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Sermon – July 2, 2000 - Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock – all rights reserved


Holy Apostles

Matthew 4:18-23 ~ Romans 5:1-10


“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”


Dear Ones,


We all recognize that a Christian is one who follows Christ.  But when exactly is a Christian a Christian?  When is someone “a follower of Christ”?  At Baptism? Chrismation? When they officially join a church? While walking down the street? After a certain period of time has passed? Making a certain declaration in front of witnesses? At the attainment of certain gifts of the Spirit?


These questions are much like: when is an adult an adult?  It seems more obvious than it is.


In the book “A Conscious Life” by Fran and Louis Cox, the authors point out the problems with defining adulthood.  Here is a wonderful parallel to problems defining each other and ourselves as Christians.


We all want to be adults.  We all want to be in the “right” church, to be the “right” sort of Christians, to be good followers of Christ.


“We believed we passed as adults because we were able to put together convincing facades made up of acceptable looks, athleticism, brains and personality…the best course of action seemed to be to act as if we were adults, even though we didn’t feel convinced we were – or at least to act as if we didn’t care.” Cox writes.  Now re-read this statement replacing the word “adult” with “Christian”


How about this one?  An adult is someone who is no longer a child.  Using our replacement exercise we replace “adult” with “Christian” and, one further step, let’s replace “Child” with “non-Christian.”


How about “an adult is just a kid with money”? OR “an adult is someone who knows how to use power, who earns his own way, who knows how to deal with children?”


Or this?  An adult is “someone who behaves maturely, responsibly, in a rational manner, with purpose and understanding.”  (Hmmm, this definition may hold promise.)


Cox points out that “It’s often implied that raising the question in the first place is symptomatic of NOT having achieved adulthood-if you are an adult you have no reason to ask what an adult is!” 


However, Cox goes on to say, “our society defines adulthood in terms of the behaviors typically associated with adults…[that is,] what children and adolescents are unable to do.”  Here, there is little besides a legal age that separates adults from teenagers.


Many believe that since it is the performance of outer behaviors that determines one’s adulthood, everyone can be judged by the same measurements.  This brings Cox to distinguish between “adult” and “grownup.” 


“Adulthood is an internal affair, a state of mind, whereas being a grownup has to do with performing a given set of behaviors.” 


Often we make the same mistake with being Christian. So, it is with superficial Christians or “pharisaical” Christians.  They take tremendous pride in knowing the proper measurements, thinking they have arrived at “Following Christ.”  We need to have the same compassion for these as for any non-Christians.


Fr. Lev Gillett articulates this point wonderfully in The Year of Grace of the Lord:

“[As St Paul indicates] what is important, is not simply to hear the law, but to fulfill it…this is why the apostle pays homage to whosoever does good, whatever (as one would say today) his ‘persuasion’ or ‘denomination’ might be: Glory, honor and peace to everyman that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.’  Paul resolves this problem with great breadth of spirit.  We can apply what he says of the Greeks and the pagans to those who do know the Gospel of Christ.  They will be judged according to the measure of their faithfulness to the inner light that has been granted to them.  They have a law to which their conscience bears witness. Do not let us be too quick, therefore, either to exclude from the kingdom of God those who do not share our faith, or to think that our faith dispenses us from doing good.  Let us rather give thanks to God that no man is left entirely in darkness, and examine in ourselves our own faithfulness to the light.” 


So we must honor our individual call to the fullest of our ability – comparing our inner leading and inner struggles to others’ outer appearance accomplishes nothing and may instead move us from inner peace. 


Dear ones, let us take a needful moment to feel the Spirit’s quiet inward voice and make the promise to follow Christ’s call without reserve when we hear it.  {pause}


Ok, so for most of us, we may need to practice listening.  After we get better at listening, may we hear the Christos say to us: “Awake thou that sleepest, arise from the dead and follow me.”


We who struggle onward in the Christian life will one day receive the “call” and from then on all doubts shall be erased from us.  We will know and realize that from that time on, our life has a true meaning.  Though we will not cease to have troubles, we will know that everything we experience has a meaning.  This awakening to the “call” is one of the greatest days in the Christian life but it is without its own sacramental mystery - it is contained within them all.  It is without a feast day - it is contained within them all.


We have a decision before us: are we willing to become true disciples and apostles of our God or do we continue a life of needless suffering at the beckon call of superficial whims, fads and fantasies? Put another way, are going to mature into adulthood or act as a “grownup?” If we follow Christ, we will no longer operate in this life fearing for our lives, worried about all manner of discomfort. We need not be concerned what we will do. All our skills, abilities and learning can be adapted for the work before us.  God call us the way He made us. We are also promised that our needs will be met. Our “wants” maybe, maybe nor, but our needs will be taken care of.


St. Paul says that “glory, honor and peace shall be ours” as well.  Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, if we find life hard, if burdens are seemingly more than we can bear, know that, if we keep trying, then one day (as it is for all people) we shall have the “call” to be true Christians. 


How do we hear this “call?” There is a story of a master craftsman who made such beautiful things of wood that the King himself demanded to know the secret of his art.


“Your Highness, there is no secret, but here is something.  This is how I begin:


“When I about to make a table, I first collect my energies and bring my mind to absolute quietness.


“I become oblivious of any reward to be gained or any fame to be acquired. When I am free from the influences of all such outer considerations, I can listen to the inner voice which tells me clearly what I have to do.”





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