Do we realise the importance of articulating before God the actions that are essential and indispensable for us, but that we feel unable or unwilling to undertake? Today, we are praying for our unity, we are asking God to give us the strength to overcome our divisions, to stop opposing one another over what is mine and what is yours; in any oppositions or divisions of this sort, we will predictably rise to the defence of our own rights and privileges and our own versions of the truth, and forget about God’s truth and God’s love. Going along this route will bring us nothing but torment, as there will always be something of which we will feel unfairly deprived; there will always be people who make us jealous because we think that they are better off. Eventually, we will lose all sleep and our peace of mind.
Let me refer to this example of a situation that repeats itself time and time again in many places. Imagine someone who is happy and in good standing in his job, and gets paid a good salary. One day he accidentally looks into the payroll and finds that someone else who he thinks is working less, is being paid more than he is. He loses his peace of mind, and begins to hate his job; his salary now seems very small. He let evil and envy touch his heart, and that changed everything. The man left his job and slammed the door behind him. But he never found another job that was just as good as the one he left. His example underlines the importance of seeing things in a positive light, with kindness and generosity. The going may be tough, the world may be coming to pieces, but this is still no reason to lose heart. We just need to put our trust in God, and things will go back to their places.
We torment and hurt ourselves a lot by not paying attention to our inner world, which is the single thing that matters. Instead, we look around and think a lot about what others will say, or how they will react, perhaps neglecting fully or in large part to live our inner lives as Christians and people. Instead, we should be taking a completely different attitude: By minimising and avoiding as far as possible negative emotions and thoughts, refraining from rash actions and being introspective. There is no chance of prayer for someone whose days are spent running aimlessly from one place to another, nosing around for other people’s secrets, engaging in idle conversations and losing their temper over trifles. Can any such person be seriously expected to stand up [what does ‘to stand up’ mean here? Perhaps ‘to be up to prayer’?]for prayer in a one-on-one conversation with God? Impossible! One needs to remain watchful, exercise self-control, and compel oneself to do the right thing. We all owe it to ourselves. Why should anyone care how much someone else is getting paid? That’s his business, not ours. Someone has bought a new car. Who cares where he got the money? “I care because he must have stolen it!” “Aha! There must be some grain of truth in it!” I meant this as a joke. But the people in this conversation are intoxicating their lives with sinful passions, they are misusing their talents, and putting their energies to waste. And this is no joke.
So let us live our lives with good intentions and healthy thoughts, let us put aside our jealousy and competitive instincts; let us avoid rivalry, but instead be thankful to God for what we have. Believe me, we have a lot more than we deserve. In fact, we have not deserved a single good thing that we possess. Let us be honest with ourselves, and thank the Lord for having mercy on us. This will give us back peace in our souls. The peace of our souls is our most important gain, our greatest hope to free ourselves from perpetual torment resulting from our jealousy, condemnation of another, grumbling and dissatisfaction. It is time for us to finally bring some order to our lives. It is not normal for us to be doing and saying the right things at one moment, and destroying all our good achievements by doing something wrong at the next moment. This is very sad. We should learn to appreciate and value our time, of which there is not much left. We need to learn how to assess our situations realistically. We need to teach ourselves to refrain from jumping to conclusions and from acting impetuously; we should also listen more to advise from others, and not to think that we are smarter or more talented than everybody else. A person of true talent and wisdom is conscious of his limitations and imperfections, takes a realistic view of life, exercises humility, and learns to put his whole trust and faith in the Lord. This is a man who would live by the following maxim from Apostle Paul: “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4: 13).
My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ! As we are approaching the Dormition fast, I encourage you to enjoy as much as possible the fruits and vegetables of the season, which are plentiful at this time of year. Let us give our thanks to the Lord for this abundance and keep our bodies and spirits strong and healthy.
On the 21st of July, the Orthodox Church celebrates the feast day of one of the most revered icons of the Mother of God in Russia - Our Lady of Kazan. This sermon was filmed in 2019 after the Divine Liturgy on the day of the feast.