40 - All Saints, June 14, 2009

Hebrews 11:33 – 12:2

Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30

Sacred Scripture reveals two kinds of life: the life of the soul and the life of the Holy Spirit. In some places, the life of the Holy Spirit is contrasted to the life of the soul by using the term life for the life of the Holy Spirit and death for the life of the soul. In other places, the life of the Holy Spirit is called eternal life or life abundant and light in contrast to the life of the soul that is called darkness and bitter sorrow. And in other places still, as in the Gospel this morning, the life of the Holy Spirit is set apart from one’s family or society – for it is from our mother and father, after all, that we receive our soul-life – that life by which we are living now, breathing in and out. This morning’s Gospel may be confusing because it seems to contradict the command of God in the Ten Commandments, to honor one’s father and mother. But perhaps the Savior is challenging us to a deeper understanding of His command to honor our father and mother.

Now, the life of the soul whether in family life or in human society, is it not marked by selfishness, greed, lust and pride, hatred and enmity, hopelessness and despair, corruption and disintegration? The life of the Holy Spirit on the other hand is marked by hope, love, joy and peace.

Human society rooted in the life of the soul functions according to the wisdom of human opinion. Even if God is acknowledged as existing, he is marginalized as irrelevant. He is either ignored altogether or He is replaced by an idol; not an idol of wood and stone, of course, but an intellective idol in which human wisdom is projected onto the screen of divinity and worshipped as God. In such a society Man is the measure of all things.

Human society rooted in the Holy Spirit on the other hand functions according to the Wisdom of God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Man who is the measure of all things. The human society rooted in the Holy Spirit is the Church. The Church reveals through her preaching and in her liturgical worship this life of God’s Spirit that has been poured out on all those who believe in Christ – that is to say, on those who turn away from the life of the world and turn to Christ, to follow His way, to learn His commandments, to trust no longer in princes and sons of men, but to trust in Christ, to obey no longer the rulers of the world but to obey the Law of God in the commandments of Christ.

The Law that governs the Church is the Law of God centered on love of God and love of one’s neighbor as oneself. The communion of the Church therefore, is naturally humble and meek because in the Church man submits the wisdom of his own mind to the Wisdom of God; and in the love of God, he lives not for himself but for the good of his neighbor.

What gives life to the Church is not the human soul but the Holy Spirit of God. In the Church, we live according to the Spirit and our bodies become spiritual in the crucified and risen body of Christ; our souls become love, joy and peace in the Soul of Christ; our minds become Light and Wisdom in the Mind of Christ. In the Life of the Church, our whole being is taken up into the Spirit of God and we are raised up from darkness to light, from despair to hope, from enmity and separation to love and communion, from death to life in the love, joy and peace of God, partaking in Eucharistic gratitude of the divine nature, beholding the True Light and receiving the Heavenly Spirit who gives Himself to us in the love and mercy of God by which all of creation was raised up from non-existence into being and established so that it shall never be moved in the principle of divine love and mercy.

According to the Scripture lessons we’ve been reading this week, the Law of God that governs the Church can be discerned in nature itself and in the human conscience, as St Paul teaches in his epistle to the Romans: “Ever since the creation of the world God’s invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.”[1] And, “When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them.”[2] This Law of God written in nature and on the conscience of man is the Law of love and mercy and compassion, humility and goodness, which every human creature knows intuitively and immediately.

But here I would have you notice that the Law of God written in nature and in the heart of man is not itself the goal of nature. It directs us beyond nature to a Life that is higher than the soul life of our body or our mind. It is directing us to the Life of the Holy Spirit. In other words, alive in the soul we are not yet alive in God. When we follow the Law of God we are not yet living in God; we are preparing ourselves to receive God and to be made alive in His Holy Spirit. To live in God is natural to the soul, as you can prove to yourself by considering that what you desire most deeply and intuitively is to live in love, in mercy, in compassion, in joy and in peace – the attributes of divine life. When we are not living in these divine attributes, we become darkened, heavy, cynical, bitter and despairing – the attributes not of life but of death.

In the love of God, Christ, the Son of God, who is Himself the Love and the Wisdom of God, the Way, the Truth, the Life and the Resurrection, has descended and ascended, and united earth to heaven so that the gates to heaven that before were shut are now wide open and all who wish to may ascend with Christ to the Father and realize the deepest desires and longings of the human heart, which is to live eternally in the immortal love of God, so that we are healed in soul and body, and our human nature, body, mind and soul becomes the living temple of God, our heart, our personal center, becomes the bridal chamber, the sacred place where we are united with God and are born from above as children of God, communicants of life eternal, partakers of the divine nature.

It is important for people to hear this proclamation of the Church, that their intuitive sense of love and goodness is the natural revelation of the ever-existing God to them, so that they learn not to believe the lie of the serpent that they are just cosmic accidents who exist purely by chance. They need to know that this life we received from our mother and father is more than eating and drinking and making merry - that we were not born to die. We were born to seek after God and ascend beyond nature and into the realm of the Spirit. People need to know this, and they need to take it to heart so that they will live this earthly life as it should be lived, in the way St Paul teaches: to be patient in well-doing; for this is how we seek after the glory and the honor and the immortality that are in the Life of the Holy Spirit,[3] the life that is higher than the life of the soul, higher than the family or human society and in which alone the life of the soul truly lives in the love, joy and peace of God that surpasses understanding.

Now, beloved faithful, you have received this Life of God, the Holy Spirit not from your father and mother but in the mysteries, the sacraments of the Church. The spiritual depths of your heart have been opened and the Way to Heaven, which is Christ, whom your soul hungers and thirsts for, has been revealed to you.  For your own sake, and for the sake of those around you, such as your family, you must obey the call of God that has come to you in the Church, in the crucified and risen body of Christ. You must obey that call not only to save your own souls, but so that the Light of the Fire of the Holy Spirit that now shines in the dark depths of your heart might radiate outward and soak your body, your mind and your soul with the Living Waters of Christ’s Holy Spirit, so that you can become a light in Christ that shines for all to see with the love of God that the world hungers and thirsts for. We are called in other words to become saints: martyrs, witnesses, to the eternal life of God that is in Christ Jesus who is Himself the very Love and Wisdom of God.

St Paul in our Scripture lessons this last week tells us how we activate the seed of the Holy Spirit sown in our soul through the mysteries of the Church: “Let no one deceive you with empty words. It is because of filthiness, silly talk, fornication and impurity, covetousness that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Do not associate with them. For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light. The fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Strive to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless deeds of darkness. But awake and rise up from the dead and let Christ give you light. Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time because the days are evil. Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine for that is debauchery but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father, and be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”[4]

This is a prescription for living the Life of the Holy Spirit you have received in the Church. Living in the world, we live in darkness and in death. Living according to the Way of the Church, we live in the world as lights shining in the Light of Christ who shines in the darkness to reveal the Way to Heaven and to the love, joy and peace of God’s Holy Spirit, which every human soul hungers and thirsts for. Let’s not waste our time here on earth by giving ourselves to empty words and frivolous pursuits. We need to make the most of the time, by taking up the disciplines of the Church in order to train our heart and our mind on the spiritual task of nurturing the Seed of the Holy Spirit who has been sown in the ground of our soul in our Baptism and whom we receive in Holy Eucharist, and of growing in the love, the joy, the peace and the goodness of the Holy Spirit, that we may realize our destiny and our call as Christians to be martyrs, witnesses in Samaria, Judea and all the ends of the earth through our words and our deeds to the love, the joy and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding in the Light and Life of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

[1] Romans 1:20

[2] Romans 2:14-15

[3] Romans 2:7

[4] Eph 5:6-21