In the Name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
In how many ways do we meet the Lord... At times, He comes to us, to use
the words of the Old Testament, as a peaceful breeze of the evening,
cooling, refreshing, giving us peace. At times He enters our life like a
storm. But when we open the door to Him Who knocks at it humbly, humbly
as Joseph and Mary knocked at the door of every house in Bethlehem, if
we open the door to Him, then He comes to us, and He comes as Light, as
Peace, as newness of Life.
But how long are we capable of remaining in His presence worthy of Him,
faithful to His presence, loyal to His love? And time comes in the life
of most people when suddenly we discover that He Who was the Gladdening
Light has become the Devouring Fire. When He is confronted with our
unfaithfulness, when He is confronted with evil which we refuse to
fight, when He is confronted with choices of disloyalty on our part,
then truly He comes to us like a fire, a fire that is prepared to burn
away all the tares, in the words of Saint Paul, so that everything may
be burnt down, but we may be saved, left without nothing but be saved.
The Saints of God whose memory we keep today, the Saints of the Land of
Russia to whom we prayed last week, and all the Saints of the world who
have ever responded to God's call and to God's challenge and to God's
love have known what I have said just now. Some had to be burnt deeply
so that nothing was left of their past life; and some were made into a
light, a joyful, gladdening light to the world.
We keep today the memory of all the Saints of this Land. Christ is not
knocking only at the doors of individual souls. He knocks at the doors
of every Kingdom and of every Land. And the Saints of the Land are those
people who respond with all their heart, indeed - all themselves to His
coming. They are the glory, they are the shining of the Land, they are
the holiness of the Land, the light that shines in the darkness, because
few they are, and the darkness is vast, and the darkness is deep. We
live in a time of confusion, a time of doubt, a time of fear. The Saints
lived in difficult times, but they were steady; they have received the
message of the Gospel, and against all evidence, against fear, against
the danger of martyrdom they stood steadfast in the truth of God. They
are indeed the glory of this Land, as the Saints of so many Lands are a
wonderful response of the earth to the coming of God in the flesh.
But they are not only the glory of the Land - they are a challenge to
the Land. They were men, and women, and children like us, with one
difference: they proved capable of responding to God wholeheartedly;
they were prepared to respond to God with their lives and their deaths,
to respond to God by sacrificing everything that was unworthy of Him,
and indeed, of them, because they were loved of God, and being loved
makes you infinitely significant and precious.
They are a challenge to us: where do we stand? We sing their praises, we
admire their persons - but do we follow in their footsteps? If Christ
came now, visibly, would we find in ourselves more courage to follow Him
than we find in ourselves now, with the Gospel to teach us, the Saints
to pray for us, to be before our eyes a living example of those who have
heard Christ say, ‘I have given you an example for you to follow’?
Let us reflect on our place in the mystery of salvation; not in the
mystery of our own salvation, but the salvation of the world. It is
Christ who carries the burden of the whole world, but you may remember
how, when He went to His Passion, the Cross was too heavy for Him; and
Simon of Cyrene was called upon to help Him carry His cross. The Saints
of God are carrying, each according to their strength, the Cross of
Salvation. But we are all awaited; Christ passes before each of us, with
His cross breaking His shoulder and His back, and saying to us, ‘Are you
another Simon of Cyrene? Or are you one of the crowd who let Me pass,
see how I fall, see how I walked to Calvary to die, without help?
Let us all reflect on the call which comes through every Saint and
through all the Saints of the Land to us, who ask us, ‘Where are you?
What are you doing for the salvation of the Land to whom God came, and
who responded to it in our persons? Are you to become one of us, or are
you to be another cross for Him to bear?’
Let us gather all our faith and all our strength, or rather - surrender
to God so that He can fill our very weakness with His power, and follow
in the footsteps of the Saints whom we sing but whom we so seldom