The Theotokos – the Birthgiver of Christ – sustains our life. Her life speaks of the fruits of prayer. How can we really pray? We don't really know how until we are pushed to a point where nobody else can help us. Then we turn to God.
The Mother of God’s parents, Joachim and Anna, were pious people who endured gossip and slander – their childlessness was seen as an absence of God’s blessings. Nothing could be more beneficial for us than dishonour! It is the only thing that can cure us of vainglory and does miracles for our soul. Sure, we will be indignant, but if we endure slander with patience as did Joachim and Anna, we will surely grow.
It is only in humility that we are opened up to the grace of God. When we are self-righteous with our fists up, we can’t communicate with God, nor our neighbours.
Ever wondered what the parable of the evil workers in the vineyard refers to? The story goes that the master left his workers, he then sent messengers to them to check in and the workers killed the messengers. Finally, the master of the vineyard sent his son, who was also duly killed. Christ was not just taking aim at his contemporary enemies here who sought to kill Him - the Son; he was speaking to all of humanity.
The prophets were sent to instruct Israel and look at Isaiah – the ‘Evangelist’ of the Old Testament was cut in half with a wooden saw.
But how are these messengers relevant to us today – how is it also the story for all of humanity?
The messengers could be thought of as our good thoughts sent by God to our conscience. The evil workers are our passions which resist our conscience.
Father Nicholas ends the sermon by asking what would the master of the vineyard (God) do when he comes back? We have to answer for what we have said, done and thought.
In this sermon, Father Nicholas discusses how for the Christian, spiritual freedom is liberation from our passions. The Church – the Kingdom of Christ that is freedom. How?
Christ offers the rich young man the option of selling everything he has and giving the proceeds to the poor. The young man baulks at this because of his enslavement to his material wealth. There are many rich people in both the Old and New Testament, however none of them were told to do this by God because they were not enslaved.
In contemporary society, freedom is “when I can do what I want to do” and of course, money is helpful to achieve these ends.
The Kingdom of heaven belongs to people with the heart of a child. Adults are fraught with passions… pride, alienation, selfishness. Other passions develop to protect our carnal self – our so-called ‘freedom’ to do what we want – acquisitiveness, sensuality, love of money, vainglory. Christ offers us the option to walk away from these.
Freedom FOR passions vs. freedom FROM passions
In this sermon, Father Nicholas Karipoff talks about how hard it is, but very necessary, to forgive and love our enemies and to follow Christ’s example as He was being nailed to the Cross when He said “Father, forgive them for they know now what they do”. If we cannot do this, how can we call ourselves Christian?
This call to repentance is how Christ began His ministry, echoing the words of the Forerunner St John the Baptist “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”, and He ended it on earth with words about forgiveness. Why else would our Lord say in the model prayer “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” if this wasn’t so important to God?
God, in His bountiful mercy, sends blessings to those who can pray for their enemies with their whole heart, and only He can transform our hearts so that we are more like Him.
“There is nothing more pleasing to God than prayer for our enemies and forgiveness...praying for the person who hurt you with all your heart, and then you’ll see how God reacts”.
Sermons given by our parish priests, recorded by Jonathan Page.