Today is the Sunday of All Saints, the day which the Church commemorates all the holy men and women, known and unknown, that have lived lives dedicated to God. The saints and the Saints, all have one thing in common. They all lived in the world but did not live according to the ways of the world. That is the definition of the word, “holy.”
To be holy, based on the Greek word άγιος (agios) means to be “not of the earth.” How can this be when each of us as human beings were born in the world and we live our entire lives in the world? Are we expected by God to forget that we are quite literally made from the earth as we learn in Genesis, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2.7) We even emphasize this at every funeral before burial. “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” (from the funeral service)
If being holy doesn’t mean physically not being of the earth, then it must be our soul and way of life the Church is speaking of. In today's Gospel we hear Christ give us His expectation of the Christian way of life. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me….and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 10.37 & 19.29)
We are faced with choices at every step of our lives, whether at work or school, with friends or just sitting quietly at home surfing the internet. In every interaction we must choose the way of God or the way of the world. The way of the world is filled with pain and suffering. It is filled with hatred and bigotry. It is filled with greed and isolation. The way of God is love and compassion, sharing and fellowship, comfort and inclusion. We see the results of the way of the world playing out in front of our eyes in the recent civil unrest our society is experiencing.
Our role as Orthodox Christians in this crucial time in our society is to be in the world but not OF the world. We are called by God to be a witness to His holiness and way of life in our interactions with others. Some will recognize God, while others will not. We are called by God to treat even those who refuse the way of God, with love and compassion. Many of the saints we celebrate today were known for having compassion even on those who beat and tortured them. We are called to the same love as our Christian ancestors. Today is our day to let the Light of Christ shine in the world, so those living in darkness can find their way home to God and His Church.