Homily during Plebe Summer 2006
Sunday, July 2, 2006
Admin in Homily, Plebe Summer, Teachings

Readings: Romans 5:1-10 St. Matthew 6:22-33

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matt. 6:24).

Christ God must be the focus of our lives. It is only in putting Him and His Church first, that all the other important aspects of our lives come together and fit into their proper place, glorifying God. Salvation for Christians—for Orthodox—has always meant our continued growth and participation in the life of the Holy Trinity.

That is, an ongoing relationship and communion with God.

Christ says, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” Christ God is Life so if we want to truly live, we must be united to Him who is Life itself.

What am I getting at? It means that you cannot put your faith on hold while you live out your dream of a career in the military or even just during your four years of training at the Naval Academy. In the end, you may get the military formation and career, but it will be not be what you dreamed it to be, AND you will have lost your faith in the process.

Rather, only in Christ will your formation and career in the military be God-glorifying and therefore blessed.

Now, the Naval Academy will test your faith and form you. There is no doubt about that! YOU WILL BE FORMED HERE! The question is, “HOW?” You will not be the same person in four years that you are now.

The Academy will demand ALL from you—some will tell you it is your ‘master’, but the key is that in order to give your all for your country, to serve your country—be it the U.S. or Romania or elsewhere, you have to put Christ and His Church FIRST.

This is why Christ says, “You cannot serve two masters.” Only in putting Christ and the Church first, will you be able to become the man of God that He desires you to be. THEN and only then can you can serve your country with the strength, fortitude, and whole- mindedness that a life formed in Christ offers.

The Academy recognizes that “moral and ethical development” is vital for making good officers. This is why it is specifically stated in the mission statement of the Academy. Don’t let anyone here tell you otherwise. This is why the military invests in a Chaplain Corp. Atheism and Agnosticism, in the end, does not make good, ‘whole-minded’ leaders.

The Military wants people with integrity in its leadership. And true integrity has to come from the heart; it cannot be imposed through fear of being ‘fried’—though some will try to impose this upon you. It can be taught, but to be truly effective, it must become part of a person; it must be caught and lived through practice! This is where your faith and the Church and this ministry of the Church comes into play.

This ministry is here, the Church is here, to help you be formed as a whole person: body, soul, and spirit.

The military will teach you to march, to line up for formation, to use artillery, to follow commands, to teach you facts, but it cannot change your heart. It cannot, on it’s own, grow you into a person of truth and integrity; that must come through your formation in Christ and His Church, the fullness of which we find only in Holy Orthodoxy. In the Orthodox Church, the tools of prayer, the Scriptures, and the Sacraments stand ready to assist you!

True leadership cannot be separated from what it means to become “a man of God.” Think of the example of the heroic officer, St. George. He served Rome valiantly and was loved by his men. In the end though, he gave his life not for the State but for his fellow Christians. He is known to this day for that reason! Let him be your example!

Now, let me also say what you probably already have discovered: as a plebe, you will experience a lot of humiliation and hazing aimed, in part, to break you down and empty you of individuality in order to make you a good soldier and officer.

--You will be pushed beyond your physical, emotional, and psychological limits.

Sometimes, you will get back to your room so exhausted that in the morning you won’t even remember how you got to your bed. Maybe you’ve already experienced this!?

Now, you have two choices: you can grudgingly put up with the discipline you receive here and see it as a means to an end—your military or other career.

OR, you can see the discipline, self-denial, obedience, and patience, you are learning here as additional tools that, in addition to making you a good leader, will also aid you in your struggle against sin and death as you continue to grow to participate more and more in the life of the Holy Trinity.

Discipline, wherever learned, can be transferred to other areas of our lives, namely, in our case, in our battle to be healed of our sin- sickness, in our struggle for holiness.

This is where St. Paul’s words ring so true in today’s Epistle reading:

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5).

Our Epistle reading today reminds us that we must cooperate with the work of God in our lives through the Holy Spirit if we are to be united with Christ and attain to eternal life.

In the midst of your running, sweating, being cussed at, and your mental and physical fatigue, your temptation to sin, call on the Lord, remember the words of the Jesus Prayer. “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Take them with you in your mind and heart so that you may persevere and continue to be formed in Christ.

God will enable you to persevere and He will be your strength—a reserve that others without Him do not have!

In other words, let God transform what could otherwise seem like pure drudgery, into discipline that bears fruit not only for your military and future leadership career, but for eternal life! So, I encourage you, in the midst of your military formation this summer and beyond, to use it to God’s glory—to cooperate with His ongoing work in your lives, to deepen your prayer life and communion with God in the midst of your training.

Strive to keep God in mind at all times. This is what it is to “pray without ceasing.” Ask Him to be with you and help you to endure and give you strength—physical, spiritual, and mental strength.

Remember the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”

He will not fail you. He will come to you with His strength when you need it most.

Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!

 

Article originally appeared on AnnapolisCollegeMinistry.org (http://www.annapoliscollegeministry.org/).
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