SERMON GIVEN 3rd August 1997
«We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself... Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. » (Romans 15: 1–7)
Today's reading from St. Paul's epistle is one of the most wonderful passages in his writings. He tells us that we who are strong must help and support those who are weak.
And immediately we must try and put to ourselves the question: how can we say that we are strong? We know from experience how fearful we are before temptations, before trials, before death, before violence, before all the things that encroach upon our life and the harmony of it. And yet, yes, we have a strength which outsiders have not got. We believe in Christ, we believe in God, and we can therefore by the power of Christ, by the love of God, help others.
All the Gospel may be summed up, as Christ says, in the word love: love of God, to love Him with all our mind, all our heart, all our strength, and we might even say all our frailty, because there is this wonderful passage in St. Paul in which he says: my power deploys itself in thy weakness. If we only surrender our weakness to God, it is filled like the sail of a boat is filled with the wind, our frailty is filled with the breathing, the power of the Holy Spirit.
But to love is to prefer what is good for the other to what is desirable for me. We are called to love God and to live in such a way that our life should be a joy to him. He has given his life to us, unto death. He is not asking us to give our life unto death but simply to live day in and day out by preferring his will, his commandments, to our desires, and preferring the needs of others to our own desires.
How simple it sounds, how difficult it is to accomplish. But if we only love, with however little love we are capable of, it will grow like a fire, it will fill our life, and will be a light and a warmth in the life of others.
And therefore, let us follow the advice he gives in another passage when he says: carry one another's burdens and so you will fulfil the law of Christ. Each of us has got a burden, small or great. Our neighbour can carry it very often better, with greater ease than us, because before our burdens we are afraid. Our neighbour is not afraid of our burdens, he is only touched by compassion for us. And so let us love one another, as Christ has loved us, giving ourselves to others, giving ourselves to God, being a joy to him, a strength and a joy to our neighbour. And the whole Gospel will have been fulfilled. Amen.