The coming of the New Year in the Liturgical Calendar typically brings about homilies written by priests about various “New Year’s Resolutions” that we can implement in our spiritual lives in order to draw near to Christ. This year (as luck would have it) on this first Sunday of September* we are given 5 God Inspired Words of Wisdom from St. Paul at the end of his Letter to the Corinthians, which are addressed to all Christians…not only from his time, but throughout all of the ages and centuries.
We have been dealing with a lot this past year, ranging from a worldwide pandemic, to political infighting, to other bad pieces of news that have been cropping upon a weekly basis. I would argue, that if we kept St. Paul’s 5 directives in our hearts, in our minds, and at the for-front of EVERYTHING that we do this year, we would become (and I love this word because it carries a powerful connotation with it) INVINCIBLE to the World. No Life Stress would bring us down. No disease would cause us panic. No bad news would affect us. No persecution would destroy our faith. No natural or manmade disaster could shake us. No Government could topple us. Literally NOTHING could destroy us, if we keep the following resolutions.
1.) St. Paul tells us to be watchful.
We want to become invincible? The first step is to be watchful of what kinds of poison we let seep into our souls, our hearts, and our minds.
There is a beautiful quote from St. Hesychius of Jerusalem who says: “Just as it is impossible to live this life without eating or drinking, so it is impossible for the soul to achieve anything spiritual and in accordance with God’s will, without guarding the intellect and purity of heart…”
St. Paul, St. Hesychius, and so many others who have succeeded in conquering the world by becoming invincible to it, have all said the same thing. We have to be on guard and watchful of the poisons that we allow to seep into our heart. Bad news, political infighting, inappropriate television shows and movies, situations that lead to arguments, whatever it is that leads the passions to become enflamed within us…now is the time to walk away.
2.) St. Paul says to Stand Firm in our Faith.
We put our faith and trust in a lot of things these days. This past week, I made a deposit at my bank, putting my trust in them that the money would still be there when I need it. None of us probably woke up today worried that our cell phones wouldn’t work, because we put our faith in the fact that the towers will all be working. We put our faith in the electric companies this morning, knowing that they will provide electricity so we can take a hot shower and get ready to come to Church.
What happens when these things that we put our unyielding faith in fail? When we lose power…we panic. When we lose or drop calls…we feel uneasy. When there is a run on the bank…the world is thrown into chaos. Why is it, that we put our unyielding trust and faith in man made things that fail…and can’t put that same kind of faith in Christ?
True Faith in God is something that can never fail us. There are those who don’t put their faith in things they cannot see…and to those people, the Church says: “Open Your Eyes dear ones!”.
Look at the results of His works in our lives! Even this very moment, you are reading an article written by a simple village priest about the spiritual life. Do you realize how many millions or tiny miracles that are happening for you to be able to do that?
God has a better track record than the electric companies. He is more reliable than our cell phone service. He is far and away beyond the scientific community, who has been and always will be unable to comprehend His magnificence and His hands in the world. No matter what happens in life, we have to stand firm in our Faith…and make it as natural as trusting that the lights will go on in our homes.
3 and 4.) St. Paul Says to be Courageous and be Strong.
I put these two together, because there are times when it takes courage to have faith, especially living in a society where faith in God has been replaced by so many other, less reliable things. We have to have the courage to put our faith and our lives completely into the hands of God, and it takes God Given strength to navigate a difficult situation and say “Thy Will be Done” (especially living in a country that often pushes “My Will Be Done.)
5.) St. Paul says “Let All You Do Be Done in Love”.
EVERYTHING that we do needs to be done in Love for God FIRST…and then love for one another second. We show love for God, by making commitments to ourselves to not put him second in our lives as we are so often tempted to do. A wonderful example of this is the 12 major feast days of the Church, coupled with the Major Feast Day…the Mini Pascha that occurs every Sunday morning. Given that some of those feasts fall on a Sunday, that is around 60 opportunities this coming year to put Him FIRST…to put the Mystical Supper with God FIRST…to schedule our vacations and our fun activities around our unyielding Love for HIM (That also, by the way, takes courage and strength)!
Second, we show love for one another in everything we do. One real example that I will continue to preach on as we get closer to November in this country, is that if we want to discuss politics, make those conversations with people planted in Love for them. If we get angry when we see things on facebook, or upset when we hear about politics in the news, that is probably not a good sign that we can (in that moment) come up with a response planted in love.
If we can’t have conversations that are rooted in love for the person we are talking to, and I mean truly rooted not just with words, but from our hearts, then it is best not to poison our souls, or theirs, with our words.
Watchfulness, firmness in faith, courage, strength, and love. These are the five directives from St. Paul, that if we dedicate our entire lives to implementing them, we would truly be INVINCIBLE to the cunning attacks of the deceiver. As we begin this New Liturgical Year, may our Lord Grant them to us, and to all those whom we Love!
*The New Liturgical Year falls on September 1 according to the Revised Julian Calendar and on September 14 according to the Julian Calendar, which Russian Orthodox Church follows.