“Calling of the Twelve into a World Of Light and Darkness”

“Calling of the Twelve into a World Of Light and Darkness”

Dn. Hector Firoglanis

Lancaster – June 25, 2006

            Today’s Gospel lesson describes the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry.  He begins His ministry not by calling the most educated, gifted, and charismatic followers.  Instead, he calls 12 simple men who, for the most part, were uneducated fishermen. 

            But these followers of Christ were willing to be obedient to their Master and to be formed into great Apostles who would change the world.

*          *          *

            Before the calling of the Twelve, as we read in today’s lesson, the Gospel of Mathew describes the world before the coming of Christ by quoting the Prophet Isaiah:  “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” 

            Before Christ entered into their lives, the people sat in darkness.  And the Lord’s first words to the masses were: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

            Repentance means to reorient our lives back to God, and this is the first step necessary to come out of darkness into the Light of Christ. 

            Christ called 12 simple Disciples and molded them into great Apostles in order to carry this message to all the world: “Repent…turn away from darkness and return to the light and life of Christ.”

*          *          *

            For 50 years in Albania the people sat in the total darkness of Atheistic Communism.  During the last 9 months or so, Katerina and I have been in Albania trying to continue this Apostolic mission of the Church. 

            It has been a year of personal repentance, calling others to repentance, calling others from darkness into light. 

And much of our energy has been devoted to forming Disciples – the present and future leaders of the Church of Albania, who will be spreading the light of Christ in a dark society for the coming generations. 

            I mentioned the 50 years of darkness during the years of Atheistic Communism in Albania.  And many people make the error of believing that with the collapse of Communism, the darkness of Communism would automatically be replaced with the light of Christ.

            However, as we continually warn the young Christians of Albania, the old enemy of Communism is being replaced by the new enemy of Secularism.  We can’t even call secularism a new enemy; it is simply the same enemy with a new face.

            Whether we live in America, or Albania, or in most any other part of the world today, we are all facing the common enemy, the Devil, and his new face in the 21st century is secularism.

            A secular lifestyle is new and appealing to most young Albanians.  They feel it’s the antidote to the backward years of Communism.  But as a missionary from America, I try to warn the young Albanian Christians about the dangers of secularism.

I always tell them, “I have grown up in the global heart of secularism in America.  I have eaten of its fruit and have seen its destructive consequences.  Although it looks appealing on the outside, secularism is spiritually bankrupt and leads to spiritual death.

            Speaking from the perspective of an Orthodox Christian, secularism is more dangerous than Communism because it is more subtle in its attack against the soul.

            If you put a frog in a pot of hot water, it will immediately jump out and save itself.  But if you put a frog into a pot of lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat, the frog will stay there until it burns to death.

            While many Christians jumped out of the boiling waters of Communism to save their lives spiritually in places like Russia and Albania, today young Christians in Albania and everywhere in the world are burning to death spiritually in the deceiving waters of secularism.  

            This darkness of secularism is enveloping not only Albania, but also America and the rest of the world. 

*          *          * 

            Christ did not force His light on the world with spectacular miracles, awesome displays of power, or with creative social/outreach programs. 

            He called 12 humble men to follow him, and over a period of three years He lived with these men, He ate with them, He traveled with them, He taught them, He gave them an example, and through their obedience they became like their Master.

He called them to repentance and imparted His light onto them, and – on fire with the Holy Spirit – they took that light to the rest of the world, forming new disciples, so that they too could continue the work of spreading the Light of Christ.

*          *          *

            Making disciples in Albania.  This has been the focus of our work during the last year. 

The disciples we are forming in Albania are no different from the disciples Christ called: they are average everyday people, students and seminarians.  The one difference with these young people, however, is that they have freely chosen to follow Christ, and we are helping them to grow in Christ’s likeness. 

Most of us here this morning: we’ve been given everything we’ve ever needed as we grew up in the bosom of the Church.  We have been baptized, we have been spiritually nourished by the Eucharist and the other sacraments of the Church, we have been formed by the Sunday school programs and Bibles studies offered by the Church, we have been given the example of the saints, excellent priests, and other faithful Christians in the generation preceding our own. 

We have been given so much.  Why?  So that we can keep everything for ourselves and bask in the glory of the spiritual treasures given to us?  Not at all.

The paradox of the spiritual life is that we lose whatever we don’t share.  Archbishop Anastasios mentioned in his Pascha sermon, just as we share the candle light given to us with our neighbor, we are called to share all of our gifts with others.

If we do not share the spiritual gifts given to us, we lose them.  

The Church feeds us so that we may feed others.  The Church gives us the light of Christ so that we may share that light with the entire world. 

We cannot do it alone, however.  As Christians, we need to support one another and strengthen one another so that we do not blend into our society.  We must always be different.  

Christ said, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

It doesn’t matter if we are doctors, teachers, businessmen, or homemakers by profession, our peers need to recognize us as Christian doctors, Christian teachers, Christian businessmen, or Christian homemakers.

This is what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  We must never blend in.  The world must see that we are different, because we love one another.  

The reality is that we do live in a dark world.  But we are called to share the Light of Christ with others who are spiritually dozing to sleep in the calm waters of secularism.

*          *          *

            “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” 

            Albania is not the only place which sat and continues to sit in darkness.

            The majority of people here in America continue to sit in darkness, totally unaware of the beauty and splendor of Christ’s light. 

            We are all called together, as the Body of Christ, to use the gifts which God has given to us, to spread that light to the regions of darkness in our homes, in our work places, in America, in Albania, and in the entire world. 

            The people who sit in darkness need us, and we need them.  If we do not share the light which has been given to us, that light will be taken away from us. 

But if we do receive that light and faithfully share it with others, then we will hear the sweet voice of our Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your lord.”  Amen.  (Matt. 25:23).