Fr. Gabriel explains how we cannot afford to be satisfied with where we are as Christians, and what it means to "dive into the deep" end of our faith.
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Years ago, before Lucy and Noah graced us with their presence, Matushka and I had the opportunity to take a late honeymoon to the shores of Rivera Maya, where we spent over 10 glorious days in an all you can eat resort…sitting on those white sandy beaches…and staring out in wonder to the depths of the ocean.
We were welcome to swim out into the ocean, and because of the sandbars, we could go out quite far. After a while, and I’m sure some of you would disagree with me….those sandy beaches and shallow waters, although incredibly peaceful and beautiful at times…can get boring as you do the same things over and over again.
Towards the end of our trip, we decided to go with another couple, and take a small boat and go out onto the water. A great distance off, after finally getting used to how the boat worked, I felt a little adventurous, and began to talk to the others about heading out do the deep blue part of the ocean…where one could clearly tell that there was a drop off from the ocean shelf…where the depth of the water became endless.
I wanted to go out to the drop off, because there are two things in my life that have always fascinated me. The unknown and great expanse of the sky…all of the galaxies and stars that are trillions of miles away…and the deepest depths of the ocean…where all is calm and quiet…and more importantly, is unknown.
Now, of course, I didn’t get my way…as Matushka and the others convinced me we would need a bigger boat to do that. But I bring this story up, because it is exactly what our Lord told Simon Peter to do in the gospel lesson today: “Put out into the deep…” After this poor fisherman had spent all night in his usual shallow fishing spot without catching anything…our Lord told him to do one thing…”Move”
Unlike the small boat we had on our honeymoon, which was not ready to handle the large waves out in the depths of the ocean…we as Orthodox Christians find ourselves on the safest ship possible…guided by the sails of the Holy Spirit. The image of a boat is of great value to us…because it is a very theologically rich image which symbolizes the Church in the midst of the world. In fact, the word nave…the area of the Church where you are sitting now, comes from the Latin Word Navous, which means ship! So this morning, as you sit in the midst of the nave…you are literally sitting in the mist of the boat that is carrying you through the stormy seas of life!
And our task, dearest brothers and sisters, is to not spend our time in the shallow waters of life…but to dig deeper...to press on into the unknown…and to enter into the expanse of God’s love for us. This task, however, is difficult for us to do at times. We are so often tempted to be afraid of the deep…to just be content drifting in the shallow waters of life. We are content with our reliance on things that will pass away. We spend our days putting material wants and needs above our desire to enter into a deeper relationship with God through prayer. As a result, our lives become uninteresting…they become stale…they become boring. And as I said in last weeks homily, when these material things are suddenly taken from us…life suddenly becomes meaningless.
This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord urges us to Move. God moved all the way from heaven to come down to us….He stands at the door of our soul, knocking and calling for us to open…and we cannot afford to sit there and ignore His call. We have to get out of the shallowness of this world, and launch out into the unending depths of God’s presence.
So what exactly does this mean? Just giving up our reliance on this world is not enough. I think the trap we all fall into sometimes, is that we think that we have arrived to the depths. “I am content with where my life with Christ is right now…I don’t need to go any further.”
One of the things that I hope to accomplish this morning, and I speak not only to the parish family…but also to myself…is to use this gospel lesson to give ourselves a kick in the pants. We will never reach our potential…we will never make it to where we want to be… if we stay on the same rung of the ladder of heavenly ascent…and do not move.
Life is too short to remain content, and refuse to enter into a deeper knowledge and understanding, of Him Who is life eternal. If our knowledge of the faith is the same today as it was a year ago…if our prayer rule has not grown this past year….if we have not read as much spiritual reading, or attended as many services, or missed out on opportunities to further our relationship with God…then we have not budged…we have not grown…and we have not “moved” as our creator has commanded us this day…and every day.
I will close today with a story from a British Newspaper years ago, about a farmer in South Africa who had worked at the same farm for 30 years, barely making ends meat…but surviving. One day, he decided to dig a little deeper with his plow, and discovered that underneath the shallow soil, where he had worked those past 30 years, there was a series of layers of rocks underground, that were filled with Gold. In one day of digging deeper…he had discovered more treasure than a lifetime of working on the surface of his farm.
I end with this story, because it is the perfect parable of our lives. If we spend all of our efforts on the surface of life, we miss the things that matter the most. But when we ascend to the depths of our Lord’s love…when we ascend into a deeper relationship with our Creator, there are riches and treasurers that are beyond human comprehension.
May our Lord give us the strength to deepen our relationship with Him in the coming days, weeks, and years…Amen Amen Amen.