My dear friends in our Lord, glory to Jesus Christ!
In this time after Pentecost and before the feast of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, we find ourselves having entered into that period of fasting and abstinence known as the Apostles’ Fast. It seems as if we have only just completed the Lenten fast and now we find ourselves in the midst of another one. But it is the wisdom of the Church which causes us to pause and to remember the necessity of doing penance in order to live the gospel of the coming of the Kingdom.
For our Lord began his very first sermon in Galilee with a call to repentance, as He said: “The time is accomplished, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.” Repentance is the great means which can bring us closer to the Kingdom of God.
Immediately after this prcolamation, our Lord begins the calling of His Apostles. First was Saint Andrew, and his brother Simon, who was to be called Peter; and then the two sons of Zebedee, James, and John.
Our Lord, walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, saw them when they tending their nets, and said to them: “Come ye after Me, and I will make you to be fishers of men.” And they immediately left behind the worldly work which they were doing to follow the Lord. And from the time of that call, they devote themselves entirely to the Lord, dedicating their whole lives to the gospel of the Kingdom of God and the preaching of the gospel of Christ. They left everything – homes, parents, relatives – and, having renounced everything worldly, they followed Christ.
Endowed by the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles would become the unshakable pillars of the Church, the messengers of the Kingdom of Heaven. They truly were made fishers of men, and their work continues to this very day. For the soul of the Christian is extracted, taken up, from darkness and perdition as from the depths of a dark sea by the saving nets of the Apostles, through the instrumentation of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Passing through and being retrieved from the waters of baptism, entering into the Holy Church of God, we faithfully enter communion with Christ, as well as with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In doing this, we are promised and dedicated to God alone, that we might serve in grace and righteousness all the days of our lives.
But let us be honest. The path to which the Lord calls us is not the wide and easy path. It is the narrow path, the steep path, the sometimes painful path. But the pain comes not from the path itself, but from our own weakness which is exposed, our own hubris which is made to fall, our own willfulness which is denied, and our own pride which is forcibly humbled.
In following Christ, He demands that we deny ourself, so that selfish natural love for oneself might be replaced with supernatural love. He demands that we completely subjugate our intellects and our wills unto the Heavenly Father and that we live according to the law of Christ, as the Holy Gospel attests.
Our Lord, being sinless and dispassionate in His nature, nevertheless fasted forty days in the wilderness, spending that time in earnest prayer. So it is for us also, following Christ, to humble our bodily appetites, to subdue our passions, to control our earthly desires by fasting and abstinence, to accustom ourselves to moderation in all those things which can become disordered. We strengthen our spirit and we sanctify our works with prayer and with penance, shielding the mind, the mouth, and the heart with the fear of God.
Furthermore, in following Christ, we are also called to help those who are in any need: feeing the hungry; consoling the sorrowful, the suffering, the grieving and bereaved. We are to strengthen and assist those who are questioning or doubtful. We are to visit the sick and the imprisoned, even if that prison is simply the prison of loneliness, especially during these times of forced ‘social distancing,’ and even if that visit is simply “virtual.” The grace of God still works even there, in all that we do for the sake of the Gospel.
For Holy Gospel of Christ teaches us, enlightens us, enlivens us, lifts us up, and gives us strength, as we daily pick up our own cross and walk in the footsteps of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, which is simply to walk the path of life.
Despite the pain which may indeed accompany it, there is at the same time no path more comforting and more trustworthy than to follow the Lord. To be a follower of Christ, imitating the example of His mercy, His compassion, and His love.
Our Lord, instead of seeking honours and conquest, rather endured the Cross, bearing the slander, bearing our sin, in order that He might triumph over sin and death. And so He has, and now gloriously sits at the right hand of the throne of God!
From there, today He also calls you to that heavenly place – to be uplifted and through fast and abstinence, through meekness and patience to create works of love and mercy in His holy name.
Such is the glory and the advantage of the blessed and grace-filled path of Christ, which the Apostles without hesitation walked, and to which path they with Christ call each and every one of us, this very day.