Homily – Sunday of All Saints

Sunday of All Saints
This is the Sunday of All Saints.  Everything that we do is designed so that we can join them in holiness, join them in glory.
·  In order for us to do that, we need to enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. 
·  We need to allow the Holy Spirit to grow within us. 
·  We need to always walk in the presence of the Lord.
Everything we do should be designed with this single aim: to bring God into every aspect of our lives.  To make Him our constant companion.  He wants us to share in His glory:
·  Not as a slave, trying to do what is right because we fear retribution if we do not
·  Not as a mercenary, doing what He asks because we want some sort of great reward
·  But as friends and lovers, committed to one another and to living an eternity developing a bond that pulls us increasingly towards perfection.
Yes, everything we do should be part of this one thing – it is the one thing needful: to accept Christ and grow in perfection through relationship with Him. 
·  Everything that does not fit into this plan should be repented of and purged – and that will leave more room for the love, peace, and joy of Christ to grow within us. 
·  This is what Christ is saying in today’s Gospel: putting other things (to include family and nation) before God’s love for you is a denial of Him, moves you away from holiness, and makes you unworthy of the glory that is only found in the perfection that is found in union with Him.
As we increasingly work towards this goal of changing our life to one of holiness, we should not try to reinvent the wheel: the Orthodox Way is the straight road, developed especially for us and our perfection.  I could give many examples of how this works – and if it were not Summer I would surely give you three (the perfect number of the Trinity).  But as it is Summer, let me just share just one (the number that also is God) – the Divine Liturgy – and even there, I will focus on just one of it’s least appreciated aspects.
·  [There are many reasons why the Holy Spirit guided the Church to tell us that we should be at Divine Liturgy every week and for every Feast (and that it is actually harmful – sinful – to skip such services), and these have nothing to do with making the priests feel good about their jobs or about increasing revenue: it is because this is the best way to change our lives. 
·  But the Divine Liturgy isn’t magic: we have free will.  We have to cooperate.  We have to prepare for the Liturgy, and we have to participate in it (the work of the people).  Remember, this is about deepening our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Relationships require commitment from both sides: God has opened Himself to us in an amazing way: through the Eucharistic Liturgy.  But do we open ourselves?  Communication also require two sides: He is trying to communicate with us – are we listening?]
This is the lesson of the Divine Liturgy that I would share today:  We cannot listen if we are not quiet, and we cannot listen if we are not paying attention.  We must be mindful (phrenoma).
·  People increasingly have a hard time focusing on anything.  We have developed entire industries and technologies designed to distract us, to divide our attentions, to fracture our minds.  The release of dopamine distractions (“amusements”) cause may be fun, but our increasing inability to concentrate is making us less human.
·  Listening requires focus.  Liturgy requires focus.  I have no doubt that if we spend the rest of the week amusing ourselves with distractions, that we will find attending an hour and a half long service to be torturous.  But this is how God has chosen to speak to us – and He knows what we need better than we do.  Will we deny Him, or will we learn to listen?
·  Not just about Liturgy – it carries through into every part of our lives.  I want you to notice what happens when you try holding an extended conversation with someone on a topic that does not amuse them.  Can they focus?  Will they look you in the eye?  Will they listen?  Will they participate in the conversation you have offered them?  Better yet, I want you to watch yourself and your ability to concentrate on the conversations you are offered.
·  If you cannot maintain focus on the person God has put before you, if you cannot focus on God when He is speaking to you, then – as I said before – you have become both less holy and less human.  And this isn’t just my opinion – it is the truth, confirmed by the Church.  And just to remind you that objective science and true religion are designed to work together: let me point out that this truth is supported by scientific investigation.
·  Howard Friendman, The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life.  Not about what you eat etc, but about being intentional, responsible, and conscientious.
Learn to love the Liturgy.  Set up your life – through prayer, quietness and anticipation throughout the week – so that Sunday takes the place it should within your Life.  Learn to be holy yourself so that you can do what the Lord commands and keep this day holy.
This is where God has chosen to reveal Himself the fullest.  This is how He has chosen to talk to His people.  Will we learn to listen?