Sermon preached during the Moleben at the close of the Effingham Conference, 1989, 29 May
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.
Before we part, I want to say two things. First of all, in today's Gospel we are told that whoever asks will receive, to whomever knocks, the door shall be open. And these words, which we usually take as promise to ourselves, are followed by words that turn our attention away from ourselves; because we are told, «Whatever you expect to be done unto you, do it to others». We come into the presence of the living God asking for salvation; and whenever anyone comes to us, with any request, we must remember this commandment of Christ. The request may be varied; people need shelter; people are hungry; people are distressed; people are lonely; people have lost their faith; people have no hope – it is our function to respond to whomever asks, or knocks, and comes to us. It is only then that we will be what we are called to be: the attentive, caring presence of Christ in a world in which we are sent, to use the words of a translation of st Paul's epistle, as a vanguard of heaven. But not a vanguard that conquers and subdues, not a vanguard that establishes a dominion, but a vanguard that sets free.
And this we can do if we remember the words read yesterday in the Acts of the Apostles. For the first time in Antioch were the disciples called «Christians»; was it simply because they spoke of Christ to all and sundry? Was it because they were strange and different from others? Both are true, but perhaps in a way, different from what we expect. Yes, they spoke of Christ; but in the words of St. Paul, it is not in the wisdom of wordly philosophy – they spoke with power. Not the power of a human convincingness, but the power of the spirit – they were the voice of God resounding in the midst of a loud world. We must also remember that we are called to speak of Christ, to proclaim Him, to confess Him: but not with the wisdom and the learning which we can acquire from books, but with the knowledge of God which we can possess only through communion with Him, in prayer, in adoration and in faithfulness to Him, loyalty to Him and fulfilling of His commandments.
And the second thing is that they were seen there, indeed, as men and women different from others; but not because they had strange rituals or because they had a behaviour different form others; but because looking at them people saw that they were citizens of Heaven. To use the phrase which I have used so often: people meeting them saw on their face and in their eyes the shining of eternal life. Eternal life which Christ has evoked, had called out in their hearts, eternal life that had pervaded their mind, and their heart, and their will, and their bodies, and their behaviour: that had made them different, while they were a revelation of what true humanity is.
Let us remember this is our vocation: to be called Christians not because we are labelled, but because without any label we can be recognised as Christ's own people. May God grant us to grow into that measure of faith and life, of prayer and of communion – not only sacramental, but a communion of every moment being merged in Christ and having Christ in us.