Today, the Sunday after Pentecost, we remember all the Saints. The saints are all described at the end of the Gospel reading. Every righteous one that has ever lived, that has ever pleased God, that has ever struggled with his sins, that has ever truly believed in the resurrection, is described today. Jesus says,"Everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children or lands for My Name's sake, shall receive a hundred fold and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first."
This describes in component parts the life that pleases God, the life that we are called to. We are to abandon that which mires us down and separates us from God. We are to avoid the near occasion of sin that easily lures us, and even father or mother or sister or brother, if they separate us from God. In most cases this is not be necessary. Jesus is not telling us to leave our father and mother behind with enmity or hostility. Indeed we try to love them and honor them, whether they honor God or not. But it is a value judgment here; it is a set of priorities.
At Pentecost, the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Holy Spirit to all in the Church, makes us capable of being part of this choir of Saints. The Holy Spirit helps all persons to attain to the knowledge of God and live lives of righteousness. Jesus showed us how to live, and He lived according to His commandments, and caused Himself to be risen from the dead.
Remember the promise: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” The gift of the Holy Spirit enlightens us; He strengthens us, and allows us to do the will of God, and to obtain the promise. Jesus said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven."
As St. John Chrysostom said, “He is not here addressing his original disciples only but every one of us who follows after his disciples in accord with their witness to him.” This is a fundamental characteristic of righteousness, to confess the Lord Jesus Christ.
And how do we confess Him?
We confess our Lord with our words, with our actions, with our priorities, and by how we interact with people. What we say is important and how we act is important. Are we gentle with our words to others, as Jesus was gentle to those he loved? Do we show respect to our loved ones by how we address them, particularly in public, as Peter showed to the Lord he loved.
There are some other obvious things that come to mind. We can confess the lord by showing that we care about the Church, that we live our life in a moral way. The entire media world in the U.S. has gone off as into Sodom and Gomorrah, but we cannot follow along as if their standard is ours. We must have the courage to stand against it, to do our best to stand against every form of immorality and vice. This is the confession of Christ.
Faith without works is dead. There is no dichotomy between action and belief. We are all human and we all stumble along the way. Nevertheless, God is generous in his love to us. He as sent the Holy Spirit as our Comforter to help us in our weakness as we fight the battle against Satin and his demons.
But if we do not live according to what we say we believe, then we are not confessing Christ. The Holy Spirit will help us in all things, at all times. If we do not live righteously we are not confessing Christ. Christ says He will confess us before His Father, if we live according to His will, and confess Him in this life.
But He won't confess us before His Father if we do not live righteously. I this causes your heart to pause, then we can ask the Holy Spirit to be with us all the more. God has provided us everything we need, and today we celebrate all the saints who have endured to the end, as examples for us.
In the middle of today's Gospel it says, "He that taketh not up his cross and followeth after me, the same is not worthy of me." I continually admire the lives of the saints, and the writings of the Church Fathers. They ceaseless speak of our lure to sin and God's great mercy to direct us to truth. We see their righteousness, their personal struggle with their personal demons, and how God’s mercy brought them home. We see their struggles, and we should compare their struggles to our own. However, the Saints are both a reproach against us, yet also an encouragement to us.
The Saints have all endured, whatever age in time they lived. They had the same difficulties with sins that we have. They were given the same grace that we have been given, the same truth, the same God, the same Holy Spirit. And they fought the good fight, and endured; they finished the course.The same Holy Spirit enlightens us, and will live within us if we live according to His commandments.
May God help us to confess Christ in everything we say and everything we do. Amen.
Thanks be to God for such good men as our own Deacon David!