In the name of the Father and
of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This is the second
Sunday after Pentecost already, and on this day,
when the Russian church celebrates all the saints of
Russia, one could also commemorate, and, indeed, we
remember also, all the saints of Mt. Athos --an
incredible panoply of saints, from all different
walks of life, all different life situations, with
the constant in their life that they desired Christ
above all. We have readings today from the Gospel
that are very much related to one another; they are
right next to one another, near the very beginning
of the Gospel of Matthew.
As we think about
the saints of Russia and the saints of Mt. Athos, we
should come to a question in our life, in our mind:
What is our goal in life? What is our purpose?
Why are we here? As you are asking yourself this
question, ask another question: Do you want to be
Every one should
say, “yes, indeed, Father; I want to be a
saint.” Because I tell you, if you don't
become a saint, you won't be saved. If you don't
become sanctified, if you don't desire Christ above
all, how can you expect to be with the sanctified?
Oh yes, there are men and women who were exemplary
in their character, and we should not be prideful
and arrogant and think that we can reach to their
heights. Of course, the interesting irony is that if
a person is humble they can reach that height. But
that's another more technical, more spiritual issue
than I want to get into today.
What is a
A saint is someone
who desires Christ, who lives according to who He
is, who ascends in knowledge and in action in the
virtues, who loves the Law of God above all
Today we see how
saints are made.
We see the path that
they take, and we see the results of that path, if
you listen carefully, in the reading, where St. Paul
is speaking to the Hebrews, that famous passage
about faith - how faith conquers, they quench the
violence of fire, and all those other things. And
the world was not worthy of them… because of
faith. And of course this faith was action; it was
knowledge, and action. Faith is not just some
belief, but a whole-hearted desire, to live
according to who God is.
So that is the path,
and then you see the path also, in the beatitudes
which the church considers so important that we sing
them every day of the year. The path is effort, the
path is having a certain mindset of mourning, of
humility, of desire, and then action based upon that
desire, giving alms, being merciful, the acts that a
Christian should take, based upon who he is, because
of who Christ is.
So the keys to the
kingdom are laid out before us today. Faith, effort,
desire: that makes saints. And all of us should have
that desire to be a saint.
Now this path is not
for the squeamish, it's not for the lazy, it's not
for the lukewarm, it's not for those who wish to
make compromises, and it’s not for those who
are distracted by the world, or proud or dissolute.
All those people don't go up on the mountain.
Do you see the
progression from these two readings which the Holy
Spirit has joined together today for us? He called
His Apostles from the boat, and they left
straightway and followed him. And then immediately
there after, right there after, he went up into a
mountain, it said, and seeing the multitude he went
up into the mountain.
Do you think the
multitude followed him? No. Only very few followed
First of all,
there's not so much real estate at the top of the
mountain; very few people can be there. Secondly,
very few people are willing to make the effort to
climb. Thirdly, very few people look up; most people
look down at the earth.
To be in the
mountain, one must toil, one must have desire, and
one must look upwards to God. One must be willing to
be separate from the rabble, and from the crowd, and
from the world, and even from those who call
themselves Christian. And even within the church
now, we're seeing people who want to be at the base
of the mountain. You cannot be saved at the base of
the mountain. You must ascend the mountain, because
that is where Christ will teach.
He took His
apostles, and immediately took them to a mountain.
And He didn't tell them, “I'm going to appoint
you priests, and we're going to have the Holy
Eucharist, and confession, and baptism”, and
all these other things that you see in the front of
catechesis books. And He didn't say, “You must
believe in Me as God and Man”, and all those
other things that are so important, that are in the
front of books.
What did He get to
He is the God Man
and he was telling them how they should live, how
they should be. This is the essence of the
Christian life. If you do not have the
morality, your belief is of no consequence. In
fact, it will cause your condemnation to be that
So we've gotten out
of our boats, as the Apostles did, and we've
followed Christ. And He has taken us to the
mountain, and we should never get down. Never go
back to the base of the mountain, ever again. We
should stay on the summit, listening to our Lord, at
His feet, about morality. About how we should think,
how we should live, how we should be because of who
he is. This is the Christian life.
It takes toil and
effort to get up the mountain. There is a lot of
danger on the mountain. There are wild animals and
beasts, there are rockslides, it's cold and windy,
and it’s difficult. And also -- have you ever
been on top of a mountain? It's lonely up there.
It's lonely. You're very much alone, just
with your thoughts.
Of course, your
thoughts can be quite difficult to deal with
sometimes, when you're on top of a mountain, because
there's nothing to dissuade them, there's nothing to
stop them from coming. We don't want to have
thoughts of who we are, and what we need to de. It's
our nature, unfortunately, our fallen nature. But,
God put into man a desire to look upwards, a desire
to climb the mountain and to sit at His feet and to
learn from Him. That is built into our character. It
is integrally who we are. And any man who disavows
that, he's living a lie. We are people who should be
at the top of the mountain and listening to our God,
telling us how we should live and how we should
beatitudes are quite profoundly beautiful. As poetry
they have no equal. As dogma they have no equal.
They are the essence of Christianity, because
Christianity is action based upon knowledge.
Without the action,
there is no Christianity.
All these things we
will learn if we struggle. Now, one can get books
out, one can even read the Fathers about meekness,
about thirsting after righteousness, and about the
nuance of meaning that Christ is giving in this
extraordinary sermon -- the greatest sermon, I
think, that was ever preached by our Lord, the most
important sermon that was ever preached by our Lord.
But the meaning is not easy to discern, because the
only way to know is to live what He says, the only
way to know what these things mean.
So, my brethren, you
have a task in your life: to be like Christ, to know
him, to have intimate knowledge of him. This is your
task, this is your goal.
dissuades you from this goal, cast away, throw into
the fire, whether it be job, or anything -- using
sensibility, now. Don't just quit your job tomorrow.
I'm talking in a spiritual way with you now. If
there's anything that keeps you from the kingdom,
cast it away. And hone your priorities, every day.
To desire to live according to who Christ is, and to
read again what St. Paul says to the Hebrews, you
should be filled, your heart should expand, it
should be warm, and you should think, I want to be
like this. God will help you if you have that
desire, if you have that hunger and thirst. But you
must cultivate it, over and over and over again.
I will tell you one
more thing. Do you know why we talk about the saints
so much? We talk about the saints because they
exemplify the reality of what God wants for us. And
we use them as examples. Doesn't St. Paul say,
seeing that we are surrounded by so great a cloud of
witnesses? How can we live in the dirt, wallow in
the mud like pigs, when we see the examples of our
fathers. This is why we read about saints, why we
think about them, why we pray to them, and why we
desire to be like them.
Brethren, God help
you. Stay at the top of the mountain. This is your
task. Listen to God, and act upon what he teaches
Where is your
Your mountain is in
your desire, in prayer, in coming to the services
with zeal, with desire to hear, with desire to know,
with desire to be told, with desire to be filled and
healed. It's in your fasting, it's in your
separating yourself from everything that's worldly
that would hold you down. That is your mountain, and
that is my mountain. And we must stay on this
mountain if we are to be saved. May God give us the