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On Sunday, August 30, 2020 His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon celebrated the Divine Liturgy at Saint Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church, Jamaica Estates, NY. During the course of the liturgy, His Beatitude elevated the rector, Hieromonk Nikodhim (Preston), to the dignity of Igumen in recognition of his 10 years of service to the parish. Following the liturgy, His Beatitude served the one year memorial service for His Eminence Archbishop Nikon, a son of Saint Nicholas parish, in the presence of many of His Eminence’s family and friends.
Following the memorial service, His Beatitude was welcomed to the parish by Igumen Nikodhim, who noted the meaningfulness of His Beatitude visiting Queens, the hardest hit county in the entire country, for his first primatial visit in many months. His Beatitude replied that while these times have been difficult, it is the witness of the saints that our perception and experience of God increase during such times of duress. The psalmist says, “a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 50), which comforts us by showing us that God is always listening in our moments of difficulty.
His Beatitude was then welcomed by Mr. Lou Foundos, Parish Council President, who also honored Igumen Nikodhim on the occasion of his completion of 10 years of service in the parish. Mr. Jim Liolin, brother of His Eminence Archbishop Nikon, then offered some words in memory of his brother. He reflected that His Beatitude and His Eminence of blessed memory not only shared brotherhood as hierarchs, but also shared a warm personal friendship. Following the services, the community hosted an outdoor coffee fellowship.
Many years to Igumen Nikodhim and the Saint Nicholas parish family, and may His Eminence Archbishop Nikon’s memory be eternal!
Homily of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon
on Matthew 19:16-26
Sunday, August, 30, 2020
St. Nicholas Albanian Orthodox Church, Jamaica Estates, NY
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is in our midst!
I greet you, my beloved children in Christ, whether you are here in person at St Nicholas Orthodox Church, or participating through the livestream, and express my joy in being with you today as we gather in the Name of the Lord.
On this day, as we do every Sunday, we celebrate our weekly feast of Christ’s resurrection from the dead which is celebrated not only because He, as the Son of God, rose from the dead, but even more so because it is the promise that we all will rise from the dead as well.
Christ died and rose not just for himself, but for all of us, so that all of humanity might have a path to eternal life.
As part of this celebration of the Resurrection, we also gather today to honor the memory of His Eminence, the ever-memorable Archbishop Nikon, a devoted son of this parish, and the spiritual father for the Albanian Archdiocese, who fell asleep one year ago this week. May his memory be eternal!
When we think of Archbishop Nikon, we think of a good man, a faithful priest, a kind human being. But it is good to remember that when we keep his memory this day and this week, we do not do so just because he was good, devoted, and kind.
Rather, we keep his memory because we have hope and assurance that although he has fallen asleep, he is alive in Christ. Indeed, our hope is that all who fall asleep will rise again, in their new bodies in the Resurrection, and that all will be alive in Christ.
This is because, as our Lord himself tells us in the Gospel that we just heard, the things that are impossible for men are possible for God. To rise from the dead and live eternally is impossible for men, but it is possible for God.
Let us consider the Gospel we heard:
A young man came to Jesus, and asked him how he might be saved. This young man lived a good life: he did not steal, he did not commit adultery, he did not kill, he honored his parents.
Our Lord saw all these things, and encouraged the young man to do one more good thing: to give away his wealth. He said to the rich young man: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
But when the rich young man heard this, he was sad and left. He did not want to give away his many possessions. He loved his money and his possessions too much.
And this is when our Lord said that it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. He said it with these words: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Our Lord said this to show us that a rich man cannot buy his way into heaven. A rich man cannot love his money more than he loves other people, and expect to get into heaven. A rich man cannot enter heaven if he only hoards his money, and doesn’t share it with the poor and needy.
If we examine what our Lord says more closely, it is clear that the sin of the rich man is not simply that he is rich; his sin is not that he has a lot of possessions. Rather, the sin of the rich man is his attitude and disposition towards his riches.
In other words, his sin is that he loves riches. And even if he were poor, but loved riches, he would still be captivated by the same passion, a passion that for many, poor and rich alike, consumes their lives.
Let us think about our own situations here in New York in the 21st century.
Chances are, we live mostly good lives. Perhaps we do honor our parents and are kind to all we meet. Perhaps we do follow the fasts of the Church, attend the services of the Church, and pray at home. In this way, we are similar to the young man in today’s Gospel, who assures the Lord that he follows all the commandments.
The challenge which our Lord is putting before us today is the same one that he puts before the young man: in order to be perfect, he says, you must “go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
We should note that our Lord is not telling the young man to do just one thing, but rather four things. He is telling him to 1) go, 2) to sell what he has, 3) to give the proceeds to the poor, and 4) come follow Him. In other words, he is not asking for a single, limited action but for a change of heart, a change of attitude, a change of life.
To be perfect, the young man needs to go, that is, he needs to move away from where he is presently standing, not just physically, but in his heart. This is always the first step for all of us: we must voluntarily choose to move forward, to let go of the things that we might be clinging to in a selfish manner.
He then is told to sell what he has, which is not an easy thing to do: when we have things, we like to hold on to them, and if we have money, we like to invest it or save it up for the future. We don’t mind spending our money if we get something back from our purchase.
Which is why the Lord also emphasizes to the young man that, after he sells what he has, he should give it to the poor. This too, is very difficult to do because it requires us to think of someone else besides ourselves. Often, the more money we have, the harder it is to think of giving it away
But here again, the point is not how much money we have but what our attitude towards it is. If we find it difficult to let go of our wealth or our possessions, then we know that our attachment is not to God but to those things.
And if we get to the point of giving it all away, which is the point of perfection, we gain something in return: we acquire riches in heaven. But unlike an earthly business transaction, this is not an equal trade: we gain much more than we lose. And what we gain supremely more valuable than any earthly wealth.
Whether we are rich like this man in the gospel, or whether we are poor, or whether we are of the middle class, we all need to strive for this attitude of perfection, either by giving away money if we have more than we need, or by being content, if we have what we need, or, by sharing with others in different ways, if we have less than we need.
But in all three of those options, it is not a question of the quantity of wealth but of the disposition of our heart, which can take the form of charity, contentment, or generosity, among many other possibilities.
And then we will be prepared for the fourth step which our Lord speaks of, which is that we should come and follow Him. We should note that following Christ is the last step in this process, not the first. Which means that following Christ requires a lot of preparatory work, work which begins in our hearts and is expressed in our actions.
This may be why the disciples seem surprised by what the Lord is saying: they knew the effort required to follow Christ, and that effort is the same whether one is speaking about money and riches, or our own pride and self-will. We have to let go of something if we truly want to follow Christ.
We cannot say with our mouth that we follow Christ if we have not shown that we are ready to do so through the disposition of our heart and our willingness to give up all those things that we think we possess and hold on to Christ alone.
This may seem difficult to do, even impossible. But God will make possible what seems impossible to us, just as in Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, what seemed impossible – resurrection from the dead – has happened, and will happen for all of us.
What makes things seem impossible is often the pride of our own thinking which we can set aright through faith and through experience: to our minds, death seems like an end, but we know by faith and experience that we will rise again.
Our faith is what brings us to the Church today, it is what inspires us to be charitable and to give alms, it is what emboldens our heart to do amazing feats of kindness and generosity towards our brothers and sisters, and even towards our enemies.
Our experience is our participation in the Divine Liturgy and in all the mysteries of the Church, even during a difficult time of social distancing and separation from our fellow Christians. The life of the Church is always active, even in mysterious and hidden ways. It is up to us to open our hearts to receive the grace that is always and freely given to us.
May we give thanks to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon us and may we each take that first step that leads to a full participation in the life of the kingdom, by recognizing that there is nothing in this life that can compare to the glory given to us when we give up our own selfish desires in order to truly follow our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ, who is worshipped together with His Father who is from everlasting, and the most holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto ages of ages.