Sermon for the Sunday of All Saints 2016
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Our God, have mercy on us.
In today’s Gospel we hear Our Saviour say, “he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me”.
This significant verse of the Gospel is especially appointed for this Sunday of All Saints. Because it is precisely this carrying of one’s cross that separates the saints from the rest of us.
Our Saviour says very clearly, “you cannot be my disciple unless you, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me”. What is this cross that we must carry, that is so essential for our salvation? It could be a physical illness, financial difficulties, a difficult marriage or emotional problems … It is whatever God allows for our salvation!
We modern Christians, both monks and laymen often acknowledge that God is the Lord and we honor Him and consider ourselves to be faithful members of His Church. But something happens to our faith as soon as we have a hardship or illness, we so often turn away from God and look to ourselves and our own ability to resolve the problem, we seldom turn to God. Often when we are facing a serious illness, while we give lip serve to Christ, we fundamentally trust modern medical science, medications, treatments and surgery to heal us. We like to find a cause and blame it on that. We unconsciously believe that if we could just find the cause and cure of all our illnesses, we could somehow live forever.
We fail to see that it is precisely this illness that was sent to us for our salvation. That this illness is the cross, sent to us by our loving Saviour for our salvation and how we react to this cross will determine forever our relationship with Him. Do I accept this cross, embrace it and carry it without complaining.. We often make the serious mistake of assuming that all our illnesses, trials and tribulations are simply problems that can be fixed if we just have the right pill, or the right therapy, or more money.
We fail to see or even consider the spiritual reality that we are facing. To put it simply, we fail to see that this sickness or this trial is a cross that we have been given and that we are expected to carry this cross, without complaining. It is precisely in the carrying of this cross that our salvation is worked out.
Now this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take medication for an illness or try to resolve a problem but we need to acknowledge that the medication only works if God allows it. The “remedy” for our problems can only bring relief if God allows it. And if He doesn’t then we can only trust that patiently enduring this difficulty is necessary for our salvation.
The real truth is, and the saints knew this and that’s what made them saints, is that nothing can happen to us without the will or permission of God … nothing! And everything that He allows to happen to us is for our sanctification and salvation. To make His care for us really clear, He says in several places and in various ways in the Scriptures that, every hair on our head is numbered, therefore not a hair can fall from our head without our Father’s permission, Not a single hair! (Luke 21:18)
Now, this is a depth of love and caring that we are totally unfamiliar with, this is beyond our comprehension. Think of this quote from scripture, hair is falling from our head all day long! What this actually means for us is that if we accept God at his word then we can finally be at peace, be at absolute peace, the peace that this world cannot give. A peace that is beyond all understanding, the peace of Christ. Whether we are sick or healthy, whether we are weak or strong, rich or poor, we are in the care of our loving Saviour Jesus Christ, so there is no need for anxiety or fear.
This is the peace that the saints had, this is why they could face persecution, imprisonment, exile, torture, beheading, dismemberment and even death.
This is how they were able to endure false accusations, sickness and sufferings.
We too are called to partake of this peace, to join these saints. Christ Himself invites us. Let us leave behind the false promises of this world and like the saints, place all our hope in Christ. Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, Our God, have mercy on us.