In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is the second Sunday after Pentecost, and on this day in the various local churches we celebrate the saints that are particularly dear to that church, for instance, the Saints of Russia for the Russian church, or Greece in the Greek Church et cetera.
The readings today all have a common thread, and you must to be careful to see it. To be a saint — is to not be ordinary. If you are like the rest of the world, you’re not going to be a saint. In fact, if you’re like the rest of the world, you won’t be a Christian. That is the thread that goes through all of these readings, every single one.
Now, the reading for this Sunday is the Gospel is where Jesus is calling his disciples for the first time. He says to them,
“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
And so now we have the Gospel about the beatitudes for all the saints of Russia. If you really summarize the saints, what reading can do that? I suppose the reading of the beatitudes, the ones who perfectly fulfilled these beatitudes.
There is something very important that begins this reading. There are multitudes following Christ. And the disciples followed Christ. And the multitudes were so numerous that the Lord went up onto a mountain, and the multitudes didn’t follow Him. But the disciples did. And He sat down and He began to teach them. There’s following and there’s following. There’s loving and there’s real loving. There’s saying we are Christians and there’s being a Christian.
The multitudes in anything, in any group of people, will not be completely sincere. I don’t care where you go, what you do. Most of the people that are practicing for football don’t really want to work that hard. Most of the people that say they are Christian don’t really want to follow the Commandments with that much effort.
Where the multitudes are, is apathy and neglect.
And there is interest. The multitudes followed Christ because He was interesting. He said amazing things. And they listened to Him but when He wanted to say the really sublime truths of Christianity where He expounded, on the inner meaning of the Commandments, in the Sermon on the Mount, He only spoke to a select few who followed Him.
Everybody followed but some followed more than others. And this is the lesson that we should know.
Do we call ourselves Christians? All right. How much are we like other people?
When people hurt us, do we get angry? That doesn’t sound any different than the rest of the world. When we are in a predicament, do we lie, make it easier for ourselves? That sounds just like everybody else. Are we self-centered? I don’t see a difference. Do you?
To follow Christ is to do what He did. So just because there’s a bunch of people walking in a group, doesn’t mean everybody is going in the same direction. Christianity is the things that happen that are difficult. Oh, it’s easy to be part of the crowd and to love the Lord. It’s easy to come to the church on feast days. It’s easy to have swellings of emotions at various times, but you know what’s really hard is to every day live according to the Gospel, even when it’s difficult.
The disciples had no idea what they were getting into when they followed Christ at the beginning. There was something about Him that was different so they followed Him. What He was going to do was teach them about themselves, the ugly truth, the ugly reality, and also at the same time teach them about Himself. And within them, with struggle, with difficulty, with fear, with hunger, with all the rest that happened to them in those three years, they would learn of the truth, and desire the truth above all things.
They didn’t learn these truths in the midst of crowds. They learned them alone with the Lord. They learned them when they went through their own personal difficulties. So it is with us.
So much of Christianity today, what passes for Christianity is pablum. Even within the Orthodox faith.
Now, there’s all kinds of ecclesiastical politicking right now about who gets what piece of what pie. This has nothing to do with Christianity. It has to do with I have more numbers than you or all kinds of ridiculous things.
Being a Christian is to follow Christ, no matter what.
Being a Christian is to be different than everyone else.
So if you don’t think you’re much different than the person that you work next to or other people that you know or your neighbors, then you best change. Because if you’re the same as everybody else, if you have the same opinions, same way of life, same priorities, then you’re not really following Christ no matter what you say. And you cannot hear the sublime truths of God.
When Jesus was speaking to the disciples, He was on a mountain. They were around Him. His voice would carry. Possibly He even spoke very loud so that others could hear. But how well are you going to hear someone if you’re far away from them? Especially when there is crowd noise, and things going on. You’re not going to hear the message. The only way to hear the message is to follow and to be close.
Now, how do we do this?
He’s not walking on the earth anymore and going onto mountains, so this is not the way we follow Him. We follow Him through prayer, fasting, having the right priorities. Not just on Sunday but every day.
When you wake up in the morning, your first priority, really the only priority you should have that day, is to be a better Christian, to learn something of God and to do it. It should be all that matters. It doesn’t matter about the meeting you have that morning or about the potential for profit in this or that or that you’re tired or that you’re busy or anything else. None of it matters, because it’s all going to go away.
The only thing that’s going to stay is the person you become. That’s it. Nothing else matters. All that matters is who you become. The world doesn’t know that, but the Christians do. So to follow Christ means to not be like the world.
Investigate yourself. See how much you’re like the world. To the extent you are, to that extent you’re not a Christian. I’m not talking about sins now. Christians are sinners just like non-Christians. We all struggle with various weaknesses. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the way you live your life. If you go day-by-day-by-day and hardly ever pray, can you say you’re a Christian? If you go day-by-day-by-day and rarely go to church, if you go day-by-day-by-day and really don’t think of spiritual things, are you following Christ? You have to answer that question.
Remember that the multitudes didn’t hear the sublime wisdom of the Lord. Only those that were seated by His feet. Only those that were close to Him. Being close to Him means that you follow Him under every circumstance, not just the easy ones. May God help us to follow Him. Amen.
Transcribed by the hand of Helen.