Yesterday, I spent many hours attending to people's confessions. People were bringing to church their multiple tragedies and pains. At times, I had the urge to exclaim, "How can one bear it any longer? How can one live with so much pain?": But we have Christ and a full life in Him.
Today, we are celebrating the afterfeast of the Transfiguration and honour the memory of Apostle Matthew. Have you noticed that the church calendar has become the most reliable way for us to track the flow of time? All the other calendars change and become obsolete, but this one does not. Christ came to this world and established His church so that we would have a solid foundation in our lives. Standing on this foundation, we can all begin the hard job of learning without sin.
Yet sin is living within us. It is pushing us towards a new idea of human life, one that is based on the pursuit of individual comfort, but not of oneness with Christ. To be one with Christ, one needs to give, bear one's cross, follow the narrow path, and wage the inner struggle. The way of Christ leads to our Golgotha and the death of our old selves. And so, a battle is going on for our souls and our everlasting life. To win, we must overcome the resistance of the flesh. We must battle against sin, yet we often find sin pleasing and tempting. We can only win by compelling ourselves.
Fighting this battle, how many times have we wished to take a break and relax? But we cannot afford it, as the enemy is following in our footsteps. How many times have we asked for a holiday, a party, only to be confronted by the daily grind? Our sinful natures rebel by stirring anger, bitterness and despair.
In today's Gospel readings, we heard about the sea of life in which we struggle not to sink. Amid this raging sea, we hear Christ call out to us, "Walk to me on the water!" (c.f. Matthew 14:28-29). If our faith is strong, no seastorm will stop us.
But occasionally, we begin to drown, even though we had been walking steadily only a few moments earlier. What happened? Is it a reason to lose hope? No, it is just a reminder that no great accomplishments or virtues will save us without faith in the Lord. The inscription on the back of our crosses reads, "Save and protect." Let us do as we are told. Let us follow the example of the Holy Apostle and cry out to our Lord "Save me, a sinner!"
Our human nature is ailing and needs to be healed. The Lord is healing us with His love. We are all afflicted. Yet Christ is our doctor. He administers His cure. The Church is His hospital. So we must admit, in all honesty, that our lives are hopeful and worthwhile as long as Christ is present in them.
As we read in the book of Psalms, "I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done". The psalm singer reminds us that God wants nothing else but to give us eternal life. This is more than just living a thousand years in good physical health. We must shun the way of sin, but not yield to panic. We must persevere in our struggle and live in good faith. We must serve God where the Lord had put us. We have a life to live, and we are confident of our victory. A large number of young people among us are having children and coming to Church for Communion. We are all standing shoulder to shoulder, soldiers of the army of the Lord. As saint Alexander Nevsky has said, the Lord is not in might, but in right.
May the Lord help us remain worthy of being called Orthodox Christians and never to trade this honour for any worldly benefits.