St. George Parish in Niagara Falls, N.Y. welcomed home Subdeacon Todd Justin Mokhiber from his first year at St. Tikhon's Seminary in Pennsylvania. On Sunday, June 6th, Todd gave a wonderful homily that included insights and experiences from his year. Here is his homily:
"In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Glory to Jesus Christ, Glory forever. It is truly a blessing to be back here at St. George Niagara Falls for a few months. Fr. Paul asked me to share a few words about my experience at seminary.
Back in August of last year I was embarking on a journey that would change my life forever. I would leave everything that was comfortable and familiar to me. I would be leaving Niagara Falls for the first time in my life for more than a couple of weeks for vacation or a business trip. Needless to say I was very nervous about leaving my job, home, family, friends, and of course our beloved St. George parish. So many things happened in the process of going to seminary. My brother was very ill, my car died, and I had/have no health insurance since I left my job. Many things were going wrong and I felt like abandoning the idea of going to seminary. I never truly lost hope because of the support of many people that encouraged me and I knew that Christ was calling me to ministry.
When I arrived at St. Tikhon’s last fall I knew immediately that I belonged there; however, there were times in the first few months when I asked myself, “What am I doing here?" The school has a very large support system there, from Bishop Tikhon all the way down to the cook and especially my classmates with whom I have formed bond that cannot be broken.
The classes in the very beginning were stressful to me because of the amount of time that had lapsed since I was in school. Things really started to settle in around the beginning of November when realized that the professors were there for us to succeed and it was not a competition for grades.
The seminary is in the country east of Scranton, Pennsylvania. It is a beautiful piece of property with a monastery, a large pond and forest as far as the eye can see.
Every professor, teacher, and administrator really drilled into our heads that we must put all that we learn into practice, and that all we will learn will be worthless if we don’t. We must attend most of the church services because this is where we all can learn the theology of the Church. This has really stuck with me and with my brothers at the seminary.
Christ calls all of us to put into practice what we learn at the services of the Church--the Liturgy, Vespers, Matins, and all other services of the Church and of course the Bible, things we learn from monastics and Fr. Paul. Being an Orthodox Christian is full-time commitment. We cannot just come to Church on Sundays and expect to be wowed by a sermon, or get something out of it if we have not prepared. Would we ask one of the Yankees to play a game without preparing beforehand? Would we allow a doctor to operate on us if he hasn’t prepared? How can we expect to live the fullness of the Church and to receive the blessings of the Holy Spirit if we are not praying for one another, reading the Bible, coming to services besides the Divine Liturgy, giving alms, etc.? Christ tells us not to be lukewarm Christians, or He will vomit us out. We cannot plead ignorance on judgment day, because everything is set before us here in the Church.
In today’s gospel we learn of James and John being asked by Christ to basically drop everything and to follow Him. According to Saint John Chrysostom Jesus asked them not to just give up their material items but to give up their old ways of life and follow him. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are asked every minute by Christ to give up our bondage to material things and to give up our old sinful ways and to follow Him. This command is not just given to someone in seminary, or to our priests, bishops, and monks, but it is for all of us.
I may not be able to quote much scripture, or tell you everything that happened in the Ecumenical Councils after the first year of seminary, but I can tell you that we must all start living our lives that is pleasing to God and not pleasing to man.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support over the last year and especially for the prayers.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ, Glory forever.