The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30)
On this day, the Sunday after the Feast of Pentecost, we celebrate All Saints. In the West this celebration falls on November 1st and for this reason Halloween, which means “All Hallows eve or All Saints eve, is the previous evening. In the Orthodox Church this All Saints day is celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost as a sign of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church and in the life of her people. Because the Lord, the Holy Spirit has come down and dwelt within us, it is possible for us to be completely changed and to become saints. Not all of the saints will be recognized officially by the Church. But they will all be recognized by the Lord as His children, His sons and daughters.
You and I were created to enter into a full relationship with our Father, God. Becoming a saint is not something strange or weird. Becoming a saint is accepting your calling and the purpose for which you were created. You were not created for worldly successes and honors. You were not created to win the lottery and become rich. You were not created to become the president. Even all of these titles and honors are nothing compared to the purpose for which you were created, to serve and to know and to commune with the most high God.
When we orient ourselves to this reality and to this purpose, we find everything is a source of peace in our lives, even the difficult circumstances. When we run from this reality and purpose, we find that everything is tedious and challenging and nothing brings peace or joy, no matter how successful we are, no matter how wealthy we become, no matter what honors or titles are bestowed on us. All of it is empty and meaningless because we haven’t found the source of our hunger and thirst and this hunger and thirst cannot be quenched by anything but the One who is infinite joy and unending peace.
What is the beginning of sainthood? According to the Lord, it is the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ before others. The Lord said “Everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father Who is in heaven; but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father Who is in heaven.” How do we acknowledge our Lord and master on a daily basis before others? It is a really important question that is worthy of reflection and a thoughtful answer.
We may acknowledge God with simply gestures like bowing our head and making the sign of the cross before we eat our meals, no matter where we eat our meals. We may acknowledge God by asking others to refrain from using the name of Jesus Christ in vain since it is deeply offensive and would not be tolerated if the name of Christ was replaced with any other religious figure. The name of Christ is sacred. You might be thinking “but I will be labelled and people will think differently of me…” Glory to God for that. If you have to suffer a little dishonor in order to honor God, you aren’t actually suffering at all, you are blessed by God! I’m challenging you today because the Lord is challenging us and this is no game. The Lord loves us and an important step in our journey to sanctity and sainthood is to honor the Lord and not to deny Him. Either He is our Lord and master and the One whom we love and serve, or we should be more transparent and honest with ourselves and say that we are not practicing Christians but Christians in name only.
I have the sense that in our society almost anything is allowed. We can say whatever we want about any subject, no matter how ignorant or immoral our opinions may be. But if we speak clearly and soberly about Jesus Christ or His teachings….we are committing an act of open revolution. George Orwell once wrote “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” My brothers and sisters, we are here now in the time of universal deceit. But are we ready to tell the truth?
It is no secret that many of the saints of the Church are martyrs. These people have suffered and died for sharing the truth. The martyrs were like revolutionaries who never took up swords and guns, but instead they slew the empires with their courage and with the truth who is Jesus Christ. New martyrs are being made daily. Somewhere right now, someone is being challenged to remain quiet and deny Jesus Christ, and they are defiant to the glory of God, no matter what the consequences or punishment may be.
Tomorrow we will begin the Apostles fast. This is a time when we increase our prayers and ascetic disciplines in order to honor the Apostles and to emulate their courage. The Apostles were transformed from men who worked in the world to me who served the Lord with complete disregard for the things of the world. They spent their time courageously preaching and teaching others about Jesus Christ. And when at times, they were beaten and imprisoned, and slaughtered, they glorified God for the privilege of suffering for His holy name.
They were true revolutionaries because they taught the world the truth about the God-man Jesus Christ. They were men transformed by their encounter with Jesus Christ and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Their transformation led to the transformation of the entire Roman Empire. The people who sat in darkness indeed saw a great light and this light is the truth who is Jesus Christ. Let us take courage from our Holy Fathers, the Apostles and disciples of the Lord and boldly acknowledge Christ not only with words but with our hearts and minds and our very lives….for this, we will be acknowledged and our memories will be eternal in the sight of Our heavenly Father.
Glory be to God forever AMEN.