Tag Archives: Matthew 14:22-34

Co-Workers With Christ & Each Other

Sunday, August 18 (OS, August 5), 2019: 9th Sunday After Pentecost; Forefeast of the Transfiguration of our Lord; Martyr Eusignius of Antioch (362); Hieromartyrs Fabian (250) and Antherus (Antheros) (257), popes of Rome; Martyrs Cantidius, Cantidian and Sibelius (Sobel), of Egypt.

Ss Cyril & Methodius Orthodox Church
Madison, WI

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 3:9-17
Gospel: Matthew 14: 22-34

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Though he does not use the word here, St Paul is calling the Corinthians to imitate the kenosis, the self-emptying, of God. Writing to the Church at Philippi the Apostle says that in the Incarnation the Son of God “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8. RSV).

christ walking on waterFrom start to finish, God’s work in Jesus Christ is one global act of divine “voluntary self-restraint.”

God does this so that there is room for human freedom. God limits Himself so that you and I can “live and move” (see Acts 17:28) and discover who He has called us to be.

God constrains Himself so that we can express ourselves. He limits Himself so that we can flourish. He becomes sin (2 Corinthians 5;21) so that we can share in His divine nature, and so become holy and virtuous, and united to Him and each other in kindness and love (see 2 Peter 1:4-7).

All this is summed up when St Paul calls us “God’s fellow workers.”

Secure in his understanding that the whole Church is called to partner with God for the salvation of the world, St Paul is able to embrace with joy and thanksgiving the diversity of gifts in the Church. This is a theme to which he will return multiple times in his epistles (for example, Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:8–10; 28–30; Ephesians 4:11).

This is why for all his struggles and disappointments, St Paul is a man without resentment. When he sees that others build on the foundation he laid his preaching in Corinth he is not threatened or insecure.

Nor do the different structures built on the foundation of Christ cause him any anxiety. Some build with gold, silver, or precious stones, while others with wood, hay, or straw. St John Chrysostom says that by this St Paul means to tell us that in the Body of Christ

…the faith is not in one case less, in another more excellent, but the same in all those who truly believe. But in life there is room for some to be more diligent, others more slothful; some stricter, and others more ordinary; that some should have done well in greater things, others in less; that the errors of some should have been more grievous, of others less notable.

He concludes by saying the judgment is “not according to the result, but according to the labor” (Homilies on the Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, 9.5).

If I am honest with myself, I realize that I have very little control over the results of my actions. The outcome of my work more often than not depends on factors not just outside my control but outside my awareness.

Look at St Peter.

Once again his impetus character causes him to overreach. If success were the standard, Simeon would never have become Peter.

And yet, it is Peter who answers Jesus while the others remain paralyzed by fear. While the other disciples “were troubled, saying ‘It is a ghost!’” Peter risks all saying “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

Much as St Thomas’ doubt becomes the occasion of our faith, Peter’s fear but comes the occasion of our peace.

St John Chrysostom says that while “the sea caused his dizziness,” Peter’s “fear was caused by the wind” even though the “sea was the greater threat” and “the wind the less[er].” Though he struggled “with the sea” he suffered “from the violence of the wind.”

And so, Chrysostom concludes, “Such is human nature that we so often feel exposed to the lesser danger but experience it as the greater” (The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 50.2). One of the greatest obstacles to the life Jesus would have for me is my tendency (like St Peter) to be afraid of the wind when the sea is the threat. 

That is to say, I worry and fret about outcomes or the actions of others, even those these are not under my control.  Much less are they standard against which God will judge me.

When I give in to this fear resentment takes hold of my heart. Yes, outcomes matter; God preserves and protect us from the those who mean well, from the believer who has piety without technique. 

But when success matters more than fidelity, when success matters more than obedience, I have replaced the will of God with my own.  When I should I do when I realize I am a slave to my own will?

I must with St Peter cry out “Lord, save me!” and with St Paul see my brothers and sisters in Christ for who they are–for who you are–my “fellow workers” in the proclamation of the Gospel.

Having led the disciples “by degrees” to understand more fully the Gospel as Chrysostom says, Jesus accepts their repentance and confirms their faith. How does He do this? 

He crosses over with His disciples “to the land of Gennesaret” and heals the sick. That is to say, He continues the work His Father has given Him.

My brothers and sisters in Christ! God asks of us today, what He asked of His Son. Like Jesus, we must be faithful to our vocations, to the work that God has called each of us personally to do. But I can’t be faithful to my vocation unless I support you in yours. 

We are all co-workers in Christ, each with our own tasks given to us by God not only for His glory but our own; not only for our salvation but for the salvation of the world.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Homily: Building a Civilization of Love

Sunday, August 2, 2015: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost & Ninth Sunday of Matthew

Relics Translation of Proto-martyr Stephen the Archdeacon; Venerable Photeini the wonderworker of Carpasia in Cyprus; Blessed Basil the fool-for-Christ, wonderworker of Moscow

EPISTLE: 1 Corinthians 3:9-17

GOSPEL: Matthew 14:22-34

We sometimes overlook the value of human labor. Often what most Christians do Monday through Friday is a distraction from what really matters, working for the Church—or more typically “our” parish (though as Fr Alexander Schmemann pointed out once, we would often condemn a man for doing for himself what he does for the parish; but this is a problem for another time).

A superficial reading of St Paul certainly lends itself to minimizing the importance of how most of us spend most of our time. And to be fair, for many people work can be, at least a times, boring or worse. And yet, while we need to acknowledge that it is often otherwise, our ability to work is a blessing from God and reveals our likeness to Him. The centrality of work to our humanity is why the Apostle can use human creativity and productivity as an illustration of his own evangelical ministry. Like work, evangelism is a creative and cooperative process.

And, like work, evangelism is about bring the creation—materially and socially—into an ever greater conformity with the Gospel. If I limit myself to simply explaining the Gospel, I fail as an evangelist. Why? Because human beings are not simply intellectual creatures. We are also social and material being and so the evangelical work of the Church needs to extend to those areas as well.

This is why as well as great preachers like St John Chrysostom, the assembly of saints include men and women who excelled in all kinds of human endeavors. Apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, unmercenary healers, helpers, and counselors of all sorts (see 1 Corinthians 12:28) doesn’t even begin to exhaust all the different gifts God has given His Church, given us, to redeem the world of persons, events and things.

Putting this broader evangelical vision isn’t easy.

Like the disciples in this morning’s Gospel, I sometime feel “beaten by the waves” and that the wind is against me. This doesn’t just happen because faith is weak, though in my case it is, but because in a fallen world life is hard. Living in a fallen world we should expect conflict and opposition even when we merely tell people about Christ and the Church. Merely to speak about the Gospel is enough to make some people angry.

If we go further and proclaim the Gospel not only in words but in deeds that seek to shape the world around us according to the image of Christ we face an even stiffer resistance and a deeper angry.

The public proclamation of the Gospel in this second, fuller, sense means challenging the City of Man. It isn’t necessarily to say to a person or a community that they are morally bad. It is rather to invite them and to challenge them to live a deeper, more sacrificial form of love. We aren’t so much saying “You’re wrong!”—though there are times we must—as we are saying “You can be better!”

And it is that, the call to be better that is often the provocation. Even if it were possible to go our entire lives without criticizing or correcting others, even if we could somehow only say things that are positive and affirming, we would still be beaten by the waves of our neighbor’s anger and feel the wind of public opinion against us.

You see even though I am a sinner, I love God. That’s not the problem. The problem is I also love my own will as much, or even more, than I love God.

This is the tragedy and the sorrow of sin. Not that I love myself too much because I love God too little. I love God as if He were a choice, forgetting that it is the love of God that makes all my choices possible. And here misunderstanding is common.

It isn’t that we love God but that He loves us; it is God’s love for us that makes our love for others and ourselves possible.

In a fallen world love presents us with a curious temptation. Or rather, following St Paul, just as it did with the Law, Sin seizes the opportunity of love (see Romans 7:8) to turn me away from God and His love for me. Being “unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin” doesn’t mean that I don’t love. It is instead the case that while “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (see Romans 7:14; 19-20). I don’t so much need to learn to love as much as I need to learn to love wisely.

The heart of the evangelical work of the Church to call people to love more wisely, to help those who love a little come to love deeply and sacrificially. And it is this call—not to be good but to be better—that so offends.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this is our task. Not simply to proclaim love but to build a parish, a Church and a civilization of love. May God grant us the grace and strength to do this even when we feel overwhelmed by the challenges of life, the opposition of the world and our own sinfulness.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory