Homily – All Saints: are we committed?

The Saints are committed to the Church – are we?

  • Hebrews 11:33-12:2 
  • Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38, 19:27-30

Christianity is a grass-roots movement: we are all called to be saints. There is no “glass-ceiling”. Don’t get confused by the titles or the visible organization. But this also means that the real decision is ours: there is nothing that comes between us and a life of joyous perfection than our own pride and laziness. Christ has opened the way to living paradise – Orthodoxy describes “The Way” for its achievement. If we are not making progress along this Way, we have no one to blame but ourselves. To paraphrase GK Chesterton, [True] Christianity [, the kind that leads to unity, peace, and perfection] has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and not [really] tried at all.

Commitment. Ham and cheese omelet (the cow and chicken are supportive, but the ham is committed). You don’t lose weight by claiming to be on such-and-such diet, and ignoring its prescriptions; you don’t get well by going to the doctor, then refusing to take the medicine she prescribes; more to the point, you don’t develop a sound marriage by having a wedding, then continuing to live the life of a selfish bachelor.
I say that this is “more to the point” because the Orthodox Way to perfection is based on developing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The Church is the bride of Christ, united to him as one flesh in a manner even more intimate and real than husband and wife. A good husband would never think of relegating his wife to second or third status in his life. He is defined by his relationship with her. Refusing to spend time with her and support her, or worse yet, allowing other relationships to compete for his intimate affections with her … these are things that a good husband – a man who was truly committed to his wife and their marriage – would never do. In fact, we have words for men who ignore their wives and prefer the attentions of other people and things. These are not nice words because such men are not good men. They are more like dogs or unruly children than real men. To call them husbands and to call their relationship to their wives “marriage” is a violation of the English language.
Good husbands are committed to their wives. Christians are committed to Christ. When spouses are committed to one another, the relationship is called “marriage”; when we are committed to Christ, we call it “Church”. And we can say the same things about people who claim to be Christians but disregard Christ and their obligations to the Church as we can about husbands and wives who ignore their spouses and ignore their obligations to their marriage. Such a “Church” is as much a farce as such a marriage is, and as unlikely to lead to anything worth having. [The irony is that such obligations – to include tithing, prayer, and active participation in parish life – are spoken of as sacrifices… as if sharing our time and treasures with a lover as devoted as Christ is anything but a blessing!]
Conclusion. Let me finish with a word of encouragement: do not be ashamed of Christ and your love for Him [quote Gospel]Again, just as your would wonder about the character of a man who was ashamed of his marriage because of how the world might judge it as an institution and the woman he had united himself to; we have to wonder about the character of a person who is ashamed of the Church because of what people say about it and about our Lord, Jesus Christ. There is a lot of prejudice, ignorance, and malice out in the world, but we cannot allow it to define us. Are we going to allow others to tell us that we are wasting our time because the Church is corrupt or because the Christ is not God? Are we going to be ashamed of the Church because the world tells us we should be? Why should we participate in their stupidity and lies? [compare to early reports of Christian cannibalism] If you love the Christ and are finding perfection through the Church, then let that be the foundation of your life and the wellspring of your joy – don’t let others pull you from The Way. This is the path of perfection that all the saints have trod. Let us renew our commitment to it.