My dear brothers and sisters! The Great Lent has arrived at last. I wish we could all take off to heaven, but we are trapped in our bodies. We cannot fly, so we have to crawl along. Sometimes, it just seems too hard for us to continue. But God knows our capabilities. When we think that we have reached our limit, He will be sure to come and reassure us.
Remember what Christ said when He had just begun His ministry? Repent, as the Kingdom of God is approaching (Matthew 4: 17). But what do we mean by repentance? Here is another fragment from the Gospel that gives us an idea. A blind man sitting by the roadside shouts, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Mark 10: 47). The road is our life, and we are like this blind man. How are we going to meet Christ? We cannot see, or hear; we do not have the slightest idea how this can happen. The blind man shouts, and others say to him: "Who are crying to? You are getting under our skin with all your cries. Who are you asking for mercy? Who cares if you will get it?" Yet he shouts all the more: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus hears him, he comes to him and opens his eyes. The blind man sees God and glorifies Him.
This is a story with which all of us could identify. Are not we all crying out to God? We must keep calling out to Him, even when it seems that he does not hear. We feel pity for ourselves; we wish to lay down on our bed and never get up, but we must stand to the end. We are tempted to do many things, and imagine many more, but we must not let ourselves be seduced. He who endures to the end, he shall be saved (Matthew 24: 13).
To us, each liturgy comes at the price of death. It is hard enough to disentangle ourselves from our daily tasks and worldly concerns that are certain to draw us away from God. Yet we come to the Liturgy against all odds, like the apostles to the Last Supper, .to accept Him into ourselves. His mercy is our only hope. So we must continue to cry out to Him: "Lord, have mercy on me!" The rest will. rebuke and silence us, but we must endure. He who endures, he shall be saved.
I hope we will not stop in our progress to salvation. Yet I cannot promise you that it will become any easier as we proceed. Rather, it is almost certainly going to get harder. Finally, when we arrive at our Mount Golgotha, in our flesh and blood, we will say: "I cannot go any further." But then the Lord will come and say to us: 'Open your eyes and follow me'. We waver and we fall, we wander and roam, we err and we take wrong turns. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13: 8). He is saying to us: "This is My blood and this is My body. Live in peace and freedom; rejoice, for I am with you, and I overcame this finite world." For all our dumbness, blindness and deafness, we always know Who we are following and Who we call out to during our lives. We also know what to expect at the end, and it is not a grave and nothingness, but a new life in eternity. It is a reward well worth our lives and hard work. We should not spare our flesh and blood for it - they will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven in any event.
So let us prepare ourselves for the Pascha. Let us have the faith and hope in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting, of which we have a foretaste in this finite world. Nothing can be more important than these. So let us not worry or lose our sleep questioning ourselves, "What next? Why? Does he love me or does he not? Does he believe me? Am I going to get an extension on my contract? Are they making me redundant, or giving me a promotion?" May God's will be done. All things are in His hands, including our lives. We do not know if we will still be alive tomorrow or not. But this does not mean that we should give up on our lives today. We must live in a way that keeps alive within us our hope and faith in His love, our inner peace and Loyalty to God, and none of these will leave us when He calls us. Our sinful nature still dwells in us and continues to bring confusion, lead us astray, and sow anger, misunderstanding and discord among us. So let us keep watch and not give in to its temptations. Christ is in our midst, we hold together, and His love is alive in us. With His love, we will overcome our sinful nature.
May God save and protect us.