The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (4:18-23)
At that time, as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
And He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.
The fruit of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is now evident. Last Sunday we celebrated all the saints who were well pleasing to God in every generation, known and unknown. This is the fruit of the Holy Spirit being sown in the Church. This celebration continues today with a focus closer to home, on the Saints of North America.
The people of the ancient Church have evangelized the world. The original Orthodox Christian countries have brought the Word of God to the New World. The fruit of Pentecost has landed on our shores and we are the ones who have benefited from the hard work and sacrifice of the saints who came here.
In the Gospel reading today we hear the call of Jesus to two brothers, Peter and Andrew, what did the Lord say to them, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.
And He did. There words have gone out into all the world and their light to the end of the Earth. Even to North America.
They are examples of holy living. They show us the way.
Have you read the lives of any of the North American saints? St. Innocent? St. Herman? St. Yakov?
Do you wonder how to make an impact on America today? On your neighbors? Read about them. Let them teach you. How about St. Raphael? St. Tikhon?
We have relics in our parish. Did you know that?
One is right there on the wall. In that icon of St. Tikhon.
The other relic is in the altar table. A relic of St. Herman in embedded in the altar table and is sewn into the antimension on the altar. They witness to us, they call to us to imitate their lives.
Peter, Andrew, James and John have all come from the NT to us in the saints down through the ages through the Church. They have brought us Jesus. They have brought the Holy Orthodox Faith to this land.
Nancy and I lived almost 14 years in the holy land of Alaska. A land where saints walked, lived, taught and healed. We could easily visit the places where these saints had done Apostolic work. Just a short drive away was a church established by St. Juvenaly in the late 1700’s.
Then we moved to another holy land, Pennsylvania, where other saints lived, taught and healed.
Did you know that every single day of the year since the early 1900’s St. Tikhon’s Monastery in PA has served a divine Liturgy? Every single day.
Five canonized saints lived, walked, and prayed there.
- Saint Tikhon of Moscow (1865–1925)
- Saint Raphael of Brooklyn (1860–1915)
- Saint Alexis of Wilkes-Barre (1854–1909)
- Saint Nikolai of Zicha (1881–1956)
- Saint Alexander Hotovitsky (1872–1937)
And now we are in Florida desiring to make Florida a holy land as well. Who from Florida will be canonized?
What is that going to take? How will Florida become a holy land where saints lived, worked, grew the Church, died, taught, healed, evangelized? How will this happen?
With people like us who are truly committed to living holy lives, imitating Christ.
This is really why we are here.
Today we are again invited to rededicate our lives and our hearts to following Jesus Christ wherever He will lead us.
What am I missing, why am I not transformed into a saint?
Maybe what I am missing is decisive action.
He asked the disciples to follow Him and they immediately left everything.
IT might be that we suffer from the most common ailment of Christians.
We are so easily weighed down with the world, the problems, our own weaknesses. Our analysis of our own spiritual progress, by which we always end up discouraged and just kind of live lives of mediocrity.
What do I mean by distraction? Too much focus on things that are passing away. Things that aren’t eternal, things we have no control over.
By focusing on these things we don’t put enough effort into the things we do have control over, especially the things that are eternal.
We don’t truly trust God. We don’t truly thank God. We don’t actually live in faith, hope and love.
Let me give you a recent example.
This past Friday was the birthday of St. John the Baptist. June 24.
It was also the day that it was confirmed that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe V Wade.
We kinda new this was coming, it was leaked in advance, but the reality was kind of a shock. It really happened.
For 50 years people were led to believe that killing a baby in the womb was ok. For 50 years people have been thinking that it was all about “my body, my choice.”
For 50 years we have wondered about this ruling and what it means. I guess I had lost hope that it would be overturned in my lifetime.
But today we rejoice that this cloud of idolatry has been lifted.
The court determined that the constitution does not protect a supposed right to abortion. It determined that 50 years ago the court was wrong. In a similar way that it overturned Brown v. Board of Education that gave a right to racial discrimination.
This is a long overdue correction to a bad decision.
The Church of Jesus Christ has always been pro-life. It has always condemned Roe V Wade. We have been fighting for this to be overturned for so long but it seemed the entire country was in favor of it. Polls said this.
Many of us have family members who agree with a private right to abortion.
But today we rejoice that life will be protected. We rejoice that God has prevailed in our land. That He has not turned us entirely over to judgment.
We rejoice that the prayers of the saints have had an effect.
God will not abandon His people.
But I was without hope. I had no faith in this area. I failed to keep the correct, holy, view of God. I have been so saddened by some many events of the past few years. By the division, the isolation, the anger. I am tired of the constant focus on negativity. I have been fighting this for a long time. It is so easy to be distracted by this and believe the predominant narrative.
Now I see more clearly that I have a need for a fresh perspective, I will to repent of this failing.
I need the example of the saints to steer me on the narrow way that leads to life. We are not unique. The saints of God have lived through similar times and remained faithful. Consider the way life was when John the Baptist was born, Herod was killing all the children in the area under the age of 3. His mother, Elizabeth had to flee to a cave in the desert with her baby to keep him alive. Zacharias, the father of John had already been martyred in the temple. Elizabeth was all alone with a baby. This is why John the Baptist lived in the desert. He was raised there to escape being murdered.
Today as we recall their courage, their faith, their hope in God; we are spurned on to love and good deeds, we are renewed in our desire for Christ.
We respond again to His call to follow Him, we commit ourselves to be faithful in becoming fishers of men. The devil has no power. All he can do is accuse, deceive, distract, lie, cheat, steal, devoir.
We will not be discouraged. We will not allow ourselves to be distracted from our high calling. We will not allow the world to pollute us.
Life comes from Christ alone. Follow Him and let’s all become fishers of