By His Eminence
Panteleimon, Archbishop of Antinoes
Man is by nature a social being. He lives, moves, acts and develops within a society of human beings. Right from the beginning of Creation, God Himself noticed, that “is not good for man to be alone upon the earth”, and thus He forms the woman taken out from one of Adam’s ribs, fulfilled the missing flesh and thus presented Eve to Adam, to be a helpmate for him. In other words, God Himself created and then blessed the society of man. Our ancestors, the Greek philosophers, said: “A man, who does not live with other fellow men, either has to be a god or crazy”.
The Triune God is social, because He is Three: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is One in His Essence, but Three in His Hypostases or Persons. (Hypostasis means the way of existence). Among the Three Persons an absolute and perfect harmonious relationship exists. None of the created things in the whole Universe, either visible or invisible, knows that which is of the Father, but only the Son; and no one knows that which is of the Son except of the Father. The Holy Spirit searches the depths of the Father’s Essence.
The Love of the Three Persons is mutual and it is expressed towards the world, especially towards man. Love is from God, and anyone who loves his neighbor is from God and knows God. He who does not have love, does not know God, because God is Love (1 John 4:7-8). He, who struggles to remain in the love towards his fellow man, partakes of the love of God and God dwells in the heart of that person who has love. For this reason, if God has loved us so much, we also must love one another in a similar manner (1st John 4:11).
Love is the connection link in our relationships with our fellow man. The question of today’s Gospel reading is: Do we love correctly? Is our love that love which God demands from us, pure and unconditional? Is our love distinguished from the worldly love?
If, e.g., we do not surpass the boundaries of our daily life, if we do not overcome our weaknesses, then in what our Christian love differs from anything else? If we love only those who love us, what Grace have we received from God? How can the Divine Act and Power of the Holy Spirit be distinguished in the inner change of your character? When one is baptized in Christ, he receives the Grace of God. Man becomes a new creation, he is reborn. Although, man receives this Divine Gift from the moment of his baptism, yet, if he does not activate the Grace of God within his life, then, it remains inactive and profits him nothing.
Man who does not love unconditionally all his fellow man proves one thing, that he hasn’t known God. Sinners love sinners, because they look forward to benefit something.
Similarly, when we do good deeds towards our fellow man, we must never think of receiving something in exchange. We must not give presents, knowing that in the near future we will ask for another favor. We must not give gifts to someone, who in a high position, in order to achieve for ourselves a special position in our work. These acts are not in good terms with God.
An Orthodox Christian does not perform good deeds in order to satisfy worldly satisfaction, but, on the contrary, he does good deeds out of love towards his fellow man and towards God. He helps those who are unable to return his good deeds. If you have plenty of food, feed the poor and fill those who hunger. If you have more than enough clothes, vest those who cannot afford to buy new clothing. Open your wardrobes and you will see how many unnecessary clothing you have; and, yet, you can feed and vest Christ Himself through your fellow man.
Why do we fill our wardrobes with so many clothing, which, at the end, will become food for the woodworm? Why do we struggle to have greater bank accounts and we find it difficult to assist those families who truly need our assistance? Some people spend millions at the casino, playing cards, throwing dices, and wasting their precious time in gambling hoping to become more and more rich; and, yet, when you ask them to support those in need, then, they do not have anything to spear, their faces become bitter and they find many excuses in order not to help.
But, my beloved friends, you must know, that he who helps the poor is lending to God. His acts of good deeds will follow him in the afterlife, and on the Day of Judgment, they will stand up for him before the Righteous Judge, Who will judge the living and the dead.
Our Christian love must be as the sun and the rain. For God rises the sun and sends the rain, not only for the just, but for every man on the face of the earth, even to those who oppose His Will. Similarly, the faithful Orthodox Christian loves not only those who love him, but even those who hate him. He loves those who harmed him, those who envy him, those who persecuted him and those who work evil against him in a daily basis. As our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ forgave those who crucified Him, when He was on the Cross, at the moment when He felt the outmost pain; likewise, we must also forgive all those who have done wrong to us.
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through the daily Gospel reading gave us His Teachings and showed us the Way of Life in which we should follow. As we want others to do good to us, we must also do the same to them. As disciples of Christ, we must become imitators of God in His Love. Only, when we surpass the boundaries of natural human love, we will be able to partake in the Divine Love, which does not know boundaries, prerequisites and interests. Then, and only then, we will be children of God, Whose Divine Grace I humbly pray to be bestowed upon all of you. Amen.