9th Sunday of Matthew
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The Gospel narrative today describes the danger the disciples encountered when they were journeying through the sea in order to reach the other side. The Lord had constrained his disciples to leave the place they were at before, and he would meet them a little later on the other side. And as they were travelling through the sea they encountered a great storm, and their life was in danger. Seeing this, our Lord Jesus appeared to them miraculously, walking toward them on the water of the sea as if he was walking on dry land. And he miraculously freed them from this calamity.
Remembering this event, the disciples recognised how important it is to be mindful of God in our life. Being mindful of the Lord in every moment in our life. Not just when we come to church to worship and to pray, and not just when we are praying on our own in our homes, but every moment we are conscious and aware of our Lord’s presence. It’s what the King and Prophet David says, “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalm 15:8).
I remember a story I once heard when I was on Mount Athos about how a person acquires the mindfulness of God. It is the first virtue which is born in the soul as the soul begins to journey towards God. You see, there is a difference between how our body functions and how our soul functions. Even though they are one they have a different order, and the soul has a different way of developing than the body. The body might walk many miles and traverse many journeys in this life, while the soul remains stagnant. But there comes a time when the soul is awakened. And when it is awakened and starts to journey towards the Lord, the first virtue it encounters is the virtue of mindfulness of God. Being aware of God’s presence at every moment of our lives.
The story that I heard was about a married couple. The wife lived a very devout Christian life, but the husband was not very devout. He was by profession, if we can call it that, a robber. His wife would always complain, always plead with him, to stop this evil act and learn to live a righteous path and not the path of the ungodly. But he was very firm in his ways, but the Lord blessed him and they had a child. And when that child was born and grew up, he noticed how his father was always going out to work at night. And he decided one evening to ask his father to take him along with him. And he did. He noticed his father was very careful, hiding in the shadows, looking over his shoulder all the time. And his son said to him, “Father, why are you afraid? Why do you keep looking behind your back?” He said, “I don’t want anyone to see me.” But the son said, “God can see us.” And it struck him. All the words of his wife could not get through to him, but when he heard it from his son, it pierced his heart, and he realised he was in the wrong. He went back to his wife and said, “Today, our son taught me a great lesson. From now on I will live a righteous life. The Lord is present in our life at every moment.” And it was in this way that this particular individual was able to understand the importance of being mindful of God.
Now, this can come to us in a hundred and one different ways. This is just one example that I gave to you. But there are many ways in which we will encounter this virtue when we are ready. We might also exercise this mindfulness of God in our life, to try to remember that God is always present in our life. This is the message that today’s Gospel wants to transmit to us. Amen.
Archimandrite Chrysostomos Michaelides