All Things

I remember the look on his face when I told him that Orthodoxy is “maximalist, not minimalistic.” And then I reminded him of years of government promotion of the “minimum daily requirements” of this or that vitamin to be healthy. He slowly began to understand what I meant when I added “We don’t treat spiritual illness with an aspirin. We use the full dose of timeless wisdom.” The light turned on in his head and he got what I was trying to say.

And that’s one aspect of the Faith that really appealed to me. I wanted and needed the FULLNESS of the Faith to have every aspect of my life informed and changed by this Orthodox Way of Life. As we celebrate St. Sabbas the Sanctified today, we are invited to contemplate what Jesus means when he says “All things have been delivered to me by my Father…”

Look at our lesson today in Matthew 11:27-30:

The Lord said to his disciples, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In this section of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus is having to reassure St. John the Baptist that He really is the promised Messiah, and then the Lord launches into a series of declarations that were meant to shake things up a bit. Earlier in the chapter, He makes the provocative statement ” And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12) The Lord then goes on to warn several cities nearby that they are about to be confronted with judgment because of their unbelief. He even warns these cities that “it will be more tolerable Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.”

Jesus is really speaking plainly and directly warning His audience of the dangers of unfaithfulness and unbelief. And He ends the chapter with our passage by thanking His Father that the Father has revealed these truths to “babes” rather than the intelligent of the day.

After all this plain, and frankly, scary talk, the Lord ends by revealing that the Father has given “all things” to Him to share with us! And the Lord is clearly offering us the invitation to know Him in the fullness of the truth. And in knowing Him, we are gifted with the rest for our souls assured that everything the Father has given the Son is now shared with those of us who courageously follow Him.

Please also notice that the Lord clearly teaches that this knowledge of Him, this following Him, this faithfulness to Him, is a much easier way to live than living without Him. I know what you are saying “But father, the church has so many disciplines, so many teachings, and so many services. How can embracing all of that be easier than just living like everyone else around us?” I get it. But it isn’t wise to compare these focused disciplines of the Faith to thoughtless living based on our passions or desires. Because following our passions and desires makes us a slave to those desires. And living the disciplined and focused life of the Faithful is true freedom from the slavery of our desires. Our desires are demanding and childish. But Jesus says “I am gentle and lowly in heart.” The Lord isn’t driving us like the undisciplined passions drive our behaviors and choices. He is leading us as the loving Shepherd leads the sheep. And in our willingness to tame our passions through the practice of the Fullness of the Faith, we become like Him in His freedom from selfish motivations and actions.

Today, as we remember the great monastic saint Sabbas the Sanctified, let us press into the Fullness of “All things” given to Christ and lovingly shared with us through His Church. By being Orthodox on Purpose, we can truly rest in the treasures of our precious Faith.

P.S. Dear Lord, the loving gift of Your grace fills us with both strength and comfort, knowing the treasures of our Faith are found in You! And You share Your life with us through Your Church. Grant us the courage and comfort of Your peace as we remember St. Sabbas and all who courageously embrace this very full Faith. Amen.

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