I get to hear confessions from many people, and many of them do not share an optimistic outlook on their lives. They tell me about divorce, children ignoring their parents, loneliness and misunderstanding. Some spouses have lived together for many decades, like so many others. And after all these years, they break up. Some share with me the anguish of being betrayed by a long-time friend.
When they finish, they ask me the question: what is going to happen next? What should I do? They are visibly confused and in despair. What can I say to them? I might suggest praying harder. Most would respond, "But I am already praying." I might tell them to try being more humble but will likely hear from them, "But I am already humble!" In their eyes, I read the silent question: "Nothing seems to work in my life. I have no answer to my prayers. I knock on every door, but nobody opens. Does God hear me?"
Yet how often do we question our goals in life? Are we not too enthralled by short-lived joys and entertainment? Are not we overly attached to things of the secular world? Do we not neglect our inner lives, and especially our relationship with God? Do we recognise the fundamental significance of this relationship? In the Gospel, many people gather around Christ. Yet only one of them is healed. Today, we took the Body and Blood of Jesus into ourselves. He gives us true healing, and we need no other. Yet we are not content with His holy gifts. We have a long list of other things to ask. We want this, and that, and much else. And so no miracle happens for us.
Likewise, we view the Church as a thing of this world. We acknowledge its goodness from a worldly perspective and follow the laws of this world in our church lives. The man of the flesh in us is frustrated. He says, "It is too hard to bear!" He protests, "I am exhausted. I cannot take it anymore!"
A life in Christ is different from the lives of most people. Admittedly, it is also more onerous. That is because the Christian Church is where we learn to love. Here, we learn to be the servant of another, to wash others' feet. Yet we insist on creating hierarchies and ranks, we are bent on putting some people over others. We are given a chance to begin a new life, but we choose to go the way of the flesh. Again, we embrace the vanity of the world and a life according to its laws. Our attachment to earthly things is still too strong.
How can we resist it? How can we recognise Christ in someone whom we do not even like? We need to die for the old world. We need to die to hear another. To surrender our fate to God's hands and become the servants of others, we also need to die. As the Gospel teaches us, whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. He who forfeits his life for Christ will find salvation. Every Sunday, we remember Christ's death on the Cross and His resurrection. Without dying, we will not resurrect.
God loves us, and He will forgive us and have mercy on everyone. But what about us? Can we bring ourselves to abandoning the finite things of this world, our sensuous selves? To embracing the real thing, not some illusion? I cannot answer these questions for you, I am afraid. The answers must come from you. Have the courage to ask these questions to yourselves, more the better.
To have no fear of asking them, we must stand on the firm foundation of Christ. That we are all at Church today is a true miracle. We served the Divine Liturgy, which in Saint Nicholas Velimirovich's description is like firing a nuclear bomb in the heart of Hades. When we entrust ourselves to Christ, we bring the devil to his knees. So let us raise our thanks to God. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. (Psalms 83:11).
Let the Christians rejoice, even though few people want to talk about the joy and are preoccupied instead by the troubles and misfortunes of the world. Christ has overcome this world, and we are going His way to the Kingdom of Heaven.