Fr. Andrey Lemeshonok: Following Jesus Along the Narrow Path

Our time today is not a time of open persecution but it is a time when we can betray God for the sake of some human benefits and assets. It is a time when we can, because of our negligence and apathy, join the camp of God’s adversaries. It is when we can be lost in this world and it will be hard to tell what the meaning and purpose of our lives actually is.

There’s an episode in the Gospel about the Gadarene land. The people in that area were probably prosperous because they had many pigs. I would imagine that the meat was cheap, and everyone was well-fed. So, Christ came to that country. There was only one sick man who came out to meet Him because he needed Him. The rest of them did not. Eventually they told Him, “Hey, go away from here. You’ve already caused us losses, and such a nice herd has drowned. How much meat could we have gotten from this herd? What are you going to do next?”

Doesn’t that country look like our modern world? Doesn’t this world say that it doesn’t need Christ, that it needs technological advances, improved living standards, a developed economy, cheap and accessible goods, and an enjoyable living for everyone instead? What would they need Christ for? He dies on the cross in this world. The world does not need him.

I can give you a real life example. I had a friend who was a thoughtful and reasonable man. When I came to the faith, I told him all about it and he said, “You know what… I’m sure it’s true but I don’t need Christ right now. I’m doing fine. If I go to church and start living with Christ, I’ll be ruined.” It was clear to him that nothing would remain of his comfortable life. What would remain of his appearance, his well-being, his decorum, his privileges in this world? Everything would disappear. Therefore, we are afraid to surrender all our lives to Christ our God. We may sacrifice a little bit to him but the rest of it is mine. That’s my life! Okay? That’s how…

Today, if we said that we need nothing more than Christ, cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee (cf. Psalm 143: 8), it would be an affront to the whole world; it would be a road to Golgotha. Are we ready to say that to God? I think not.

At some point, we’ll have to say it. We have to reach the state of the demoniac who lived in tombs, who was rejected, because only then he turned to Christ… I look at how things happen in life: everything is fine, you have health and wealth, and then bang – “You have one month left to live with your tumor”. Ugh, so what? That’s when we are going to seek Christ. Don’t we? “No one else needs me anymore because I am not going to stay in this world any longer. Maybe He will help me and I will get better?” Can you see what sort of attitude we have towards God? Only when the storm hits, will we cross ourselves. In the meantime, we use all our energy to improve our living standards, prosperity, and health, etc… At the moment, we are not so good at following Christ, it seems…

We don’t know what the future will bring, but sooner or later the faithful will have to make their choice. To be honest, I am horrified to see what is going on and what will happen next. We should not stare at it with horror but rather have faith and hope that God will not forsake us because God wants us to become real warriors. So that we could win this war for our souls and for our neighbors. We need to defeat this world that lies in wickedness.

Psychology is trendy these days. They go to a therapist, to an Orthodox therapist, to a counselor… It’s awful! Don’t you actually need Christ? This is not about psychology anymore, this is not about philosophy, this is about spiritual warfare… The devil is behind us but we want to nourish ourselves with psychology. Christ has everything! This includes psychology. “Love God and do what you want,” the Blessed Augustine said. We who are enlightened by these times often say: “We need other means, we can improve our lives by other means.” Yet, the Lord tells us, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17).

In order to meet Christ in this world, we must probably reach the state of that sick, demon-possessed, and pitiful man. Whether he was unfortunate or not, everyone has to decide for himself. I think that he was the most fortunate man in the country of the Gadara because he met Christ, and Christ healed him. Do you think that the others were less possessed by demons than this man who lived in caves? They were even worse. However, the devil did not touch them because they were in his hands, they lived according to his instructions, they lived as he wanted. They did not need Christ. So it is today. We do not know what is good and what is bad. We are totally screwed up and confused as to how we see ourselves today. We are in such a condition that when we come to Christ, we are afraid of Him because He may ruin the things that are precious to us: we hold on to this comfort, we like our jobs, we cling on to these relationships… They might be broken because they will not save your immortal soul.

That’s why we won’t all follow Christ together as a group. People follow Christ along an extremely narrow and steep path. Each one walks with fear. May God empower us to go all the way to the end and avoid the world’s attempts to lure or trick us. The world is at war both from the right and from the left. There are enemies who are open, and some who are hidden and pretend to not be enemies. We have to resist. We need to remain faithful to Orthodoxy, the traditions, and canons of the Holy Fathers. This is the only road to our salvation and the salvation of our loved ones.

May the Lord save you all!

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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