Sr. Cecelia Harvey

Our Lady of the Sign,
Communities of New Skete

Homily for June 18th Ro  1:7-12,  Mt. 5:42-48

During this past year we at New Skete have been charged with examining our mission statement. Is there a need to improve it?  It states: Our vocation as Eastern Orthodox monastics, united in interactive communities,is to grow in the likeness of Christ through a vowed life and to embody and express Christ’s love and message for all seekers in a manner responsive to contemporary needs and faithful to the prophetic spirit of the earliest Christian communities. 

A sentence in one of the suggestions submitted stated that “we have one foot in the fourth century and one foot in the 21st century.” It seems to me those who envisioned this weekend hoped to bring forth ideas that will guide our living in this century while still being faithful to the tenets of our Orthodox faith. There is a similarity to the suggestion for our mission statement.

Can this weekend’s conferences, workshops and discussions improve and make our lives better? The gospel reading this morning offers us guidance grounded in our Scripture.

“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Love your enemies” Like the fellow who asked Jesus who is my neighbor, we can ask, who is my enemy? All of us here this weekend are in agreement with one another about a lot of things. I’m sure there are areas also on which we disagree.  The question to ask ourselves is: What is my interior attitude toward these disagreements and what is my exterior response? Do I listen and try to understand where the other is coming from? Have I even understood whereI am coming from? What is motivating me and/ or my own convictions? Jesus said to the Pharisees who insisted the law had to be followed; “God requires mercy, not sacrifice”. Being merciful is more than following the letter of the law. It requires a lifestyle change.  Mercy requires that we give, that we love, that we accept, that we suspend judgment and that we forgive (those qualities we see in Christ need to be expressed through us.) It means recognizing that we all fail but are loved by God just the same.

That is being perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

Sometimes it is simpler and easier to just follow a law –or a custom -or a tradition. We need to understand or know where the law came from. Many of our laws come from cultures of the past.  Both medicine and science have brought understanding that these past cultures did not have.  We know that life is not static. It changes. We can float down the river of life and let it take us where it will or we can develop a paddle so that we can direct it where we know or suspect God is calling us to go. We can discern what God wants of us so we can direct our lives. This discernment takes effort. It takes prayer. It takes study. It takes patience. Without prayer it is dubious that one will discern what God wants.  So the first step is having a personal relationship with God. That relationship only develops if we pray every day. One’s whole life becomes a prayer when we come to know God everywhere and in everything.

“Give to those who ask” the scripture said this morning. What talents do you have that you can give? What can you do to further the work of God? Sometimes all you can do is support in many and various ways the work of another. Sometimes you need the support of the other to follow your call from God. Be receptive to help. The talks yesterday and the workshops coming today contain many of the ministries already engaged in. Living a monastic life is one ministry mentioned and it too is a life choice that certainly benefits the church if lived well. Are there other aspects of serving that some are called to that have not been done yet and how can any of us support that call? 

As St Paul said to the Romans, he wanted to share his gifts with them and their gifts with him. Let us share with one another and be mutually encouraged. What are the vocations open to us as Orthodox in this 21st century and are there others that will be opened?

Let us trust the Word of God in our hearts, let us courageously speak it. By faithfully following our hearts, may the Pentecostal fire be fanned in others.

May Jesus who filled the women with his Holy Spirit fill our world and our church with new respect for women's gifts and presence.