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On mercy

There is a certain moment in the Gospel, dear brethren, when a lawyer comes up to Christ and asks Him: Master, what should I do in order to inherit eternal life? The Lord then asks him in turn: What is written in the law about it? The lawyer replies: That we should love the Lord God with all our heart, all our soul, all our might, all our mind, and love our neighbors as ourselves.

 It is to this key to attainment of eternal life that the Church leads us by means of sequential Sunday Gospel readings. One of the Gospel readings tells us of how Jairus, head of the synagogue, came to Christ: his only daughter was dying, and he could not find help anywhere. And so he ran up to Christ, fell at His feet, and begged: help… she is dying… my only one. Christ went with him.

 And thus Jairus is going along with Christ. And this walk, perhaps a short one, appears to Jairus like a path of life. His daughter is dying, and yet he has hope… He has hope, because he has faith in that Christ can produce a great miracle, can accomplish the cure which no one else can achieve. And this walk with Christ is the entire path of Jairus’s life.

 We all must have a similar path, dear brethren. All of us are traveling towards the moment of our departure from this life. Each one of us must await this moment. But if we have hope in Christ, if we hold onto Christ as Jairus did, if we do not abandon Christ no matter what disasters we encounter, then we will undoubtedly attain that which the lawyer asked about – we will attain eternal life.

 But how should we proceed? How should we hold onto Christ? How should we make sure to remain with Him throughout the entire course of life? The course of life is usually a long one; for many it is often many years, sometimes 80, sometimes 90 or longer. How many dangers we face of being torn away from Christ! A veritable storm of disasters swirls around us: how many sorrows there are in our family lives between husband and wife, between parents and children; how many political crises we see in our society, how many horrible crimes, how the abandonment of God permeates all spheres of our earthly existence! Where should we turn? The answer is simple: we should emulate Jairus and attach ourselves to Christ, walk along with Him, hold onto Him.

 And how can we hold onto Christ? The Gospel account of the good Samaritan reveals to us the secret of remaining with Christ. And the secret is: to be a good Samaritan always, everywhere, and towards everyone.

 Let us examine ourselves as to whether we are truly good Samaritans. Here is our family around us, our children – have we taught them to be good? Here comes a person to us who is on the brink of moral disaster – have we supported him in his battle with sin? Over there our friend finds himself in difficult circumstances – have we helped him to the best of our ability? And how many people there are who need only a single word of encouragement, of attention, – and have we given them of ourselves as did the good Samaritan?

 It is for this reason that the Lord provides us with this wonderful image of the good Samaritan, in order to teach us that only mercy can keep us at Christ’s side.

 Children, for example, first grow baby teeth which fall out, giving way to other, permanent ones. The same must take place with our hearts. We are born with a coarse earthly heart, an egoistic heart. We would not be able to enter eternal life with such a heart. And, unfortunately, it will not fall out by itself. We must make a conscious effort to replace it with a new heart, no longer earthly, but belonging to Christ. And every time we help our neighbor, we make this effort, as though we were tearing off a piece of our heart and giving it to our neighbor, while in place of this little piece of earthly sinful heart the Lord places within us a piece of His own heart. And thus, throughout the entire course of our life, we must exchange our heart for a new, real heart, for the heart of Christ.

 And at that point eternal life will open up for us. At that point nothing will tear us away from Christ, and we will obtain that about which the lawyer asked the Lord: eternal life. Amen.

(From Archbishop Andrew of Novo-Diveevo’s book, “The One Thing Needful)


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