The paschal season continues. Today, we celebrate the meeting with God of a repentant sinner, the Samaritan woman. She came to draw water at noon when nobody else was at the well. She arrived at the hottest time of the day. She did not want to meet anyone she knew because she was ashamed. She had sinned, but she met God, and it was a miracle. Others may have sinned as much as her, but they did not meet Him - she did! Her whole life had prepared her for this meeting, and it transformed her to the core.
The Pharisees did not meet God, although they appeared more righteous and seemed to have sinned less. Yet they could not accept Christ. By letting Him into their lives, they would have shaken its very foundations, challenged their ideas of goodness and questioned the principles of their lives. They would have had to repent and ask for forgiveness. This transformation was not for them, and so they chose to send Christ to His death.
The Samaritan woman repented, and she met God. Likewise, some people meet God at church as they repent their sins in a tearful confession. To witness such a meeting is a true blessing. However, as the penitent becomes accustomed to church life, visits other monasteries and sacred places, and reads books, the effect of this momentous meeting wanes. No longer does he cry at his confession, or doubt his worthiness to accept the body and blood of Christ into him. He is sure that he has reformed himself and no longer sins as much as he used to.
Now some laypeople like to repeat, “If you do not sin, you have nothing to repent.” Could they be right? Certainly not. We cannot afford to let ourselves fall into sin to repent later. As one monastic has said, we will have a high price to pay for it.
How else can we keep the grace of God once we have met Him as the Samaritan woman did? The circumstances of our meeting may differ, and so may our inner states, but what matters most is how this meeting changes our lives and how much we can keep the momentum of this change. God is always near, but we can only meet Him by opening up to Him in our spirit, by having a genuine need for Him and embracing Him fully in our lives. Yet all too often, we keep saying to ourselves, “Let me do without Him a little longer.” And so we live on. Our prayers are no better, and our repentance no more sincere than our lives without God.
Seriously, being a Christian is a dangerous thing in these times, and I am not exaggerating. Perhaps it is even worse than being called an extremist or a terrorist. A Christian must have the courage to go against the custom and wisdom of this world, even when it might cost him his earthly life. He no longer lives in the flesh but in God and His grace.
To choose a life in God over one’s life on earth, one needs to have the will and determination to resist the madness of this world. Just imagine: whole countries and human societies are no longer judged by how their people pray, or humble themselves, or give love and respect to one another. Instead, countries flaunt their aggregate wealth, GDP, income, military prowess and other visible achievements. Might makes right!
The world is telling us to live for our enjoyment. I know someone who was having relationship problems with his spouse. He went to someone who professed to be a psychologist and got this advice: Find somebody younger, add freshness to your personal life. Distance yourself from your wife, and she will want you back. Your family will stay together! Forget the soul-searching, or inner change, or the need to repent and transform. There is no need for the hard work. Do it the easy way!
We must stop deluding ourselves by fantasising about some faraway pastures of heaven that we can have on this earth. No money or personal effort will take us there without God. On this earth, we all have a life that we deserve, or maybe even a better one. Yet we seek the Kingdom of God, Jerusalem in Heaven, and our journey there starts in our hearts. Let us let His spirit into them, and by doing so help our close circle and loved ones. We can share the grace of God that we have received at church today with all those who have very little and long for it. What good are all the riches of a wealthy man when there is no life in his spirit?
Living in God gives us the freedom to be ourselves. So let us throw off our masks by becoming more genuine and sincere. Let us stop hiding behind our masks to own up to our transgressions and recognise our need for transformation. We need fresh air. We need prayer, God’s word and His blessing. These are the only remedies for the weaknesses of our spirit that are more destructive than the pandemic.
God is patient and all-merciful. No matter how severe our weaknesses or how weak we are in the spirit, He is waiting for us to come and meet Him. So keep coming to church to seek everlasting life and to talk about it. Let us keep coming to the Cup. Let us say to Him over and over again, “I am the worst of all the sinners, and You have come to save me.” We must follow Christ, my dear brothers and sisters, and do so against all odds. Do not be afraid to challenge the wisdom and standards of this world. As the Holy fathers have said, "love God and act freely". May this straightforward advice be our guidance in life and our source of courage. In Christ, there is no woman or man, slave or free, Jew or Gentile. We are going to His kingdom, where nothing will be yours or mine, but everything will be God’s. There are still many battles to fight, but victory will be ours. The Gospel tells us, “have no fear.” May our Lord help us live this Sunday free from sin.
Christ has risen. Truly He has risen!
Preached on May 30, 2021