Deny yourself and follow Him
Deny yourself and follow Him

Today we celebrate the 17th Sunday after Pentecost and also the Sunday after Exaltation of The Cross. We have heard two readings from the Holy Gospel, one according to St. Mark dedicated to afterfeast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and another one according to St. Mathew, the reading of this Sunday. Reflecting on the two passages we see the importance of the common theme, it is Kingdom of Heaven. In the first reading we receive the exact commandments what we should do, or how we should live our lives in order for us to inherit The Kingdom of God. And in another reading we have an example of people called, like all of us, to enter that Kingdom of Heaven but not all responded according to expectations of the Creator and therefore were not able to receive the blessing of that generous invitation.

To enter the Kingdom of Heaven we must follow our Savior and our Lord Jesus Christ. But how and what should we do? In our first Gospel reading of St. Mark, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it”

To “save” indicates becoming citizens of His Kingdom. Through His death on the Cross, salvation came in to this world, giving us new light and opening for us a new way to Heavenly Kingdom - the way in which we may already, or should, labor today. We mistakenly think that the Kingdom of God established in heaven in the future. Instead, we are called by the Heavenly Father to allow His Kingdom within us today, and enter with Him. The Kingdom of God begins within our souls, when we are living our lives according to His word, The Gospel, as the Savior expected us to do, giving ourselves completely. As we pray during the Liturgy, offering our lives to God, “commanding ourselves and one another and whole our live to Christ our God.” All live with everything that is spiritual, to be reflected in our actions, which are physical, creating harmony that is obvious to everyone. Our good desires to enter the Kingdom of Heaven must be supported by our good actions. Christ established His Kingdom here on this Earth in this life, giving us responsibility and expecting us to be caregivers, and expecting us to be stewards of His Kingdom. We are rewarded with abundant blessings for our righteous labor, grace and mercy. Let’s take our crosses and follow The Lord in to His Kingdom, done with love that reflects Christ Himself. Glorifying Him with “all our heart and all our mind.”

And in today’s second reading from the St. Mathew Gospel, we see in the parable that many of us do not easily come to the Heavenly Kingdom. In the parable, the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to the marriage feast the King made for his son. The King is God the Father, his son is our Savior Jesus Christ and all of us are invited. Are we ready to enter and sit at the one table with the King? Yes, we are all invited and the doors open to all of us, the King Himself calling us with His Divine word, through the Gospel. Yet we react mistakenly upon other desires and requests of the time, often becoming stewards in wrong places and caretakers of needless things. Some do not respond to the invitation of the Lord at all; some do respond, but incompletely; while others think that they are ready, but they are not. The Gospel and our Faith, our self evaluation, will help us to see more clearly in what garment we are really dressed up, whether we will be fit for the banquet of our King. In today’s parable the King asked the guests questions. Let us today evaluate ourselves thoroughly and honestly, keeping our garments ready and be attentive, so that we may hear the calling of The Lord and respond timely with all that we are.

Fr. Dmitri Belenki


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