Homily on Christ the Hero

Who is Christ?  Why did He suffer and die for us who could nothing for him in return?  This isn’t a “live” recording (the recorder cut out too early), but a (fairly dull) reading of the homily notes.  Enjoy!
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Homily Notes: I AM a Hero
Romans 5: 1-10; Luke 6:31-36

Romans 5:1-10 (KJV) 5 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Luke 6:31-36 (KJV) 31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

The main point of today’s readings is that our Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed and died to save us, despite the fact that no one was forcing him to do so and that we had nothing we could offer him.

  • People might do something good because they were forced to; because they were threatened to with punishment if they didn’t. For instance, a coward might be willing to fight on behalf of his country if the alternative was prison a firing squad. But Jesus? Jesus was the opposite; he did what was good and heroic even though he knew he would be imprisoned, tortured and executed for it.
  • Other people might do good because they want rewards in the form of money or adoration. We are social creatures and the instinctive desire for praise is strong in us. But what about Jesus?Is this what led him to set the very standard for heroism with His willingness to suffer and die for us at His passion? No, we have to admit that Jesus Christ did not seek our adoration: after all, what is the adoration of sinners compared to the praises continually offered Him by the sinless angels that surround Him?

No, Christ was not compelled to act on our behalf, nor did he do it because he wanted to be popular with us. As St. Paul says; “God shows His love for us in that we were sinners and had nothing good to give him, He died for us.” So why did He do this? Because Christ is God, and doing good is what God does.

In his book, Jesus the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible, Fr. Eugen Pentiuc uses one of the names of God to help explain this. In the Old Testament, the way that God names Himself is “Yahweh”. You may recall this from Moses’ conversation with God at the Bush that Burned but was not consumed. “I AM.” This name points to the ontology of God, but it means something else, too. If someone says; “who are you?” and you say “I am…” , then they will wait for the rest of the sentence; e.g. “I am… your friend.”

In light of today’s readings, we have at least one way to fill in the blank. Who is God?

God is the one that acts heroically on our behalf.

He sees us and our needs and He becomes exactly what is required to help us. “Yahweh” / “I AM” whatever it takes to save you.

In today’s Gospel, Christ-God is challenging us to become like Him, to become “little Christs” (i.e. Christians) and godlings (what do you think “Children of the most High means?).

We often think of becoming Christian or being saved or divinized through theosis as something that we now have thanks to our Baptism. It’s like our name: you were baptized as “John” so now you know yourself as “John”. That’s what people call you and it is what you call yourself. You were baptized as a Christian, that’s what people know you to be and that is how you think of yourself.

But it has to be more than that. Having the name of “Christian” is a call to action; to be the same “I AM” to the world that Christ God Himself is. To see what the world around you needs, to see what the moment requires, and to fill it. To act heroically despite the costs and to do what is right even if it hurts, even if it is hard, and even if no one ever notices.

  • What is courage, but the willingness to do right, even when it is dangerous?
  • What is perseverance, but the willingness to carry on in doing good, even when it is difficult?
  • What is loyalty, but the willingness to defend what is ours, even when we are hard pressed?
  • What is love, but the willingness to give without counting the cost, even to the point of suffering and dying for the objects of our love?

Christ has acted heroically on our behalf, saving us from our sin and allowing us to live lives of eternal joy; that is the Gospel and we celebrate it today in this Divine Liturgy. But that is not the only thing we celebrate; we are also celebrate how God has allowed us to join Him in this heroic act for the salvation of the world.