Metropolitan Merkury of Rostov and Novocherkassk
The word of the Holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian is more relevant than ever in our days, when connections among people are becoming impoverished, when they are growing thin, sometimes being broken off even among relatives; within families children and parents do not communicate; the opportunity for mutual communication and spiritual consolation in society is becoming impoverished. All this can be characterized as an impoverishment of love in people. The Holy Apostle John the Theologian says that God is Love. If we acknowledge the fact that love is becoming impoverished in the human race, it is evidence of the fact that God’s presence is becoming impoverished among people.
This is not because God is retreating from us. God’s presence among people is becoming impoverished because people are not open to God and to one another; man’s will often opposes God’s will and he is not in a condition to accept God in his life. This is because, by accepting God in his life, man accepts an enormous responsibility before both God and his neighbors. It is much easier to live irresponsibly, because nothing will disturb you apart from your own evil, your own personal pleasures, needs, and prosperity. When one’s entire human core is directed towards this, then of course one becomes removed from God, since one is not in a condition to accept God in one’s life. Accepting God into oneself means that one will have to change the vicious structure of one’s life.
It is natural for us to ask just how we can make our life such that God would be present therein. Divine-human relations can sometimes be unclear to us; we cannot grasp them with our mind and take them into our soul, because these matters are spiritual, lofty, and fine. Coming into contact with God’s grandeur, we suddenly draw back and say that it is beyond our strength, understanding, and comprehension. But God never acts treacherously in human life: He does not intrude into it, but offers Himself. He waits until we can accept God in our life, until we can converse with Him, until we can make ourselves as children of God.
The path to this Divine sonship lies through our mutual interaction with people. The Holy Apostle John says: “How can you love God, Whom we do not see, when we do not love the people who are beside us, whom we see?” [cf. 1 John 5:20]. One can learn to love God through love for people; and love for people means serving other people, it means sacrificial self-giving for others, which begins not with anything great, but with small things: care, attention, a kind word, personal involvement.
If we are not yet ready to give our entire life, then let us give five or ten minutes of our time to someone close to us – or, perhaps, to someone far away – who stands in need of us. This will be a step towards God’s Love. The Holy Apostle, addressing us as the Church of God, implores us: “Love one another!” He implores us to carry out our lives in relation to our neighbors in sacrificial care for them, remembering that such service brings us closer to God. Through this sacrificial service we ourselves draw near to God, thereby renewing the presence of love in this world and extending the life of this world by our own life, by our own service, pushing back the time of God’s Dread Judgment, of the terrible retribution for our sins.
When we remember God’s Dread Judgment, that each one of us must give an account, and accept this as a kind of reference point in our life, then these three or five minutes of our time given to our neighbors – in conversation, fellowship, happy memories, and the least little bit of help – will come perfectly naturally and with absolutely no cost to us in either spiritual or material terms. If everybody would do this, then God’s Church and our Fatherland would revive, strengthen, and flourish, because this Love is the most important foundation upon which both our personal and social lives are built.
Greeting you today – dear Fathers, brothers, and sisters – I wish you to multiply this Love in your homes and families, among your neighbors, and in our city and country. May the Lord, through the Apostle’s prayers, bless, comfort, and enlighten us, granting us all everything necessary for understanding the path of salvation leading to an encounter with God! Amen.
Delivered on May 21, 2012, in the Church of the Ascension in Rostov-on-Don.