2nd Sunday of Matthew
We heard today the Gospel reading which is read on the feast day of our patron saint, St Andrew the Apostle. St Andrew is known as the first-called, and today’s Gospel reading describes this call.
St Andrew, as we know from Sacred Scripture, was a fisherman, and at the time Jesus called him he was in the boat with his brother Peter. When Christ called them, he didn’t simply say, ‘come after me’, but, ‘come after me and I shall make you fishers of men’.
This wasn’t merely a play on words, but points to an important spiritual truth. God doesn’t call us all in the same way, nor to the same end. He knows and sees the character and abilities of each one, and accordingly appoints to each the role and ministry he ought to have. As St Paul tells us, God ‘gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ’ (Eph. 4:11–13). The same apostle also says elsewhere, “the body is not one member, but many” (1 Cor. 12:14). The one Body of Christ, the one Church, consists of many members, and in order for this body to be whole, in order for the work of the Church to be carried out, the participation of each member, with the abilities each one brings to the table, is indispensable. “The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12:21).
This is perhaps something we all know and take for granted. What we often don’t consider is that this is not only true of our strengths, but equally true of our passions and weaknesses. That the wordsmith should write, that the wise should teach, that the one with a good voice should sing… this we know. But we also need to know that the temperamental, the fornicators, the envious, and the cowardly will also find their calling in the Church. Not, of course, without change, not as they are; but we should recognise that the passions we have within us are not essentially bad in themselves — they become evil through misuse and distortion. When we say that a Christian must war against the passions, the goal of this war is not to make the passions disappear, to uproot them completely from within us, but rather to war against the passions so as to tame them, so as to subdue them, in order to transform them, that they might return to their intended use.
In Christ, anger is transformed into zeal for truth and justice. Instead of envying the earthly goods of others, we envy the virtues of the saints. In Christ, the selfish desires of fornication are transformed into love for God and neighbour. Instead of fearing the temporal death of the body and cowering before the hardships of life, we will fear only the eternal death of the soul, and in this we will also find the peace we previously lacked.
Let us draw courage, then, from the fact that Christ calls the fisherman to fish. He calls us not despite our weaknesses, but because of them.
The previous Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost, it was the Sunday of All Saints, and in some places the second Sunday after Pentecost is devoted to all the local saints — of Cyprus, of Greece, of Russia, and here All Saints of Britain. This beautiful custom teaches us exactly what was just said. No matter who you are and where you find yourself, you will always and everywhere find the opportunity and possibility not only to be saved, but to become a saint, which is the goal of every human life. Amen.
Fr Kristian Akselberg