26 April 2012
The Meaning of Affliction
Eugene Rose Lay Sermon July 1963
Among the innumerable spiritual lessons we may learn from the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, one of the most important is that of the meaning of affliction. Most men in their days, as in our own, sought "peace" and "security"; but the Apostles were in continual peril and uncertainty, often hungry and cold, beaten, stoned, persecuted, imprisoned, and finally martyred. Far from despairing over their lot, they rejoiced in it, knowing that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom 8:18). They knew the necessity of pain and affliction for the spiritual life. Through the bearing of tribulation one learns patience and hope (Rom 5:1-3); the greater one's suffering, the greater is one's consolation in Christ, and the better one is able to console others in distress (II Cor. 1:4-5); even dissensions and divisions among the faithful are necessary so that the true servants of Christ may be separated from the false (I Cor 11:19). But perhaps the most valuable thing to be learned from affliction is the knowledge of one's own weakness; for then one comes entirely to depend upon the strength of Christ. "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (II Cor 12:10).
Today the power and seductiveness of the world are stronger than ever. Everywhere Christians are tempted to take the easy path, to seek "peace" and "security" and flee from pain and affliction, to view life as an occasion for the enjoyment of earthly blessings, instead of a time of trial in which our eternal destiny is to be decided. But God expects more than this from those who glory in the name of Orthodox Christians. So that we will not forget Him and His eternal Kingdom, God mercifully sends us troubles, distress, sorrows, persecution; these are to awaken us who sleep and show us where our true home is. Let us remember the example of the Holy Apostles, and especially the burning fervor and faith which sustained them in all their trials; let us heed the many exhortations of the Apostle Paul, as well as those of our shepherds today who continue to speak and tell us to prepare, in pain and tribulation, for the Kingdom of eternal glory and joy. Weak as we are, no trial is too great for us if our strength is of Christ. "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38-39).