Sermon on the reading from Saint Matthew 14:14-22
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.
The last two weeks we talked about prayer, so I decided to keep this theme for the next few weeks and see what the Gospel lessons teach us about prayer and relationship with God.
Just to recap, two weeks ago we talked about how Christ knows us personally, intimately, deeply because He knows us by name. And I encouraged everyone to practice prayerful silence, where we fully realize our surroundings and that Christ is always everywhere present, but especially during those few minutes of our prayerful silence.
This kind of prayer is meant to give us time and space to hear God’s answer to our prayers. We constantly ask for something, and sometimes we need to just shut up and listen.
Last week I spoke about the names by which we know God. One of the names of Christ is the Son of David. And when we call Him by that name, we recognize Him as the Messiah, our Savior.
And we also call God the Father our papa, our dad. Christ Himself teaches us to pray to God in this way in the prayer “Our Father,” which more accurately can be translated as “Our Papa, Who art in heaven…”
This all comes out to be a sequence of prayer – begin with silence, stand before Christ and clear the mind; call out to God and call Him by His name, call Him Papa because He isour Father, by saying the prayer “Our Father, Who art in heaven…”
And then today we get the next piece for our sequence of prayer – thanksgiving. It is always a good idea to begin with giving thanks before asking for more.
We heard today about one of the great miracles of Christ – feeding more than five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. But what did Christ do right before handing out the food to His disciples?
“Taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven.” The tradition of that day was to look at the food when blessing it, but Christ teaches that before we bless it, we need to give thanks first for what we have. And Who do we thank? God, of course.
And this is how our prayer life goes as well – we sit in silence and let God enter, we call out to Him and call Him our Papa, and then before saying or doing anything else, we say “thank you.”
Thank You, O God, for everything we have. Thank You, O God, for everything we don’t have because we probably would not have handled it for the benefit of our salvation. Thank You, O God, for the things that are to come.
Even in our Liturgy, during Anaphora, the main part of the service, where we ask God to send down His Holy Spirit and bless the bread and wine and make them into the Body and Blood of Christ, we thank God for things that have already passed, and for the things that are yet come.
Here is the prayer that is said, “Remembering this saving commandment and everything that has come to pass for us: the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Sitting at the right hand, and the Second and glorious Coming…” To this prayer the singers respond, “…we praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, O Lord…”
We give thanks for all the saving actions of Christ, even for those that have not happened yet, like the Second Coming. And in our personal prayer, we also give thanks for the things that are yet to come.
Someone once said that our present life is the answer to our prayers. And I thought, there are a lot of people who have it a lot worse than most of us. Does it mean that they asked for it or that their prayer was bad?
And recently I heard an answer…no, not from God directly (like I said before, if you hear voices during your prayerful silence, come and see me). I heard the answer on a podcast, a radio show, I was listening to. And the point is this – our faith is not meant to make our life better or easier. It’s not about how we feel, but who we are. Our faith is meant to change us, to transform us, to make us more like Christ.
In this sense, our life is the answer to all of our prayers because we are not meant to have a good life, but a Christ-like life. All the pain and joy of our life, all the suffering and happiness are meant to transform us from who we are into what we are meant to be. And we are meant to be disciples of Christ, His followers, doers of His will.
And I understand that this may sound harsh because, again, there are people in a lot worse situations, in a lot more pain and suffering than most of us. And I can’t explain it more than I already have. Just like you, I am also working through the faith myself.
Yet, we still give thanks for everything that we have and for the things that will come, no matter what they are because if this life that God has given us can teach us anything, it’s that we can’t rely on ourselves, but only on God Who saves.
So, let’s practice this rule of prayer that we are laying out in the next few weeks. Begin with prayerful silence, say “Our Father,” give thanks for the things we have, for the people in our life, for our faith, and for the things that are to come. And next week, we’ll look at the first thing to ask in our prayers.
To our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, we give glory and honor, always, now and ever and unto ages of ages.