[This homily was given at a mission Vespers service in St. Francisville, LA, approximately one hour from McComb. Pray that the Lord God bless this endeavor to share His Holy Church with those who are seeking.]
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be! In the Orthodox Christian Church, on each day of the year we celebrate the memory of particular Saints or significant events in the life of the Church, in salvation history. Some traditions see this remembrance as very curious, or even abberent—they feel that we focus too much attention on the lives of the Saints. But in the Orthodox mindset, all of these Saints we remember, all of the events that we celebrate, this is all meant to point us to Christ. This is significant enough to mention because it tells us a lot about the way the Orthodox Church views our life as Christians in Christ. Christ comes to offer mankind a share in the life of God. He comes to offer us salvation, complete healing and restoration to a relationship with our Creator. This is our goal. All of the Saints share in the life of God. All of the Saints are an important example for us, because their life is the image of this life in Christ. They live the fullness of Christian life as we are called to live it, of human existence. And in living it, they reveal Christ to us. As a person draws nearer to Christ, as he buries the old man and is clothed in the new, then the mind of Christ is born in him. As St. Paul says, “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.” A Saint is filled with the Spirit of God; he or she lives the way that human beings were created to live. This reality reveals to us that we also can live the way that Christ calls us to. It seems very difficult, impossible, to live this life of total dedication to the will of God in the world today, but as the Scriptures say—“I can do all things through Christ Who strengtheneth me.” Everything in the Christian Church must point us to Christ, like the lives of the Saints do, and if we do anything that doesn’t reveal the Word of God to man, then it doesn’t belong in the Church.And this is a very important point made real to us today in the life of the Holy Prophet Hosea, whose memory the Church celebrates today. In the life of Hosea we read: “The Holy Prophet Hosea, the first of the minor prophets, belonged to the tribe of Issachar. He lived during the ninth Century (900 years) before Christ, in the kingdom of Israel. He was a contemporary of the holy Prophets Isaiah, Micah and Amos. During this time, many of his fellow Israelites had forgotten the true God, and worshipped idols. The holy Prophet Hosea attempted to turn them again to the faith of their Fathers by his wise and God-inspired counsels. Denouncing the iniquities of the people of Israel, the prophet proclaimed to them great misfortunes from a foreign people and their removal into captivity by Assyria.” Hosea called the people of God to abandon idol worship and return to the worship of the true God. In other words, he called the people to repent from the way of the world, from the way that the fallen and sinful world lived, and to adopt the way of the Lord in their lives. The people of God had lost sight of their God, and turned their attention to other, false gods. The Christian Church is constantly in a battle that parallels the work of Hosea. We are to be constantly calling the fallen and sinful world to something that is higher. We are to be constantly revealing the way of Christ to the world. So we’re to preach the Gospel, to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with all mankind. Christ came into the world to redeem mankind, to offer us completion. But this requires something of us—that we live lives that are well pleasing to God. As XC said, If you love Me, you will keep my commandments. We’re to become, in every sense of the word, followers, even slaves, the Bible tells us we’re slaves of Christ. The Church cannnot adopt the ways of the world and remain the Church founded by Jesus Christ—this was what Hosea had to reveal to Israel. When you belong to God, when you are set aside as the handiwork of the Creator, you have to do the things of God. You belong to another, and His ways are now to be our ways. We aren’t at liberty to bless the ways of the world. We don’t have the freedom to change the laws of God to suit the trends of life that are going on around us. There is absolute truth—Christ said I am the way the truth and the life. And the ways of God are never-changing. And to call ourselves Christian, we must be followers of the way of Christ. As the Orthodox Christian Church, the Body of Christ, our presence in the world is to call those who are lost in sin to God. And for those who have strayed from the path of total dedication to the will of the Creator, the witness of the Orthodox Church in the world is a reminder of what Christians are called to be, a calling back. We’re not to be blown about by the winds of change, we’re not to compromise in any way the deposit of the faith given to us by Christ and His holy Apostles. Christ guarantees that His followers will be mocked by the world, and it’s becoming very easy in modern America to see some of the reasons why. May we be strengthened in this walk during the struggles of our modern era by Christ our True God. To Him belong all glory, honour, and worship, with His Father Who is without beginning, and His all-holy good and life giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages Amen.