As we prepare for our annual Thanksgiving Feast this week, we are called to see the gifts given to us by God not for our own use only, but for those who are in need. Rather than spending a life of greed and hoarding our gifts just for our own use, we should have a life of gratitude. We must reconfigure the idea of Thanksgiving as a day for us to be generous to those who are struggling and life a life of gratitude.
When confronted with the question, “What do I must do to have eternal life,” Christ challenges the lawyer to answer the question for himself? Realizing the lawyer had been caught, He again tries to trap Jesus. “And who is my neighbor?” Christ offers the Parable of the Good Samaritan. After realizing that the Samaritan was the example for eternal life, Christ says, “Go and do likewise.” If we want to have eternal life, we must learn to love as the Samaritan loves.
Each of us have received special gifts from God, not for us to keep to ourselves, but to help others. In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, we learn what happens when we horde our blessings for our selfish desires. The time has come for us as Christians to become unmercenaries and offer our gifts and talents to others without charge. Whether are doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers etc., when we offer our gifts to those in need, we will become known like Saints Cosmas and Damian the Unmercenary Doctors.
In the single story of the healing of the man with legion demons, we are blessed with three life lessons. First, when we feel that we are totally consumed and overwhelmed by the struggles and temptations of life, we can always find enough power to come to Christ for healing. Second, although demons are in fact real, they have no power over us unless God Himself or we give them power. Third and finally, we learn that God does His work and blesses others through our offerings. When we embrace these three life lessons, we receive God’s blessings.
As we learn in the Parable of the Sower found in Luke 8.5-15, we are told that God is the Sower and the Seed in the Word of God. We are told that sometimes we hear the word of God when our hearts are too hard to accept His Word, and the demons come and steal it away. We are told that sometimes our hearts are like the rocks or the thorns, and we hear the Word of God but never bear fruit because of the struggles and temptation and pleasures of life.
As Christians living in the world, we must understand that God has given us His expectation on how we are live with others. In the so-called “Golden Rule” we learn, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise,” (Luke 6.31) God makes is quite clear that we are do good expecting nothing in return because even sinners do good expecting good in return. God loves us, He blesses us, He forgives us, whether we or not we deserve it. The least we can do is the same, if we want others to love us and be kind to us, and pray for us.
Every Christian is called by God at any moment to be ready and willing to follow Him, and to go where He calls. God expects us to be both physically and spiritually ready to accept the calling of God. In the Gospel of Luke (Luke 5.1-11), as we hear Christ calling a few simple fishermen to become His disciples, we are reminded that when we live our life reading the Holy Scriptures and waiting for Christ, when He calls us, we will be ready and willing to following Him, and God will use our willingness to bring others to Christ. The disciples were not perfect. They were not well educated.
When Christ invites us into heaven He says, “Whoever desires to follow Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me.” This invitation can only be accepted when we are willing to deny ourselves, or as we would say in our contemporary language, we must get over ourselves. Our American way of life teaches us the lie that we can do, have, and be whatever we want. In truth, we cannot have anything just because we desire it. We will never take up our cross, and therefore never enter heaven until we get over ourselves. It is the life of the Cross.
The past six months have been quite a struggle for us, both our Cathedral Community, and for us as citizens in general. Whether we agree with one side or the other about the proper precautions and safety measures put in place by the Church, or our local, State and Federal governments, one thing is certain; we have been forced to place the needs of others before our own.
Arguably the most popular scripture passage quoted at a sporting event reminds us of God’s love. John 3.16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life,” isn’t just a teaching about how much God loves us, but how much He wants us to love others. Even though we do not live up to the standards God has established for, and though we are not worthy of His love, STILL God endured the Cross so that we could live. Today God is calling us to love others in the same way He loves us.