“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
God is calling us to a different world, a world free from sin and filled with love.
We find it difficult to believe that such a world exists since we live in a finite world under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19), and we also find it difficult to believe that any distinctions, privileges and worldly skills that we have acquired in this finite world are not relevant to eternal life.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Who would repeat these words in a job interview? When one man is competing against another, everyone is vying to be first, to have victory over all the others. But God teaches that many who are last will be first and that many who are first will be last (Matthew 19:30). To someone outside the Church, this would make absolutely no sense. To cite the Scripture, what is a 'stumbling block' to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:23), is life itself to us. This is a life of which we are all becoming a part and that is becoming a part of us, albeit with a lot of hard work, with moans and groans and with a great deal of pain. Some of the most difficult moments are those in which we have torn apart between two choices - to listen to reason, which tells us one thing, or to our faith, which tells us quite another. This is quite similar to what Jesus told his disciples who could not drive out the demon from a possessed boy: “[It is] because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'move from here to there', and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20). People will often come to me and say: "My personal life is not working out; my children are unwell". They will share all sorts of worries and concerns. "What should I do, where do I go, with whom can I talk?" they will ask. Have more faith. God is somewhere near. If we cannot believe that He can do wonders in response to our prayers, if we continue to doubt that, no one can help us. If we cannot trust that our lives are in God's hands, in whose hands, then, do we place them? Our own? We have been humbled too many times to know that our lives are not in our own hands. If they were, no one even knows what they would amount to. The hands of some other person? No. Satan? Sadly, yes, in some cases. Lacking faith, one begins to doubt, fidget and do things that one should not.
Indeed, what kind of attitude do many of us take? At one point, Christ is patting us on our heads and saying: "Rejoice always" (1 Thessalonians 5: 16). At another, He is saying: "You unbelieving and perverse generation! How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (Matthew 17:17). Who is He saying this to? Me? What for? I have been good. Incredible! We are full of faith when we get a pat on our back, but even a hint of criticism is enough to make us feel discouraged. Many people nowadays tend to believe in this way. Believing unquestioningly in Christ and willing to sacrifice everything for Him when things are going according to their liking, they are all too ready to believe that God is not hearing us and to sink into darkness when hardships begin and our hearts are not at peace.
How does sin act on a person? Having succumbed to sin, a person darkens. You can see this from the change in his face. But as soon as one repents, and the sin is redeemed, one's face lightens up again. This is amazing. So when someone is in a state of darkness, it is best not to confront that person but to comfort him instead. For the chances of bringing that person to his senses are small, while the risk of even greater sin may be quite high. Say a quiet prayer and step back, give the person the time to calm down and reflect. We often misunderstand this and try to reach out to the person with evidence, counter-arguments and 'truths' only to deepen confrontation and create negative feelings and unnecessary and hurtful words.
Recently, we celebrated the Holy Transfiguration with a wonderful prayer service at Lysaya Gora. The Holy Transfiguration celebrates the Divine Light of the love that shines in all darkness. Anyone who has seen this light will be accompanied by it throughout their entire lives. They will see this light emanating from their neighbour and even shining in themselves. People with genuinely sound spirits will know that this light is not their own but the light of God in them. At these moments, we see the truth of the verse from the Scripture: “…it is good for us to be here” (Matthew 17:4).
That light of Christ shone into the world from a hill; but the Scripture also talks about a different hill - Golgotha. The hill at Golgotha is a trial for all of us. Everyone has their own Golgotha and a cross to be carried through their lives. This is the cross on which one must be crucified in order for the old man to die and the new man to be born. For there will be no resurrection without the death of the old man. The sooner we realise this truth and begin to dedicate more time and effort to prepare ourselves spiritually for our transition to eternal life, the easier this transition will be for us. Death is already non-existent for the hopeful and the expectant who have been looking for God. Apostle Paul said: It would be best for my life to end now, putting an end to this finite torment, but I must live on for your sake, and bear with still more suffering and torment. Here is the model of a spiritual person. He is not clinging to life as the absolute or ultimate gift. He understands that one's earthly life is a chance to prepare oneself to live in eternity. Worldly life is a life of sin in and all itself and does not have the sort of value as we are being led to believe, as something to cling on and fight for at any cost, as if it is our 'one and only' treasure. To this, we respond: "There is another life, which is eternal…I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done”(Psalms 118:17).
But because sin is living within us, it becomes very difficult to absorb, to harbour in our hearts healthy and realistic understandings. This creates in us a lot of confusion and hesitation. It becomes very clear to us that without God's blessing to bolster our will, we are at risk of betraying our cause. Recall the words from the liturgical prayer said before Communion: "I will not give you a Kiss as Judas did". - If we rely exclusively on our own powers, sin will defeat us.
Smaller worries and passions are something to be left behind; instead, we should live for the real and most important thing.
The people who do not know God will live different lives, which may even be quite exciting and filled with all sorts of pleasures. Their life journeys, however, will have the same endpoint – being buried in a grave and falling into oblivion.