2013.7.7 sermon by Fr. Jonah
2013.07.07 Matthew 14:18-23 The Call of God in Our Job
Jesus was starting his public service and he passed from Galilee, when He saw two brothers fishing, Andrew and Peter. He called them, “Follow me,” and they left everything to follow him. This is very moving, for me especially because I come from the place of St. Andrew, Patras, where he was crucified, he died and we have his grave and part of his relics. From so far away, this blessing of St. Andrew to be here is a little bit moving.
And it is important that Jesus continued and found another two brothers fishing with their father, the sons of Zebedee, John and James. Jesus called them to follow Him. Then, very strangely, they left everything and even their own father to follow Him. It is interesting and a very emotional thing to say that two brothers left everything to follow Jesus Christ The first thing, which is very important, is that Jesus is calling them while they are at work on their job. Their job is their prayer: He did not call them while they were studying, doing other things, or imagining that they were great people, no. He called them during their blessed and honest work. In the Jewish language, the word for job is almost the same word as prayer. And we must understand that doing our work is not something apart from the Church, like now I am at my job and now I come to church; two different things – they are not. When God created two human beings, he put them in Paradise to work there. And their work was by many ways to change the world and offer it to God, to make it more beautiful and gradually to offer this to God. So work is a continuation of the liturgy, to change everything to make it better; and then God is there.
There is also another thing. Somebody could say, “Is Jesus asking too much to separate the brothers from their family?” For example, they left their elderly father. But we see later in the Gospel, always the Gospel calls John the brother of James, Peter the brother of Andrew. So it is not to abandon the family relationship. And we see in the Gospel, obviously the mother of John and James was following Jesus because she asked Him favors for her sons.
When the Gospel gives to us these examples, it is not to destroy our family, but to restore the family forever. Before following Jesus, Andrew and Peter were just brothers in the flesh; but then they were always brothers in Jesus Christ. So this brotherhood in the flesh is accepted and becomes eternal in the light of Jesus Christ. And always Jesus call Peter as the son of Ionna; and he is the son of Ionna, but he also is the son of God the Father.
I say this because I feel in almost a similar situation. When I was in Mount Athos and my father was almost dying and he needed to have a dangerous operation that had almost one percent of survival, as my sister told me. Father Porphirius, my spiritual father in Mount Athos told me not to call, not to go. And I did not go, did not call. So many people accused me of being a very bad person and not caring. Actually, of course, I am a bad person, but in that case I did what I should have done. Because even though I had a lot of pain, I trusted a holy person, my spiritual father, who I loved as my father, not better than the church – that God loves my father more than I love him. And really God helped my father much more since if I went there I really could not have helped.
And so from this point of view, I say to you that Jesus Christ, when he is calling us, is calling us to establish our personal relationships in the Church. Because if they are not in the Church they will always be destroyed by small bad things and human misunderstandings.
We see something strange: when Jesus called various people, he did not ask anyone to abandon his wife; the Bible does not say this. And we know that, as Paul writes in his letters, when Peter was a missionary he had his wife with him. It is very important that the couple, the husband and the wife, is in the center of human relationships – everything is around this. And the Church calls us to become husband and wife, not only just because we love one another, but to take this unity and the love in the Church. It is Jesus, it is the Holy Spirit, that unites the husband and the wife. It is the Grace of God that also gives us kids and friends and relatives. It’s not just a biological event. So we must try to put our family in the context of God because then it will be forever; we will be happy in Paradise and we will love them forever.
And when God is calling somebody, it is not as if that person will have an economic disaster. Because when God called these Apostles and they left their poor jobs to follow him, finally – judging from the human point of view – were they destroyed? They were not; all human history knows them as famous people. So once more I say to you, when you are doing your job to imagine that Jesus is calling you – not to abandon everything, but at least to remember you are doing the job of God at the same time you are doing a job for computers, for teaching, for business, for anything that you do.
And a few things because the apostle speaks about the law: This is practical; how are we to behave in our job. This is something that people could ask. The Gospel speaks to us today about the ethical law, the law that everybody has in his heart to distinguish the good from the bad, which is planted from God into our hearts. I know you may say that this is speaking about the Jewish law, about ancient things; but we are not Jewish and we do not care about the Jewish law. What is important is to understand that God does not put laws and separate behavior, give us ways of behavior, to say you will do this, you will do this and so on. The law of God starts and ends here in the liturgy., Some people may say, “I don’t kill people, I try to be honest. Is thisOK?” We could say, “No, it’s not OK.” Why? Because, you know, what’s the point just to be an honest person? For God it is important to be united; it is important to overcome death.
So coming to the Church and taking Jesus Christ and becoming one: this is the real law. And offering everything to God: we offer our job, we offer our friends, we offer our customers; everything in our minds. And God is helping them much more than what we try to help them. So for somebody it is not enough to say, “I do not come to the church on Sunday, but this is not important, what is important that I am a good person.” This is very wrong.
God is in our job and He is waiting for us to spread Him to the world, to spread His love and his creativity to everybody. A job that is only regulations is something that leads only to death. But a job that comes with a person who comes to the church and receives the Holy Communion – this is the mission of Jesus Christ; it is Jesus working and blessing all the unities. So may God give to you to listen to His voice when you work, and to follow him by the way that he calls everybody. Amen
8 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 They immediately left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. 23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.