In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s Gospel is taken from the Sermon on the Mount, the first piece of preaching in Christ’s public life.
In it Our Lord says that the light of the body is the eye. If the eye is light, so the body will be light. But if the eye is dark, so the body will be dark. By ‘eye’ is meant the soul, for the eye is the window of the soul. In these words Our Lord says that we are not to blame our bodies for our sins. Our bodies are the servants of our souls. If our souls are corrupted, then so also will be our bodies. On the other hand, if our souls are clean, then our bodies will also be clean. It is not our bodies which control our lives, or even our minds, but our souls. And it is our souls that we are called on to cleanse, cultivate and refine first of all. It is the spiritual which has primacy in our lives. Once our souls are clean, then our minds and our bodies will also be cleaned.
Neither can we serve two Masters, the master of the material world and the master of the spiritual world. One must be superior to the other. Thus we cannot serve God, the master of the spiritual, and Mammon, the master of the fallen world. The word Mammon is simply the word in the language spoken by Christ for ‘money’. This saying runs counter to the whole ideology of modernity. Our societies are called ‘capitalist’, for they are based on investments, stock exchanges, ‘capital’, in other words, money. Indeed the whole modern world is ruled by currencies, whether the dollar or some other currency dependent on the dollar. Furthermore, the philosophy which guides modern governments and much of human nature is called ‘monetarism’, in other words the belief in the primacy of money in human life and human motivation. Such a philosophy causes panic and depression both among those who have no money and also among those who have a lot, for such a philosophy excludes God from the workings of society and men, basing everything on the idolatry of paper and electronic numbers.
‘Take no thought for your life’, says Our Lord. The birds are nourished by God, the flowers grow, and they take no thought. We are told not to devote ourselves to what might or might not happen tomorrow. No-one by taking thought, can add anything to his stature. The Gospel tells us to do our best and then leave the rest to God, to trust in God. Modern life, on the other hand, tells us to constantly worry, to be stressed. Such worry only causes depression, for it excludes God and His loving providence. On the other hand, there is nothing inevitable in the life of those who believe in God and His providence. Even the most horrendous situations can evolve positively, if we let God into our lives and societies. If we include God, then we can exclude worry and depression.
We can see this in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. In the last few years we have all known apparently impossible circumstances and situations, dead ends, which have been resolved by unexpected events. Those unexpected events are solutions which have come from the providential love of God. As they say: ‘Man proposes, but God disposes’. The fact is that we do not always, if ever, know what is best, simply because we do not have a long-term view, let alone the eternal view of God which utterly changes all our perspectives. However, ‘Your Father knows you need all these things’, says Christ. And He tells us that if we put the spiritual first, then all other things will work out around that: ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all those things will be added unto you’.
It is no coincidence that this Gospel reading coincides this year with the Sunday of all the Local Saints. Usually this Feast of the Local Saints follows immediately after the Sunday of All Saints. However, because last Sunday was the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, this year the Church moved the Feast of the Local Saints to this Sunday. This is the Sunday when local Orthodox Churches remember their own Saints: the Russian Church remembers the Saints of Russia, the Romanian Church those of Romania, the Americans remember the Saints who shone forth in America, on Mount Athos they remember the Saints of Athos, and so on.
Today’s Gospel is also a Gospel for all the Local Saints. For what did the Saints do? They simply put the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first. These values, to put the things of the spirit first, are the values of the Saints of God. They are exactly the opposite of the values of modern society, which puts anti-Gospel and anti-spiritual values first. By following the Gospel, we challenge all the crudity and barbarianism of the modern world. And spiritual values prove that the only true revolution is the revolution that occurs in individual human lives and societies as a whole, when human hearts and souls put the spiritual first.
May all the Saints of our lands pray to God for us that we may come to partake of their values and their lives.