10 May 2015

Homily for the Woman at the Well 2015

            The whole of the Christian life consists of these two parts: to do the will of God, and to suffer for his sake.  Consider the life of our Lord Jesus Christ himself. He who is God, the giver of the Law, submitted himself to the Law for our sake. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law,” he told his disciples. “I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” And having kept the Law in its fullness, he willingly suffered its penalty for us and for our salvation. The wages of sin is death, but he gave himself as a ransom to death, in order to give us life.
            Consider also the Theotokos. When God revealed through Gabriel that she would bear his Son, she said, “Let it be to me according to your word.” And when her spotless Son was led to the tree, the words of Simeon were fulfilled, “A sword will pierce your own heart too.”
            Indeed, these two things have marked the lives of all the saints, from the beginning of the world till now: they did the will of God, and suffered for Christ’s sake.
            I bring this up, beloved, because at the heart of today’s gospel the Lord says something very strange: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”
            Now normally we think of food as something that gives us energy to work, or as a reward after we’ve done work. But here Christ says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me.”
            How often, in my Christian life, do I say to myself, “As soon as I feel strong enough…as soon as my basic needs are met…as soon as I’ve got life going the way I want it to….then I’ll willingly do God’s will and gladly suffer hardship for Christ’s sake.” Day follows day, week follows week, and I’m still stuck in the same ruts, struggling with the same sins, getting older but no better, slipping into despair. Does this describe you, too?
            If so, maybe we have it backwards. Maybe we will find the meaning and satisfaction and purpose we so desperately long for, not by feeding our passions and focusing on our own desires, but by finding our delight, as Christ does, in doing the will of God and suffering for his sake.
            For the past month or so, I have been so caught up with preparations for our trip, and finishing the semester, that I’ve neglected my normal habit of walking a couple of miles a day. And how has that been working for me? I have less strength, less motivation, and have gotten less done.
            What’s true physically is also true spiritually. When things happen and my first question is, “How does this fit in with what I want?”—I inevitably get frustrated and angry and despair.            But when I learn to pray from the heart, “Thy will be done,” and embrace the things that come as from the hand of a Lord who so loved me that he embraced death for me—then I learn to live in peace and joy.

            My friends, Khouria and I will be away for much of the next three months. May I offer a challenge to you? Meditate on these strange words of Christ, and apply them to all that comes your way. Don’t desire that things go your way, according to your will; but embrace what happens as an expression of his will. When Christ kept these words, when he obeyed and suffered, it meant life for you and me. When we embrace them for ourselves, think what joy it will bring for us, and what life in Christ for others!

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