In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, we remember Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir (in holy baptism Basil), enlightener of the Russian Land today. Saint Vladimir, pray for us.
In our last homily, we talked about the issue of anger and the need to recognize what anger is and why it is detrimental to our walk towards God. Today, let us extend that to even embracing perceived enemies with the love of Christ.
Let us recall the love of Christ, His extraordinary and revolutionary teachings, of loving others as ourselves. In historical times, it was common to find warriors and kings ransacking communities for material wealth and even humans for pleasure and labor. It was also common to find friends and siblings fighting each other to the death, often for the transient gain of power and material wealth. But the wisdom of loving others as ourselves, or even those we consider as enemies, is found both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Christ came to us out of an ultimate sacrificial love for us, but the love of God, and the message of love, was as old as Creation itself.
For example, as we read from 1 Samuel 26:7-12, we found that while David and Saul were at terrible odds with each other, David did not simply kill Saul in the dark of night, and said, “Kill him not, for who shall put forth his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and shall be guiltless? The Lord be merciful unto me, that I extend not my hand upon the Lord’s anointed”.
David understood that animosity was within him, and yet, at the crux of the moment when he could simply kill Saul in the deep of night, he pulled back and regained his senses, that he badly needed God’s mercy so that he would not do such a thing. That was King David, an important figure in the Holy Scriptures.
Hatred is a dark evolution of anger, that has been nurtured by our own arrogance and self-importance, to a sustained negative feeling towards another. If anger can force people to kill another out of rage, surely hatred is manyfold worse. While anger can trigger a sudden attack on another person, hatred fosters evil thoughts to hatch unmentionable schemes to bring another person to ruin or death. It is therefore, a much worse sin to harbor within, and a death knell for any faith at all towards God. For if we can hate another, we have not loved God.
As we have read from Proverbs 24, that God takes no joy when we laugh at the misfortune of another person, even if such a person we perceive to be an enemy. For God has created all things, and every person is a creation of God, whether we see eye to eye with this person or not. When we carries deep hatred for another, the space in our heart can accommodate no space for the Holy Spirit, for God is truly good, and hatred is the opposite of God. If we believe in God and wish for a constant joyful presence with God, what better way than to drop such heavy burden of hatred to the ground like big painful rocks, and run to God in His arms like little children.
Therefore, when we reflect on our own lives, if we cross paths with someone who might have wronged us in our own opinion, would this person truly be an enemy, or just a figment of our imagination? Could we ever put ourselves in the shoes of this perceived enemy? Is there a need for an endless uphill struggle to fight this person ad nauseam? What would be the results of all these fights? Could the energy we expend be used more wisely, and even for the salvation of others?
As we reflect on St John 10:9-16, let us remember that Christ our Lord came, with a joyous heart, laid down his life sacrificially for us. No matter how egoistical we may be to imagine such persecution from another person, and carry hatred for such a person, let us remember that only when we can confront our own arrogance, our own fears, and our own desire to be free from suffering, to find true love of God, then we must give our burdened shoulders a rest, and lean on the heart of Christ. In Christ our Lord, do we hope for a relief.
So beloved, let us never nurture anger into hatred, and let us douse any anger we may have, and drop the rocks of hatred off our shoulders. Let us keep the Holy Name of our Lord close to our hearts whenever we are weary and angry, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:
It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.
O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 Samuel 26:7-12
St John 10:9-16