Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance Sunday

Today we were truly blessed. Both Masses were offered for all those who have fallen in conflicts and for peace. Roger preached movingly at the early Mass while Fr Dimitry from the Archdiocese of Vienna was our preacher for the Sung Mass. His powerful words can be found here.

We were joined by Seminarian James Bradley who came to meet the congregation for the first time today after his curacy was announced last week.

A young man from our congregation who recently served in Afghanistan was with us and led our Act of Remembrance.

We give thanks for the ministry here at St John’s and our common witness. We give thanks for the links with Philokalia and for Fr Martirii and Fr Dimitry our dear friends.

We give thanks for the generosity of young men who give their lives over to Christ with joy. Please keep James in your prayers as he finishes his time in Seminary and prepares to serve among us.

We give thanks for those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom and well-being – we will remember them and we will pray for those who are serving in very dangerous places.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!

Dear Fr. Ivan, dear friend, dear brothers and sisters!

After 10 years I am happy indeed to have the opportunity of being here again. And it is good to know that I am welcome and have friends here who care about me. After so many years, that’s not something that can automatically be taken for granted.

It is a special joy for me that Fr. Ivan as St. John’s new priest wished to continue this friendship which began in Moscow over 15 years ago.

I think we could make it 15 years more.

Well now, a few words about today’s Gospel. The reading for today offers us two big themes: repenting, in the sense of turning back, and following...

At the beginning of his public ministry in his Galilean homeland Jesus uttered this heartening cry: “The Kingdom of God is at hand ! “. These were words full of expectation: God will finally establish a state of righteousness and peace. In our day too this yearning has not lost its topicality. So many people earnestly long for the arrival of this time, and it is truly a scandal when we realise that in our Christian Europe there are people who are not only poor but have to go hungry, and that repeated wars and terror are ever with us.

Yet Jesus shows us a different way, how things could be, whilst also making it clear to us that without our collaboration it will not work. It is not major political upheavals that can bring it about but rather the personal repentance and faith of each individual.

“Repent ye, turn back and believe in the Gospel !” -- this is the condensed essence of Jesus’s message and a warning to each one of us. These are two sides of the same coin: the turning away from evil and towards God. If these two elements come together, then that is where peace and justice can grow. And where we put our trust in God anew, that is where the Kingdom of God grows and through us gains ground in this world.

Once I was asked:“What exactly does it mean to repent & turn back ?” My reply was: “Turning back begins if one honestly admits that one has strayed from the right path”. By this I mean that on our spiritual journey we need repeatedly to check our course and align ourselves with Christ. It’s rather like having a satnav which is constantly sending out signals to the satellite to determine the right course, even when we find ourselves in unknown territory. Our task is in this way to set the right objective.

So repentance could be an instrument through which God guides us and renews our hearts. And the right the time for all this is not tomorrow, not when we reach the end of our studies or start drawing our pension. The right time is today, here and now !

How this may happen in reality can be found in the two descriptions of Jesus’s calling of the first disciples in today’s Gospel. “Come ye after me !” These are His actual words. Jesus does not clarify much, nor does he negotiate (about details). He calls for a direct decision. And the disciples go along with Jesus, ready to follow him into a completely uncertain future. This is their challenge, a choice called “Jesus”.

How astonishing this reaction of the first disciples is - without further thought just to leave everything that had so far made up their lives as it stood. Trust on that scale is astounding. And the little word “straightaway” here is so significant too.

Every calling is an interplay of God’s call and man’s decision. Each day we have to decide for Christ afresh. So many things in our world deflect us and deceive us on life’s road. Despite our own mistakes, whenever we fall we need each time to pick ourselves up and continue our journey towards God. And precisely in that standing up when we fall is our holiness.

And this can only succeed if we let go and shed any ballast. It can often be painful to set aside our habits and little comforts and put ourselves at others’ disposal. But this is the only way to make a new start. And if we know who it is who is calling us and whom we can trust in taking this path, then we are truly taking a step into a new life.

God calls everyone right where he or she is. That is exactly where he wants to bring healing and salvation !

Jesus called the first disciples by the sea-shore. That is where they lived and worked. So the sea-shore for the fishermen meant their workplace, and their everyday occupation. And also today Jesus seeks and finds ordinary people, each in their own setting - He would be delighted to use every one of us in the place where we live, just where we are.

Naturally to the Gospel belong also messengers. For Jesus will not work without people, without those who are among his followers and cast their nets in His name.

And it is not crucial whether I follow Him as an ordained priest or as the father of a family, but that I do so with total self-dedication and that my entire heart belongs to Him [and through Him to other people].

Here we could ask ourselves the crucial question: Are there areas of my life where I turn my back on God ? Am I prepared to let Him into them so that he can transform them and pervade my whole life ? Do I trust Him so much that I can surrender my life to Him ?

God calls us into communion with Him. He wants to be our travelling companion on life’s journey. And this is possible in every life situation. This communion has as its goal the transformation of what is here and not the destruction of what already exists.

This offering of closeness to God remains open to everyone to this day. Nobody is debarred from this offering of salvation. Indeed it is offered especially to all those who are troubled and are heavy-laden. What we have to do is just respond and trustingly say “Yes”.

God’s call, the calling of each of us individually, cannot cease even with our death. For God has designed us for eternity. Every earthly happiness, however great it may be, is always ultimately too small for us because Man always wants more. And this craving only God can satisfy.

This ultimate bliss – of being in God’s presence – is what we wish also for our dear departed. And today, on this remembrance Sunday, especially for those who fell in two World Wars.

May they find their peace in God. Amen

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on getting the seminarian.