Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
June 26, 2022
Epistle:  (81-ctr) – Romans 2:10-16 and (330) – Hebrews 11:33-12:2
Gospel:  (9) – Matthew 4:18-23 and (10) – Matthew 4:25-5:12

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

We are not all called to be apostles.  We are not all called to be preachers, or prophets, or teachers.

We are all called to be saints.  More than being called “to be” saints, we are in Christ saints already.  It isn’t as much who we become, as it is who we are, the new creature in Christ.

Jesus Himself describes the characteristic of saints – poor in spirit, mourning for the separation from God, meek, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, merciful, peacemakers.

This is who we are – and who we are becoming.  The saints we remember are already there, having achieved the fulfillment of their being in Christ.  They have lived out the life in Christ.

How they did that is the subject we have to struggle with.

Some, by martyrdom.  That is a path that we cannot choose, however.  We cannot make ourselves martyrs and secure unity with God in that way.

What we can and must do is seek God in everything we do, and think, and the whole of our being.  The characteristics that Christ describes in the Beatitudes, all of those are summed up in becoming like Christ – and we become like Him by gazing upon Him.

Not the attributes – we make a mistake I think when we focus on being meek or being merciful.  We must focus on Christ – these things will be given to us as we continue to concentrate on Him.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann in his journal entry for September 20, 1979, makes a key observation.  “Repentance,” he writes, “is not longing for righteousness, but longing for God.”  It isn’t seeking the attributes of God – that would be misguided.  It is rather seeking God, longing for Him, His presence with us.

Seek the Kingdom, Christ says, and all will be added to you.  That is, seek God, and the piety, the righteousness, the characteristics will become part of you.  Maybe without our being aware of it consciously.

Who the saints are, who we are, is the embodiment, the incarnation, of Christ present in the fallen world.  In being baptized into Christ, as the hymn says, we “put on Christ” and in so doing, we incarnate Christ and become the Kingdom of God present in the world.

Sometimes when we read about the second coming of Christ, that day we all hope and pray and long for, we forget that we are Christ in the world.  Christ is in our midst is what we say to each other – and by that, not external to us, but part of us, indwelling in us.

Christ’s return is now, in all of us.  Yes, He will still return to the earth in the same way He departed at the Ascension, but He is with us now, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Our life, our effort, our hope is to get out of the way of transformation.  We like to say that we will be transformed – but in truth, we are being transformed, today, right now.

And what we have to do is get out of the way of ourselves, and allow the Spirit of God indwelling in us to take over.

It isn’t easy – our ego wants to fight it tooth and nail.  Ego cannot live in competition with anything.  Yet, we desire Christ, we desire the Holy Spirit.  The ego must be crushed.

Believe me, and many of you know this already, crushing our ego doesn’t feel very good.  It doesn’t cause us pleasure, for sure.  It is painful.  The scripture likens it to the purification by fire – the way precious metals are purified and refined.

Such is the process we have to go through.  But brothers and sisters, we don’t have to exert any effort in this regard.  We have to endure – we must not tap out.  That is what the evil one wants – for us to tap out.

If we endure, Christ is faithful and will purify us.  In that purification, we will begin to see things as they truly are – the world, and everything and everybody in the world, as they truly are.  Fallen, but able to be restored.

Just as we are restored.  Just as we are healed.  Just as we are made whole.

As much as I would like to tell you, and myself, that the process is painless, I can’t.  Because it isn’t.  Healing is painful.  Growth is painful.

And yet, through it all, we can be joyful, because as the Lord reminds us, it is comparable to giving birth – the pain of birthgiving is replaced with the utter joy of new life coming into the world.

As we continue to focus and long for God, as we continue to neglect and see our ego destroyed, we need to remind ourselves that we are giving birth to a new life, conceived in baptism and born of the Spirit of God.

And in that new birth, we are one with the saints that precede us into the Kingdom.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.