Homily: Achieving Unity with God

St. Luke 10:25-37 (Good Samaritan)
St. John 1:43-51 (Philip and Nathaniel)

The goal and necessity of the human life is union with God; the Good News is that this is possible through Christ (e.g. Vladimir Lossky).

  • Should amaze us. Doesn’t?
    • Perhaps because we have already made ourselves gods
    • Or at least conceived of divinity as something we deserve
  • But if we have a sense of our own corruption (something that is missing from modern life)
  • And if we have a sense of the infinite, unreachable height that is being offered to us (a height and glory that grows from moment to moment forever without being reached)
  • We understand that the greatest thing we have achieved (or been given) in our lives on this earth is NOTHING compared to the inheritance that is promised by God through Christ.

So how do we attain this union? How do we become sons and daughters of God?

1.  It begins with our belief in Him

  • For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (St. John 3: 15-16)
  • “Have you united yourself to Christ!?” (Baptismal service).
    • But what does that mean? How should we live? How can we follow Christ’s command that we “be perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect” ? (Matthew 5:18).
    • How can we experience our union with God through Christ?
    • We have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but what do we DO?

2. It takes sacrifice.  The first Gospel today reminds us that there is something magical in serving others, especially those who can give us nothing in return (“as surely as you helped the least of these…”; St. Matthew 25:40)

  • The Jew was the other to the Samaritan. He had nothing he could gain from helping him (and he was sure to lose at least his time and money). But the Jew is in need, so the right thing to do is to serve him. To give up time and treasure – and perhaps even a bit of public standing – to bring him life.
  • Why is this magical? Because it is in imitation of what Christ did for us in condescending to take on flesh; on sacrificing his time, his standing, his treasure, so that humanity (you, me, and all the “least of these”) might live.
  • The life in Christ requires sacrifice, it requires work, it required serious commitment… but through this we grow in our union with God (and, through no coincidence, we allow God to grow in others as well – it’s a beautiful dynamic of grace).

3. It takes an openness to Mystery.  We also have to open ourselves up to deeper experiences of the life in Christ; one that is possible because He is not just a wise man, but because He is God.

  • Here, we look to the the second Gospel.
    • Philip invites Nathaniel to “come and see” the Messiah…
    • Jesus performs a small miracle of knowing “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” (John 1:48b)
    • But Jesus wanted Nathaniel to move from belief to action (Vespers hymn), so He shared with him what who it was that he really was and what was being offered:
  • Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” (John 1:50-51)
    • Second Temple understanding of this vision: not just about a Christ/Messiah (a “son of God”), but about a Christ/Messiah that is also God (“Son of man”)
    • As the apostles grew in this understanding, as they got to know Jesus better, they also grew in the knowledge of God (e.g. Transfiguration)
  • For us, it involves opening ourselves to the Mystery of the incarnation of Christ that is the Church (his body)
    • [Each believer is a temple of the Living God – the deeper meaning from the first point]
    • God is with us when we gather together
    • God is present in the bread and wine Eucharist (run with this)


God gave us two basic commandments: love God and love our neighbor. Both are designed to draw us into the kingdom of God, into a greater union with Him, and to the kind of peace and joy that overcomes and endures every personal, political, and natural catastrophe.

But we cannot experience that peace, we cannot have that joy, we cannot live in increasingly greater union with God without heroic effort.

Believing in Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) and Immortal Son of God and uniting ourselves to Him is only the first step.

If we want to live, if we want to thrive, we have to roll up our sleeves and work to improve the lives of our suffering brothers and sisters, and we have to open up our minds to the reality of God in us, among us, and above us.