During this unique season of Great Lent this year, because of the threat of the Coronavirus (COVID19), the Church has asked us to stay home. The Church has asked us to not come to Church during some of the most holy days of the year. This goes against our normal thinking, but for the good of our neighbors and society in general, we must stay away from the Church. Christ invites us, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” When we are obedient to our Church Fathers and leaders, we learn to sacrifice our will. Only after we learn to sacrifice our will, will be able to take up our cross. When we learn to be obedient to the Church, we learn to be obedient to God. Even Christ welcomed the cross because He loved us. When we sacrifice our will for God, we show our love for Him.
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Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Be Transfigured, where we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We pray that this episode is a blessing to you and will inspire you to rededicate your life to Jesus Christ. We invite you to join us for worship or study at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida, where visitors are always welcome. We'll be back in a few moments to share some more information about our ministry.
This morning's liturgy is not what we expected it to be. We expected that we would be able to come, as is our tradition, and fill the church, and to be able to come and venerate the Cross, to come and venerate the Holy cross of Christ. Today is not exactly as we would have imagined it could be. There's just a few of us allowed in the church. Most of our people are watching on the internet. And so it occurred to me how appropriate this morning's gospel actually is for our current situation.
The gospel begins first and foremost as a free will invitation from God. And Christ says, "Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." Whoever desires God. God does not force anyone to follow. That is number one. Number two, Christ says, "Let him deny himself. And we have been asked by our church fathers, our hierarchs, our bishops, our archbishops, our patriarch, we have been asked to refrain from coming to church in large groups and we have had to give something up. We have had to sacrifice our own will in order to be obedient to the church.
So where does this fall in Christ's invitation to deny ourselves? You see, my brothers and sisters, life in the church is about learning to get over our own preoccupation. Life in the church, if we're going to follow Christ, first and foremost, we must be willing to give up our own interpretation of God's truth. We must be willing to give up our will to God.
And so the entire life of the church is designed to help us in that struggle. And it is absolutely a struggle. I'm here to tell you I struggle each and every day to fight against my own ego. I would have no better joy than to be able to have very different rules in our world. But I'm not God. I'm just a priest. And this Lenten journey, if we choose to accept it, especially this year, will help us learn how to deny ourselves. Learn how to realize that we can't always have everything that we want, how we want it, when we want it. Life's just not that simple.
And the third thing that Christ says is take up his cross. Brothers and sisters, the Christian life is the way of the cross. It is a life of pain and struggle, but we will never be willing... Remember Christ says, "Whoever desires to come after me." We will never fully be willing to embrace the cross of the Christian life so long as we continue to worry about ourselves. Because the cross means struggle. The cross means the way of pain. And we're not going to willingly take pain or willingly take suffering until we're willing to get over ourselves. And so today the church offers us the cross as a reminder of Christ's sacrifice for us, but also our willingness to sacrifice for him. The world is going to continue fighting us.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, maybe it was last week, it's all kind of running together now, to be honest. We received many hateful messages a couple of weeks ago when I very publicly told the world that you couldn't get sick from Holy Communion. And when I say very hateful, very hateful comments on the internet that we actually had to report to the authorities. Only and simply because I said you can't get sick from Holy communion. The world is going to fight against us. Are we ready for that fight? Christ's invitation, my brothers and sisters is, we will never welcome that fight so long as we're still trying to get everything our own way.
And so I invite you, allow the Holy spirit to guide the church. And through our bishops and our church fathers, let's learn to be obedient to the church so we can learn to be obedient to God. And if the church tells us something is for our safety, then we can trust the church. That doesn't mean that individuals are always perfect. I am the furthest thing from perfect. But I struggle every day, and I invite you, my brothers and sisters to embrace and welcome the struggle of the cross.
Yes, life is different right now because of this virus. We just finished spring break and now life's really going to get different because the kids aren't going back to school yet. Some of our businesses are already struggling because people cannot go out easily and patronize a lot of the businesses that our own parishioners own. Life is going to get very difficult very quickly, but God is going to get us through it. But he'll only help us if we allow him to.
And my brothers and sisters, the blessings that come from obedience to God, the blessings that come from being willing and able to endure the struggle... Christ says, "For what will the profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" If we're willing to give up the worldly life, and we may be forced to give it up sooner than we think in our society because of this particular virus, how are we going to openly follow Christ if we're still panicked about our 401ks and the stock market? How are we going to open our hearts to God if we're so preoccupied with the secular comforts of life that are going to be slowly eaten away in this crisis, if not for our willingness to trust God? And if not for our willingness to make him an internal part of our life.
So our great Lenten journey, my brothers and sisters, has changed dramatically this year. We are no longer just going through the motions of Great Lent. We are praying like we've never prayed before. We are fasting, or at least we should fast to the best of our ability to honor God and to honor our sacrifice. And more than ever, people are going to need our help. And for those of us who have the ability to help others in this current struggle, they're going to depend upon us. Our brothers and sisters and complete strangers are going to depend upon our willingness to struggle together.
And as Saint John Chrysostom says, "He who fasts learns how not to want. He who does not want, learns how to give to others." That's what our great Lenten journey has turned into, loving each other and loving others enough to keep at a distance until this virus is under control. Never give up hope in God, but know that the struggle is upon us, and know that God will get us through because he is great, and he is the life, and he is the King of Kings. And even he took up his cross. That's the least we can do for him. Glory to God for all things.
Be Transfigured is a production of Be Transfigured Ministries in cooperation with the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Tarpon Springs, Florida. We depend upon your generosity to maintain our ministry. You can make a safe online donation when you visit our website, LiveANewLifeInChrist.org.