I congratulate everyone because today it is Sunday and it is also the feast of one of the most revered icons of the Mother of God in Russia - Our Lady of Kazan, to which people have resorted for centuries, looking for protection, intercession, help. And today we venerate this icon and ask the Mother of God to strengthen our faith.
"Lord, help my unbelief."
"According to your faith be it unto you (Matthew 9:29)."
This is our modern dialogue with God. Do we really believe it?
And in today’s Gospel reading, we see an episode, where Jesus came to the country of the Gadarenes and people said to him something along with those words, “You better leave, don't touch us. We have our own life." The Gadarene people were scared, you see? Because Christ met two demon-possessed men, healed them and they became healthy. The Lord cast out the demons, but they asked to be sent away into a herd of pigs. And that’s how the people of the country of the Gadarenes lost a huge herd of pigs, which was to them their food and their source of life, prosperity.
So they thought - what else can He do? If the Lord would have come and immediately break five loaves of bread, feed everyone and give everyone to drink, people would be happy and say, “Oh, how good! How good, that you came, Lord! We've been waiting for you! "
But it is the same in our life - we might think that the Lord brings cookies and chocolates, but in reality, He brings His Blood and Body. It might seem to us that if we turn to God, life will become simple and easy, and all of our problems will disappear. But in reality, we get more and more problems.
And then we ask: "Where are you, Lord?" The Lord came to save us. And we, unfortunately, were brought up by this world, and we translate everything into the language of consumerism and sin. We need everything to be the way we want it, the way we like it. We think that that’s good. But nothing comes out of it. So we conclude that everything is bad. The problem is this - we have already taken off the ground, but have not yet reached the sky. And being in this intermediate state, everything is mixed up - earthly and heavenly, spiritual, mental and bodily. And all of this is happening in each one of our hearts.
We get lost, you see. We get lost in it. Sometimes it really seems that we have reached the end, but the Lord gives us joy. Sometimes it seems that everything is good, but then something bad happens. In our current state, it is very important for us to learn to be ready for the most unexpected turns in our life, we just need to endure it. We have to never leave Christ. We can’t be like the Gadarene people and say, “Lord, go to somebody else. I can't take it anymore. I already ate spiritual food, now I want simple, human, earthly food, as well as some earthly joys and sunshine."
But of course, the shining sun is a good thing. Because in our country it does not spoil us very much. Some people say, "Oh, it’s too hot." How foolish! Why do you think it is too hot? In our climate zone, we are mostly cold, we are freezing. The sun comes out a little, and some people complain about it. You see, you can’t please everybody, that's for sure.
It is just like this in our spiritual life - we receive so much grace, the Lord gives each one of us so much love, but we do not keep it. It is difficult to keep. It's hard to say, “That’s it. From this day on I become a saint, there will be no more sin in my life.” When you go to confession, confess all of your sins and don’t sin anymore. But nobody wants to live without sin. How does one live without sin? We can’t, we don’t agree to it. It is not interesting to live without sin.
We are not used to it. We don't know what it’s like. But it must be great to live without sin. We ask God, “Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us without sin this day, this evening, this month, this year.” Sin is a deception after all. It is a terrible deception of a person who thinks that they will be fine, although they are digging a hole for themselves. When we sin, we fall into our own trap and then suffer because of it.
We need to grow spiritually. Yes, we may think that we will come to church, do what we are expected to do, kiss icons and crosses, and all of our illnesses will go away, all of our problems will be solved in a second. We will be free, we will live for ourselves. We will be saved. But an Orthodox person does not think like that. We must understand that the path that leads us to the Kingdom of God is narrow and that the further we go, the harder it gets.
We must reach the state which Saint Silouan the Athonite once reached, when he said, "It is impossible to pray to God." And he plunged into despair, because no matter what he did (he constantly prayed and worked, he never even slept on a bed) he could not overcome his pride. And then the Lord revealed to him that grace is only given to the humble.
It is very important that we learn to humble ourselves (and yes, it is possible) and thank God for everything that we have. Maybe at first, we will be forcing our sinful nature to change, but in the end, we’ll get used to it. Whatever happens, we will be able to say "Lord, thank you for everything." We will thank Him for both sorrow and joy. And this will be a stable foundation on which we will build the temple of the Holy Spirit within us.
This is what Christ told us. This is the challenge. Everything else is secondary, everything else is nonsense. But why do we not get it? We only seem to wake up whenever we or our relatives are in life-threatening situations. Why is it impossible for us to remember the main principles of our life while everything is alright? You know what they say - we don't lock the barn door until after the horse is stolen. Why couldn’t we lock it beforehand?
Why can’t we be grateful? Some people come to church and say, “My family has fallen apart, my children are alcoholics and drug addicts, someone I know was sent to prison, my friend disappeared.” We only come to God, we only need Him when we have problems. But there are some people who come and say, "Glory be to God." There are such people, who only say, "I am fine. God loves me, and His love is so much that I simply cannot contain it inside.” We would be in a completely different mood if we could say these words and actually mean it.
But we always wait until the last minute. There was a man who never went to church, he didn’t need God. When he was already on his deathbed, his relatives said, “Father, give Communion to this man”. But he did not understand what Communion was, he no longer understood, but they continued, "Please, give Communion to him." In such a situation, a priest has to give in and give the Holy Communion to the dying person. What else can we do? Maybe it’s a chance for that person. But it is better if a person comes to God consciously.
It would be nice if we learned to trust God. The Lord gives us everything we need. So let’s thank Him for everything, let’s not be nosy, let’s not investigate how much money and fortune others have. Everyone has their own cross to bear, we can’t know exactly which cross our neighbour is carrying and what is going on inside their head. Nobody knows that. But somehow whenever we feel bad, we expect everybody else to feel the same way. It shouldn't be like that.
My dears, you are all very good, wonderful, spiritual people. The Lord feeds you with His Blood and Body so that you all become partakers of the new Eternal Life so that you can enter the Kingdom of God. But let's always remember that. Let's not lose the main idea, the main purpose of our life. And the Lord will take care of us, he will give us everything we need. For God, there can be no hopeless situation, no dead end in life. God showed us the path that we must follow until the end. “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13)
We ask the Mother of God for help. Because as soon as we lose God, we immediately find ourselves in a bad situation. Immediately. Apostle Peter wrote that the devil stands behind our backs and roars like a lion. We don't see it. But this is the truth, we must trust apostle Peter. The devil stands there and waits. As soon as we say something, that we were not supposed to say, as soon as we look in the wrong place - he attacks. Nowadays there are so many temptations - you can do and watch whatever you want. How can we watch whatever we want? We need to watch things that are useful, that are necessary for our development and our spiritual life.
Let us become smarter, wiser, more mature. Let us continue to move forward. We do not know how long we still have to go. But let’s follow only the path of Christ, let’s not turn away in any direction. We won’t find any comfort there. The Lord called us, he said, “Follow Me.” So we have to endure to the end.
Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by Thy grace.
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