“Following Jesus to a deserted place”

st vladimirs seminary

Second-year Seminarian Brian Crivella gave this homily during our daily Matins service in Three Hierarchs Chapel, Thursday, October 12, 2017, as part of his Master of Divinity program coursework requirement. The Gospel reading for the day was Luke 9.7–11, and Seminarian Brian especially concentrated on verse 10:

And the apostles, when they had returned,
told Him all that they had done.
Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place
belonging to the city called Bethsaida.

Before enrolling at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, Seminarian Brian was a member of St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Mentor, OH, Orthodox Church in America, Diocese of the Midwest, and had spent nearly 8 years on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard—performing search and rescue missions on the Great Lakes, and even patrolling the Caribbean Sea to catch drug smugglers and traffickers!

We are pleased to share Seminarian Brian’s labor and good words with you.


“Following Jesus to a deserted place”

In the name of The Father, and The Son, and The Holy Spirit. Amen

Today, Luke tells us of a man who seems to have it all. He has servants who attend his every want. His home is huge. Everyone wants to see him, to have his ear. Herod is a king, and on top of the world. But Herod is perplexed.

There is a Man, a Man performing all sorts of miracles. Who is He?

One of the old prophets had risen again, they whisper. Others declare it is Elijah, who has appeared as foretold.  But then the bombshell: it is John. John the Baptist had risen from the dead.

When he hears this, imagine how Herod must have reacted. Imagine his face falls dark. His brow furrows. His nostrils flare. He declares, “John I have beheaded,” asserting his control of the situation.

And, indeed, John he did behead. Because despite all he has, Herod is empty. Despite all his friends, Herod is lonely. Despite his total authority and control, Herod is helpless. There is something deep inside that Herod doesn’t fully understand: a gnawing, a deep emptiness and despair.

Herod is not any different from us. Especially us. Like Herod, our lives are filled with worldly luxury and conveniences.

The world tries to convince us to fill ourselves with our carnal desires in order to feel happy, to feel satisfied. If we just had the right stuff, the right people, or went to the right places, we’d feel happier. Right?

But the things that are supposed to make us happy, don’t keep us happy. The things that are supposed to satisfy us don’t satisfy us.

We tell ourselves, “You know, if I were just more popular, I’d be happy. If more people really knew me and about me, they’d love me.” So we spend all day on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. We don’t get anything done. Then, when we finally turn off our phones and look around, we find ourselves alone.

So, maybe, what we need to do is to take a trip? To see something new, experiencing something fun, something exotic or relaxing? A trip to the beach…a trip out of town…a trip to the game?

But soon we find ourselves back home, back where we started. We’ve seen something new, but our life remains the same. We’ve gone to relax, but now we’re back to our stressful job, our stressful school, our stressful relationships—all of them unchanged.

We tell ourselves, “Let’s go see the new movie.” We grab the newest game…newest iPhone…newest car. New, new, new. “New” will make us happy.

But the newness wears off. We take our things for granted. They get stale, old, boring.

The crazy thing is, the more we try to fix our broken feelings, the more we inevitably feed into them. We become lonelier, sadder, emptier.

But this is how the world says to fix it. Yet, it doesn’t fix it.

But there is a way to fill this ache, this gnawing within each and every one of us. There’s someone that can help us cope with the deep brokenness that we all experience and struggle with. Someone whom we can follow, who will heal us.

To Bethsaida the multitudes follow Him, even when He seemed far away, “in a private place.” Yet as soon as they hear that He is there, these multitudes, these great groups of people, drop everything to follow after Jesus—not their jobs, not their toys, not their school, not their social standing or friends; they follow after Him.

When we follow Jesus, we no longer follow after ourselves or the world. When we follow Jesus, we don’t need to fix ourselves.

Just as the multitudes did, we receive what we really need to be satisfied. We receive Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ, who bears all our burdens, pains, longings, and shortcomings with us—our struggle with our shortcomings, our failings, or the pain in our past. Christ carries them, with us, to the Cross.

Follow him. It doesn’t matter if He’s far away, privately with His 12 disciples. The multitudes followed Him there. We follow Him there, with them. Christ gives us the very strength to do it. Christ gives us the strength to forgo the empty desires of this world, just like the multitudes.

As we put down our phone and spend time with those around us, in person, attentive to them, we are following after Christ.

As we travel—not for our entertainment nor for our enjoyment but for the sake of another who cannot leave their home, their hospital bed, or their prison—we are following after Christ.

As the precious extra time and money we’re blessed with finds itself spent on giving good things to our neighbors who have nothing or food to all those who are starving, we are following after Christ.

As we stop following after the way of this world, we are transformed in Christ, and our mind is renewed.

Today, we follow Christ where He resides privately with His disciples in Bethsaida. We give thanks for all that He has born with us. And as we draw ever nearer to Him, we bless and fill others with good things in His name. In this way we are truly fulfilled and truly satisfied.

Glory to God!

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