In the name of the Father and
of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This is the second
Sunday after Pentecost already, and on this day, when the Russian church
celebrates all the saints of Russia, one could also commemorate, and, indeed,
we remember also, all the saints of Mt. Athos --an incredible panoply of
saints, from all different walks of life, all different life situations, with
the constant in their life that they desired Christ above all. We have
readings today from the Gospel that are very much related to one another;
they are right next to one another, near the very beginning of the Gospel of
As we think about the
saints of Russia and the saints of Mt. Athos, we should come to a question in
our life, in our mind: What is our goal in life? What is our purpose? Why
are we here? As you are asking yourself this question, ask another
question: Do you want to be a saint?
Every one should say,
“yes, indeed, Father; I want to be a saint.” Because I tell you,
if you don't become a saint, you won't be saved. If you don't become
sanctified, if you don't desire Christ above all, how can you expect to be
with the sanctified? Oh yes, there are men and women who were exemplary in
their character, and we should not be prideful and arrogant and think that we
can reach to their heights. Of course, the interesting irony is that if a
person is humble they can reach that height. But that's another more
technical, more spiritual issue than I want to get into today.
What is a
A saint is someone who
desires Christ, who lives according to who He is, who ascends in knowledge
and in action in the virtues, who loves the Law of God above all else.
Today we see how
saints are made.
We see the path that
they take, and we see the results of that path, if you listen carefully, in
the reading, where St. Paul is speaking to the Hebrews, that famous passage
about faith - how faith conquers, they quench the violence of fire, and all
those other things. And the world was not worthy of them… because of
faith. And of course this faith was action; it was knowledge, and action.
Faith is not just some belief, but a whole-hearted desire, to live according
to who God is.
So that is the path,
and then you see the path also, in the beatitudes which the church considers
so important that we sing them every day of the year. The path is effort, the
path is having a certain mindset of mourning, of humility, of desire, and
then action based upon that desire, giving alms, being merciful, the acts
that a Christian should take, based upon who he is, because of who Christ
So the keys to the
kingdom are laid out before us today. Faith, effort, desire: that makes
saints. And all of us should have that desire to be a saint.
Now this path is not
for the squeamish, it's not for the lazy, it's not for the lukewarm, it's not
for those who wish to make compromises, and it’s not for those who are
distracted by the world, or proud or dissolute. All those people don't go up
on the mountain.
Do you see the
progression from these two readings which the Holy Spirit has joined together
today for us? He called His Apostles from the boat, and they left straightway
and followed him. And then immediately there after, right there after, he
went up into a mountain, it said, and seeing the multitude he went up into
Do you think the
multitude followed him? No. Only very few followed him.
First of all, there's
not so much real estate at the top of the mountain; very few people can be
there. Secondly, very few people are willing to make the effort to climb.
Thirdly, very few people look up; most people look down at the earth.
To be in the mountain,
one must toil, one must have desire, and one must look upwards to God. One
must be willing to be separate from the rabble, and from the crowd, and from
the world, and even from those who call themselves Christian. And even within
the church now, we're seeing people who want to be at the base of the
mountain. You cannot be saved at the base of the mountain. You must ascend
the mountain, because that is where Christ will teach.
He took His apostles,
and immediately took them to a mountain. And He didn't tell them, “I'm
going to appoint you priests, and we're going to have the Holy Eucharist, and
confession, and baptism”, and all these other things that you see in
the front of catechesis books. And He didn't say, “You must believe in
Me as God and Man”, and all those other things that are so important,
that are in the front of books.
What did He get to
He is the God Man and
he was telling them how they should live, how they should be. This is the
essence of the Christian life. If you do not have the morality, your
belief is of no consequence. In fact, it will cause your condemnation to
be that much greater.
So we've gotten out of
our boats, as the Apostles did, and we've followed Christ. And He has taken
us to the mountain, and we should never get down. Never go back to the base
of the mountain, ever again. We should stay on the summit, listening to our
Lord, at His feet, about morality. About how we should think, how we should
live, how we should be because of who he is. This is the Christian life.
It takes toil and
effort to get up the mountain. There is a lot of danger on the mountain.
There are wild animals and beasts, there are rockslides, it's cold and windy,
and it’s difficult. And also -- have you ever been on top of a
mountain? It's lonely up there. It's lonely. You're very much alone,
just with your thoughts.
Of course, your
thoughts can be quite difficult to deal with sometimes, when you're on top of
a mountain, because there's nothing to dissuade them, there's nothing to stop
them from coming. We don't want to have thoughts of who we are, and what we
need to de. It's our nature, unfortunately, our fallen nature. But, God put
into man a desire to look upwards, a desire to climb the mountain and to sit
at His feet and to learn from Him. That is built into our character. It is
integrally who we are. And any man who disavows that, he's living a lie. We
are people who should be at the top of the mountain and listening to our God,
telling us how we should live and how we should be.
Now, these beatitudes
are quite profoundly beautiful. As poetry they have no equal. As dogma they
have no equal. They are the essence of Christianity, because Christianity
is action based upon knowledge.
Without the action,
there is no Christianity.
All these things we
will learn if we struggle. Now, one can get books out, one can even read the
Fathers about meekness, about thirsting after righteousness, and about the
nuance of meaning that Christ is giving in this extraordinary sermon -- the
greatest sermon, I think, that was ever preached by our Lord, the most
important sermon that was ever preached by our Lord. But the meaning is not
easy to discern, because the only way to know is to live what He says, the
only way to know what these things mean.
So, my brethren, you
have a task in your life: to be like Christ, to know him, to have intimate
knowledge of him. This is your task, this is your goal.
dissuades you from this goal, cast away, throw into the fire, whether it be
job, or anything -- using sensibility, now. Don't just quit your job
tomorrow. I'm talking in a spiritual way with you now. If there's anything
that keeps you from the kingdom, cast it away. And hone your priorities,
every day. To desire to live according to who Christ is, and to read again
what St. Paul says to the Hebrews, you should be filled, your heart should
expand, it should be warm, and you should think, I want to be like this. God
will help you if you have that desire, if you have that hunger and thirst.
But you must cultivate it, over and over and over again.
I will tell you one
more thing. Do you know why we talk about the saints so much? We talk about
the saints because they exemplify the reality of what God wants for us. And
we use them as examples. Doesn't St. Paul say, seeing that we are surrounded
by so great a cloud of witnesses? How can we live in the dirt, wallow in the
mud like pigs, when we see the examples of our fathers. This is why we read
about saints, why we think about them, why we pray to them, and why we desire
to be like them.
Brethren, God help
you. Stay at the top of the mountain. This is your task. Listen to God, and
act upon what he teaches you.
Where is your
Your mountain is in
your desire, in prayer, in coming to the services with zeal, with desire to
hear, with desire to know, with desire to be told, with desire to be filled
and healed. It's in your fasting, it's in your separating yourself from
everything that's worldly that would hold you down. That is your mountain,
and that is my mountain. And we must stay on this mountain if we are to be
saved. May God give us the strength. Amen.