Celebrating Pascha Daily

The Reading from the First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. (15:1-11) and the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (19:16-26)

In today’s epistle, the beloved apostle Paul reminds the people of the Corinthian church about the faith that he delivered to them and the foundation of that faith. He tells them that this is the faith that they received, the faith in which they stand currently and the faith by which they will be saved and then he adds a qualifier “if you hold it fast”. What does this phrase “if you hold it fast” mean? It means that we must cling to this thing tightly. We must continue in this path and with this belief perpetually, until the last day of our life.

Now what is the content of this faith that St. Paul delivered to the people at Corinth? He says “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He rose on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”

This is the content and the foundation of what St. Paul brought to the people to whom he preached. The content of his preaching was very simple “Jesus is the Christ, the anointed holy one of Israel, He is the Only Son of God and He was crucified and buried and rose again from the dead on the Third day for our salvation.” This was, is and ever shall be the content of the Christian preaching. All of our Christian faith rests on the pillars of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ. So above all else it is important to emphasize that these are non-negotiable doctrines. Once I met with a lady who told me that she believed that the resurrection of Christ was a spiritual resurrection. I continued to press her for details in order to make sure that I understood her clearly. She clarified that she did not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. The problem is that someone had received her into the Church and she was partaking of sacraments as well. She was numbered among the Orthodox Christian faithful but she was not one of us. She denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lord have mercy.

These two events, along with the incarnation, are the heart of the Christian preaching. St. Paul continues writing to the church at Corinth with hard facts. In our day and age data is everything. Listen to his data,

“and that He (Jesus Christ) appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me. For I am the least of the Apostles, unfit to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

None of this is complicated. It isn’t philosophical word games. It isn’t spiritual and metaphysical jargon. St. Paul tells us that Jesus physically rose from the dead and then he goes one step further and documents a number of instances where he and others were eyewitnesses and beheld the risen Lord Jesus. The experience of seeing the risen Lord, of speaking with Him, of spending time with Him, was so powerful that it completely changed the trajectory of the lives of each of the apostles and disciples. It was the moment when they saw through the matrix of life and understood everything with fresh eyes. They finally understood that Christ is life. They finally understood that life in Christ is the only true life. They understood that life outside of Christ isn’t merely a different version of life, it becomes death.

What does life in Christ consist of? Well, that is the point of today’s gospel reading. The rich young man asks what he must do to have eternal life and the answer of the Lord is “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” We quickly understand that he is speaking of the ten commandments, the law of God. The law of God. It isn’t a game. It isn’t subject to your daily emotions or your fickle feelings. When God says “You shall not!” It isn’t a suggestion. He loves us. He wants to see us filled with life. He doesn’t want to see us unite ourselves and marry ourselves to sin and death. The Lord pushes the young man so far that the man shares his inner thoughts and thereby reveals his hidden sin. The young man says that he kept all of the commandments since his youth. So the Lord sees through this and finds what matters the most. He says to the young man “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.”

One can only imagine the joy we would have in our hearts if the Lord Jesus invited us to follow Him. What amazing things we would witness! Yet this young man was filled with sorrow and went away sadly for he had great possessions. And we might be right in saying that this man’s possessions and in fact possessed his heart. That is the crux of the matter here. God has to possess your hearts. God has to overwhelm your hearts. God has to dwell in your hearts and minds and lives, through living His teachings, through prayer, through study, through loving others, through our participation in the life of the body of Christ, which is the Church. These are all avenues by which we invite God to overtake our lives. He takes away our old, tired and broken lives and he gladly replaces them with life that cannot be overtaken or defeated by any trial or tribulation or anything invented by the forces of darkness.

We know this because the one who taught us these things is He who rose from the dead and trampled down death by His death. We know this because the disciples were overtaken by this news and it forever changed their lives. They gladly sacrificed their earthly lives to bring us true life in Christ. So these are the things that we cling to in our lives so that He will truly become our life.

I want to leave with the words of St. Leo the great of Rome who wrote,

Let God’s people then recognize that they are a new creation in Christ, and with all vigilance understand by Whom they have been adopted and Whom they have adopted. These thoughts, dearly beloved, must be kept in mind not only for the Paschal festival, but also for the sanctification of the whole life….celebration of the Resurrection must be a daily celebration for those who put their hope in God. This hope gives us joy in our daily lives. Our daily lives lead us to eternal life. Eternal life is bestowed on us by him who said: “I am now going to open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put My spirit in you, and you will live…” Homily 71: On the Lord’s Resurrection, Great and Holy Saturday

May this life and this salvation indeed be ours! AMEN.

Source: Sermons