited once again with God.

I encourage, dear ones, turn away from the world and its vanities and false treasures. “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). This admonition of the Lord will never fail you.

I confess that many times I myself have not heeded these words of the Savior. I find that almost all the things I have fretted about, worried about, or stressed about never happened or turned out the way I had thought they would. I wasted a lot of time and energy on things I could not control or that, in the end, turned out to be unimportant, meaningless, or insignificant.

What shames me and embarrasses more than anything else is that my faith in God was not as strong as I professed it to be. At times, I found myself despairing and without hope. When we place too much or all our confidence and hopes in the world, we will inevitably end up being disappointed. God is the only answer to our problems. Thus, our faith needs to be strong and vibrant. Our God is our sure hope. That is why we say at the end of every Divine Liturgy and Divine Service: “Glory to You, O Christ God our sure hope; glory to You!”

Ever since I had my near-death experience last November and having to deal with all the medical issues and complications since then, I wonder if it is not the result of all the stress I have in my life. It goes without saying that much of the stress we experience in our life is self-created. Certainly, my great sinfulness has much to do with my present physical condition.  Sin can and does wreak havoc on the body; as does stress and anxiety. It is a terrible thing when we must rely on medications and antacids to keep us healthy and calm.

There is no question that God did not intend for us to live like this. He does not want His children to suffer. How many of us fret and worry over things that happen in our life? There are many things we deal with every day, things that relate to work, school, children, family, our careers, etc. There are so many things in life to worry about. But does worrying about them add one minute more to our lives? No. it does not. In fact, worrying, and the stress it creates, reduces our lifespan.

I think what Jesus is trying to teach us this morning is that worry can be just as destructive to our spiritual health as it is to our physical health. We should not incessantly worry about the basic needs of life because such anxiety stems from little or even a complete lack of faith.

Jesus teaches us that we must recognize that our Heavenly Father is watching over us and knows all that we need. If we invest ourselves in the work of God’s kingdom in the world, we will become less anxious about the future. But for this to happen, we must stay focused on God.

We must seek the things of God and all that He considers righteous as our top priority in life. We must change the way we think and act, conforming our lives to that of Jesus Christ, who is our perfect model of holiness and righteousness. We must submit ourselves to God’s laws and be faithful disciples and servants of the Lord.  God will provide for us; we have nothing to worry about when we put our lives in the hands of God.

Trusting God completely and putting ourselves completely in His hands is not an easy thing to do; it requires great faith and trust. But when we take that step, our lives change for the better. When we seek God first, then all that we desire and want will follow in due course. God will always give us what we need and what is beneficial for our souls. We may not always get what we want, but that is because not everything we want or desire may be good for us spiritually or physically. And God knows this. There are times in our life when God simply says, “No.”

If your life has become overwhelming, stressful, and filled with anxiety, then take some time to evaluate what is going on. Take a step back and look at the big picture of where you are now in life and where you are heading. If you are overwhelmed and anxious, then some of the things you are doing may need to be re-evaluated; some things may have to be discontinued; some adjusted or changed; some may just need more focus and others less attention.

Be aware of the motives for why you are doing what you are doing. In other words, make sure that your motives for doing something are pure and honorable. Do not do anything out of selfishness, greed or pride. In all things, focus on God; make His life your life. Desire the holy things of God. Concentrate on building up your treasure in heaven and not on this earth, for what you gather and store up here on earth will eventually pass away. Remember the old saying, “You cannot take it with you.” Once you die, all that you worked for, worried about and stressed about, will become the treasure of someone else. What will you say then to the King when you stand before His throne on the day of judgment?

Seek first the Kingdom of God, my children. That is where you will find your true happiness and fulfillment.

Amen.





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