Fr. Richard's Sunday Homily, April 9, 2017
Palm Sunday

Exercise for Your Soul


Epistle: Philippians 4:4-9  
Gospel: John 12:1-18  

Last Thursday they had a Lenten service for the kids of St. Nicholas school at the cathedral in Chicago and the pastor asked me to give the sermon. So I talked to them about strength. I said that some of them were strong and some of them were not so strong. I told them that the rector of the cathedral, who is a much larger person than I am, was probably a lot stronger than me, and if I ever made him mad and we got into a fight he could probably beat me up. You should have seen their faces—the thought of two priest going at it with each other. So, everyone may not have the same strength but we can all do something to grow stronger. What can we do? Hands started shooting up in the air. I pointed to one small girl who confidently answered, “Eat your vegetables.” It was a Lenten reply. Of course, the answer I was looking for was exercise. If you exercise and use your muscles they become stronger and so do you. It’s a good thing to be strong, as strong as you can be, and it’s a good thing to exercise so you can be strong.

But that’s not just true for the body, it is also true for the soul. So I asked them what was easier—to tell a lie or to tell the truth? To hit your brother back if he hits you, or to just walk away? When your mom tells you to do something you don’t want to do, is it easier to just do what she asks or is it easier to complain? Is it easier to do your homework or not do your homework? So, every time you choose the harder thing and not the easy way, you are exercising and growing stronger, not in your body but in your soul. Every time you avoid sin and practice virtue you are growing stronger in your soul and that means you are becoming a stronger person, a stronger Christian.

So that is what I am recommending for you this week as well. That you exercise for the good of your soul. Today in the general culture you do not hear about moral strength or living the virtuous life. Morality is reduced to issues and topics. If you hold those views you are a good person, if you support those views you are a bad person. Moral strength has nothing to do with it. But for us moral strength is vital to a good life.

Just as I asked the kids last week so I ask you today to do some exercise this week for the good of your soul in preparation for the Holy Pascha. Maybe it is extra fasting, maybe it is spending 5 or 10 minutes of your lunch break in prayer or reading Scripture. Maybe it will be watching your tongue and keeping quiet more often. Maybe it will be doing something good and helpful for your spouse or your mom and dad every day this week. Maybe it will be not complaining about things and people with your mouth, or even in your thoughts. Maybe it will be attending a few more church services or really dedicating yourself to your personal prayer. Maybe it will be watching your attitude while driving or when you come home from work or school. But exercise yourself this week in some extra way and grow stronger in your soul, stronger as a person, stronger as a Christian. Your moral and spiritual strength does not come about through idleness and lack of attention, but rather by paying attention and putting yourself to work. As is true for the body, so it’s true for the soul. Therefore, I strongly recommend you choose one or more spiritual exercises to focus on this coming week that you meet the risen Christ as stronger disciples.

As we heard in today’s epistle: “… whatever things are true, whatever honorable, whatever just, whatever holy, whatever lovable, whatever of good repute, if there be any virtue, if anything worthy of praise, think upon these things. And what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things. And the peace of God will be with you.”