Author: Fr George Dimopoulos
Source: Orthodox Sermons for all the Sundays of the Year – Volume I
Publisher: Christian Orthodox Editions
“And they left their nets at once, and followed him”. (Matthew 4:20)
Behold the faith and obedience of these first two Apostles, Peter and his older brother Andrew. Jesus called them as they were performing their secular jobs. Yet they did not seek to postpone the call; they offered no excuses. They did not say, “Give us a few days to think it over”. They left everything and they followed Jesus. St John Chrysostom, commenting upon today’s Gospel Lesson, writes that when the time came for Jesus to begin His public ministry, He chose twelve disciples; after His Resurrection He would send them throughout the world to preach the Gospel, the Good News of the reconciliation of man to God by the death of Christ, and to bear His name before kings and authorities. This task of monumental importance Jesus did not entrust to powerful or educated individuals. Rather, He sought out simple men, and invited them to become His disciples. Why? Because the Gospel itself is the wisdom and power of God, and stands in no need of human backing.
Today we are greatly in need of this wisdom and power of God – the Gospel – something (actually Someone) to which we can offer our faith, our love and our wholehearted dedication. Let us hear once again our text for today…
Two things, dear Christian brethren, impress me in this Gospel Lesson. The first is diligence, the second obedience. Let us speak concerning the first. Christ found Peter and Andrew, James and John engaged in their work: two of them were casting out fishing nets into the sea, while the other two were repairing nets. These were men who lived by manual labour – by the toil and sweat of their own hands – and it was not by accident that Jesus called such men to follow Him. During the course of history, many ignorant people have stigmatised Christianity as a religion that does not recognise the value of hard work, as a religion that demands the constant recitation of prayers and ceaseless meditation upon spiritual writings. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is time for work, as well as a time for worship. A basic principle of Christianity is what Paul expressed to the Christians of Thessalonica when he wrote, “And while we were with you, we gave the order, ‘If anyone doesn’t want to work, he shouldn’t eat’. We hear that some of you are living a lazy life, not doing any work, but being busybodies. Such people we order and encourage by the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and eat their own bread” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). It is the teaching of Christianity that every honest labour is blessed by God. Christ, Himself God, worked here on earth, and said, “My Father is still working, and so am I” (John 5:17).
Many consider work to be a sort of punishment; they consider certain types of labour to be shameful, and so they avoid working at all. Others lazily proclaim that we must change the system in order to provide a maximum wage for a minimum of labour. Faithful Christians, however, understand that every kind of honest work brings with its own particular blessing. We should work to support not only ourselves, but the poor and needy as well, following the example of our Lord and His Apostles.
The second thing we notice about this morning’s Gospel Lesson is that the Apostles possessed a spirit of loving obedience. This is a great virtue, and also a necessity in life – the obedience of the young to their elders, of the Christians to their Church – the obedience of all men to the call of God. As soon as the Apostles heard the summons of Christ, they left all and followed Him. Why? Because there is a system of values in life. The number 4 is higher than the number 3. $100 has more commercial power than $50. Someone will say, “Alright, Christ called His Apostles and they followed Him, full of faith and confidence. If Christ were here on earth now, and He called me, I would follow, too”. Dear brethren, Christ is calling you now, even though He is no bodily present on the earth. The Gospel we preach is the Good News of Christ. The Church which teaches us is Christ’s Church. And the Church does not ask us to abandon our jobs, our parents, to love our spouses and children. But we pay heed to the voice of the Church. We would much rather listen to the rabblerousers of this age, to those who with their sweet language and cunning words seek to separate us from our Saviour and from His Church. Rather than heed the pastor’s call to Sunday worship, we listen to those who call us to a weekend of “kicks and thrills” – and sometimes death.
Dear brethren, work and obedience are two wonderful virtues. We must work for the good and obey the good. And to the person who will ask, “What is good?”, we reply that we have no personal good, that good is whatever Christ demands of us, speaking through our conscience, through the Bible, through dedicated preachers, through the Church. This goodness we see exemplified for us in the lives of the Saints. Work and obedience were attributes of the Apostles. They worked for and obeyed God. Therefore the will of God for us is honest work and obedience. Let us observe these two virtues.