In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the 12 Holy, Glorious and All-praised Apostles. May the Holy Apostles pray for us!

It is far too often we hear of heretical teachings that claim that once you are the elect, you will receive eternal salvation, or that there are those who are special and set apart as the chosen.

In the Orthodox Church, we know there is no such thing, and that any such talk is a far departure from the Truth, and the only Truth, that of the Gospel of Christ our Lord.

Christ our Lord, chose 12 men (Mark 3:13-19), men of humble lives, to follow Him in His journey here. Our Lord also chose Judas Iscariot, who would betray Him, and in so fulfilling the Will of God the Father (Psalm 41:9-10).

Judas was very much part of the elect, but yet, he did the bidding of the evil one and betrayed Christ, and lost his salvation and life, to be condemned in eternity. Likewise, as we reflect on 1 Samuel 2, the high priest of Shiloh, Eli, lost his way before God when he did not discipline his evil children.

Apostle Paul admonished us in 1 Corinthians 4:9-16, that the Apostles of Christ, and also for the rest of us who profess our Christ as Lord, need to be battle-ready for martyrdom, whether living or dead, for we are to stare death and suffering down and trust our God to always plan the best for us intended for our salvation. Apostle Paul said to us, imitate him and the Apostles, in their every step towards God.

It is not easy. Christ and all the saints before us, did not say being a faithful Christian is easy. We need to take steps, baby steps, and struggle every step of the way towards God and the salvation we hope for.

Russian saint, St Moses of Optina, said this beautifully, that every small good deed will be noticed by God:

“If at some time you show mercy to someone, mercy will be shown to you.
If you show compassion to one who is suffering (and of course, this is not a great deed) you will be numbered among the martyrs.
If you forgive one who has insulted you, then not only will all your sins be forgiven, but you will be a child of the Heavenly Father.
If you pray from all your heart for salvation – even a little – you will be saved.
If you rebuke yourself, accuse yourself, and judge yourself before God for your sins, with a sensitive conscience, even for this you will be justified.
If you are sorrowful for your sins, or you weep, or sigh, your sigh will not be hidden from Him and, as St. John Chrysostom says, ‘If you only lament for your sins, then He will receive this for your salvation.'”

And every day, we begin to struggle with baby steps of good, of repentance, of prayer. Through faith, we will begin to see things and life differently. From darkness and sadness, God will bless us to see illumination and joy.

St John of Kronstadt, whom we commemorate in our Divine Liturgy, said this in “My Life in Christ”:

“A man becomes spiritual insofar as he lives a spiritual life. He begins to see God in all things, to see His power and might in every manifestation. Always and everywhere he sees himself abiding in God and dependent on God for all things. But insofar as a man lives a bodily life, so much he does he do bodily things; He doesn’t see God in anything, even in the the most wondrous manifestations of His Divine power. In all things he sees body, material, everywhere and always – ‘God is not before his eyes.’ (Psalm 35:2)”

We are mere mortals. We are not saints or angels who are close to God. We have frequent failings. We tend to see happiness as something we need from outside of ourselves, when all that true happiness we seek, can be found within us. How? Greek saint and hierarch, St Nektarios of Aegina, wonderworker and composer of the moving hymn “Agni Parthene” (O Virgin Pure), in his work “Path to Happiness” said this:

“How mistaken are those people who seek happiness outside of themselves, in foreign lands and journeys, in riches and glory, in great possessions and pleasures, in diversions and vain things, which have a bitter end! In the same thing to construct the tower of happiness outside of ourselves as it is to build a house in a place that is consistently shaken by earthquakes. Happiness is found within ourselves, and blessed is the man who has understood this. Happiness is a pure heart, for such a heart becomes the throne of God. Thus says Christ of those who have pure hearts: “I will visit them, and will walk in them, and I will be a God to them, and they will be my people.” (II Cor. 6:16) What can be lacking to them? Nothing, nothing at all! For they have the greatest good in their hearts: God Himself!”

Never lose sight of our failings, and never be complacent to imagine we are already or always saved. Let us pray often, “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.

Fr Raphael+

Readings:
1 Samuel 2:35-36
Psalm 41:9-10
Mark 3:13-19 (Apostles)
1 Corinthians 4:9-16 (Apostles)