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Sermon by Metropolitan Moses
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Meatfare Sunday 2008
In the Gospel reading appointed for Meatfare Sunday liturgy, in our Savior’s description of the Last Judgment, everyone will be divided as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. Those on the right will inherit the Kingdom and those on the left will be turned away from the Kingdom. According to the words of our Savior Himself, the cause of the separation will be whether or not a person shows compassion towards his fellow man.
Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was ahungered, and ye gave Me to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee ahungered, and fed Thee? or thirsty, and gave Thee drink? When saw we Thee a stranger, and took Thee in? or naked, and clothed Thee? Or when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Amen I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.
Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was ahungered, and ye gave Me not to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in: naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not.
Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we Thee ahungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee? Then shall He answer them, saying, Amen I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life everlasting.
Did not our Savior have to inform both groups “When you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it unto Me.” One group was surprised and delighted to hear these words and the other was surprised and dismayed. This vital lesson, that is, whatever we do to our brother we do to Christ Himself is a concept that is not easy for the race of mankind to remember.
Alas, read Church history ancient and recent and see that even seeming spiritual people forget this lesson and fall into Satan’s trap of sinning against their brother for the sake of some personal agenda. One does not have to look very hard to see people practicing all manner of lies, slander and harmful behavior towards brethren for the sake of perverse ambition. Christian love does not seek its own, but rather seeks truth and righteousness. Our Savior demonstrated for us that Christian love is self-sacrificing love that puts the well-being of others first. When we see mad ambition in the Church we know that this is not of God. Ambition and pride is the ultimate source of every violation of Church order and heresy. Real Christian love and asceticism is to bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ (Gal 6:2).
There is a story concerning a wise spiritual father and a very zealous monk. The monk asked his spiritual father for a blessing to wear chains for the sake of greater asceticism. The spiritual father told him to come back later and they would discuss it. After the zealous brother left, the spiritual father told another monk to seek out the zealous brother and say nothing to him, but to give him a few light slaps in the face. This monk did so and the zealous brother was greatly indignant and went rushing back to the spiritual father in a great state of agitation. As he entered the room and began to complain the spiritual father told him, ‘Brother, you wanted to wear chains and you can’t even endure a few light slaps from your brother monk? Wearing chains will not profit you, go and learn what it is to be a Christian by being patient with your brothers.’
Saint Paul emphasizes how important this concept of self-sacrificing love towards our brothers and sisters is when he wrote:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing (1Cor 13:1-3).
A person can seem to be fulfilling all of the virtues listed above, when in fact these deeds can very well be done not for love’s sake, but rather for the sake of some sort of an investment to be paid back later. This trait can be recognized in false spiritual fathers who constantly remind people of the things they have done for them.
Those who practice real Christian self-sacrificing love can be recognized by the following:
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things (1 Cor 13:4-7).
Let us not deceive ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ. Titles and attainments will not help us in that day unless we demonstrate that we have love for one another by our deeds. Whether we were rich or poor in this life, whether we commanded others or took orders will mean nothing. Kings, potentates, presidents, prime ministers, Patriarchs, Metropolitans, Bishops, Archimandrites, Elders (presbyters) or laity – we shall all be judged. The gospel must be taken in its full context, we are called upon to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. A man can profess correct doctrine and still lose his soul if he lacks the spirit of self-sacrificing brotherly love.
May God grant you His grace to practice self-sacrificing love.
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