Archive for May, 2010

Sunday of the Blind Man. There is no salvation without good character. There is no salvation without courage.

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Sunday of the Blind Man

There is no salvation without good character.

There is no salvation without courage.

John 9:1-38

 

 

http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/miracle-sunday-of-the-blind-man-sixth-sunday-of-pascha-04.jpg

 

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

Brothers and sisters, during this Paschal season the Gospels have taught about enlightenment and the process of salvation. Today’s Gospel is another example, and it speaks of something indispensible that we must supply, the same thing that was present in Saint Thomas and the Myrrhbearing women: Character.

 

You cannot be saved without good character. You need it to follow the commandments. It has to be in the heart.

This blind man was a good man. We can see his character very vividly when the Jews questioned him about his healing. We observe a man who really knew nothing about Christ except his name, who on the greatest day of his life was being accosted, questioned and attacked with hostility, even from his own parents. He showed great purity and honesty and courage and not a little bit of humor as well. We need to have character if we’re going to be saved, and this man shows the kind of character we must have.

 

This man’s character overcame the obstacles newly presented in his life, because of the disingenuous and aggressive questioning of the Pharisees and Sadducees after his healing. They are much like the “press”, the mob of people who surrounded the house and made access to Christ difficult for the Paralytic. The paralytic was lowered through a roof because of the press, and symbolically this means that the world makes it difficult to be a true believer. The world tries to impede us, and this is exactly what’s happening here.

The Pharisees, because of their jealousy, blindness, anger and hatefulness, were trying to find something to condemn Christ because he was merciful to one of their own. Remember, the Pharisees controlled many things. If you were put out of the synagogue, then you were basically blacklisted. It would mean bad things for your well-being, your business contacts, and everything else. The Pharisees had made it be known that they were extorting from their own people obedience to them, and they had forbidden that anyone could say that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah), otherwise they would be put out of the synagogue.

 

Let’s trace what happened to this man, and let’s learn how we can be like him.

 

Jesus passed by. Those words are not by happenstance. Jesus passed by.

 

In another place He also was on a journey, and he referred to Himself as a Samaritan. No one could help the man who was by the side of the road, bleeding and half dead, not the Levite, nor the priest. No one could help.

So Jesus, not by happenstance, passed by. This passing by indicates His incarnation, His coming to earth to heal us.

And we are all like the man by the side of the road, left half dead. We are all like the man who is born without eyes, blind, or like the paralytic, or like any many examples. Each of those persons is us.
And it is not by accident that Jesus passed by this man who was born blind. Isn’t it remarkable how much is contained in the Scriptures? Just a couple of words: Jesus passed by. And it indicates the whole economy of our salvation: The incarnation of the Son of God.

Jesus became incarnate so that he would live the life that we must live to know God and make us capable of living that life. He became incarnate so that He would address our every need, whether it is that we are blind or halt or lying by the road half dead because of our sins. Whatever our need is, He comes to help us with it.

And here is how He does it: He made a moist lump of clay from his spittle and the dust of the ground. And he did something that we know in our tradition to be true. He made eyes for the man. He didn’t just smear clay over him. He made little balls and put them in empty sockets. The man was born without eyes. Our Services, our Tradition makes this very clear.

Now, as an aside, let us say something about this man who was not only blind, but born without eyes. It is one thing perhaps to help someone that has some problem with his eyes to see, such as Paul who had a problem with blindness on the road to Damascus. How can you make a man to see who does not even have eyes? Only God can do this. No wonder the people were saying: ‘He looks like him’, because they remembered someone who didn’t have eyes.

 

What does this mean for us? There’s nothing impossible with God. If he can make a man see who doesn’t even have eyes, don’t you think that he can help you in the things that you need in your life for which you see no solution?

Many times this story has given me much comfort because there are a lot of things that I just don’t see the solution to; I have no idea how it’s going to get done; I have no idea how things are going to get better. But God knows.  A doctor would think, in order to help a man see, first there must at least be eyes to work on. The Lord doesn’t even need eyes. There is nothing that the Lord lacks. And there is nothing that the Lord cannot give. So let us believe this.

Now, by the way, you don’t just say, okay, I will just snap my fingers, now I believe this, that’s right, I have perfect faith now. No, faith is grown, and we see in this story that the blind man’s faith grew. And how did it happen? The Lord makes his eyes and tells him go to the Pool Siloam. This plainly prefigures baptism. With baptism comes healing.

 

The man was not healed until after he washed. If he had not gone and washed, he would not have been healed. Remember the story of Naaman, the Syrian? And he ordered some great thing for the prophet to tell him to do and. And all he said was just go to the Jordan and dip yourself seven times. He wanted something great, something big and he wouldn’t do it until his servant basically said, you’ve got to do it. And then he was healed of his leprosy. The same thing happened with this man ; he stumbled over to the pool of Siloam, washed and came away seeing, because the waters of baptism cleanse and heal. They would not have cleansed and healed if he did not approach them.

And his character is what caused him to the healing waters – his guilelessness and obedience. We’ll see much more strong character traits in just a moment. So now the whole town is all abuzz, and the Pharisees are angry because they’re so full of hatred, and one of their own is healed, and all they can think of is keeping control. And they’re going to keep control by continuing what has been done from time immemorial where a group of people tries to terrorize another group because they have some power. And in this case, the power was to cast out of the synagogue, to ostracize.

So they’re asking the man: Who did this? He says, well, I don’t really know. He knew he was Jesus and that was all. He said, 'he anointed my eyes, he told me to go wash and now I come away seeing.'
And they still couldn’t believe. So they called his parents. Look what his parents did: How shameful! His parents admitted that he was their son, begrudgingly, but then they immediately passed to him: ‘he is of age; let him explain’. May God not have it happen that any one of us, if our children were healed in such a way, that we would act like this. We should say: To God be glory.

Of course he was healed by God. But they were afraid that they would be put out of the synagogue. So then they called the man and questioned him again, and here is where his character shines forth.

 

Brothers and sisters it takes courage to be a Christian. You can’t be saved without courage. It won’t happen.

 

It takes courage to approach your own sins. It takes courage to live the Christian life in the face of others who want you to live a different kind of life. The world, and worldly Christians tell you to go  ahead and be Christian but just don’t be too crazy about it, just make sure that you allow other people to have their space, keep an “open mind” about morality.

The only thing our world is not tolerant about is if someone actually believes something is right and wrong. Otherwise other than that, they tolerate everything. This is not the Christian way, which absolutely, unequivocally knows and proclaims that there is right and there is wrong. There is a way of life and there is a way of death. There is a God and there is a devil. And there is a right way to live and a wrong way to live. There are right opinions to have and wrong opinions to have. And none of this ever changes.

So this man being questioned by the Pharisees, they ask him again, what happened to you? What do they say? He says, why do you ask? He knew that they had no interest whatsoever in knowing what happened. They were trying to find something, grasping at some straw so that they could in some way implicate Jesus, and dishonestly said “Give God the praise; we know that this man is a sinner. “

And what did the man say? We must understand the way the Scripture says it. He says, whether he be a sinner or not, I know not. That doesn’t mean he didn’t know who Jesus was, or didn’t know he was a sinner. It’s like saying he was dismissing them, since to even consider Jesus too be a sinner, given the evidence of his actions is ridiculous. A moment later, he tells them: “We know that God does not hear sinners. “This is where the man started to really have, as it were, his eyes opened, his spiritual eyes opened. Seeing the depravity of the Pharisees made him much more see the goodness of Christ.

And then he said something that is very humorous. Not in the funny, ha-ha way but certainly this man had a gift for ironic phrases.  He says, “I told you already and you did not hear; would you hear it again? Will you also be His disciples? “

Can you imagine how angry the Pharisees got at that point? Can you imagine the courage to say such a thing? It was automatic that he was out after that. Automatic. And he knew it. So those clinging to power say a few other things: “Thou was altogether born in sins” and other things, and they cast him out.

 

How many of us would have acted like that? Now, put yourself in his position. He’s been a blind man and a beggar for all his life. This is his opportunity for the first time to be part of society. Because when you are blind and when you are lame and when you have some disease, you’re basically pushed away from society in that culture.

This was his opportunity now to be part of society, to no longer be so hungry and alone. And yet, the Pharisees were asking him something that he could not do. He could not lie about what happened, because his heart told him it was God who healed him. And so he was courageous.

Question yourself. Would you do the same thing?

 

This is how salvation is won, brothers and sisters: Christ passes by; he comes to each one of us, and we are baptized, and then the living begins. The victorious living. And doesn’t mean it’s always going to be easy. Sometimes it’s very difficult, and there are going to be people that are oppressing us.

This is also true in business today. Businesses try so hard to get you to conform to their sort of false religion. Don’t fool yourself. They all have a false religion. And they want you to sort of have opinions and sort of fit in with everyone else – usually this amounts to being silent about immorality.

This is not who we are. We should be like the blind man, who gained his sight and was courageous in speaking the truth.

This is what this Gospel teaches: You can’t be saved without courage. God will instill in you the ability, but if you don’t have good character, then you’re lost. God can help you with your sins. God can help you with strengthening your will, but God will not give you desire. You must have desire. He will help you. He will strengthen you and in so going from one good thing to the next, you will be filled with more zeal.

 

God will not give you desire. God will not give you good character. You must provide these works.

 

This is in another place: The one who had one talent and buried it in the earth. What did he say to the Lord? Well, you know, you reap where you do not sow and you gather where you have not strewn. And the Lord said, yes, you are right, exactly. And what that means is that the Lord will give you grace, but you must become good. He’s not going to become good for you. You must become good. God gives you all the tools, all the ability.

Examine your character and the places in your character that are deficient. Improve. If you tend to be dishonest, this in many ways is much worse than some carnal sin. God can help you with sins. But as for defects of character – you must spend a lot of energy on these. And if a person does not really desire to be saved, even though they say they want to be saved, even though they say they’re Orthodox; then they will not be.

Our inner disposition is shown by the way we live and by the way we think and by the way we speak and by the priorities we have. God will not give you these priorities. God will give you the ability to fulfill these priorities. And this we see in the blind man. God did not make this man good. God doesn’t make anybody good. God helps us to become good. And this man was good and courageous and because of that, he found God. Let us be like him. Amen.

 

Transcribed by the handmaiden of God Helen.

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

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This homily is at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-06_2008-06-01+the-blind-man.html

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-06_2008-06-01+the-blind-man.doc

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/pascha-sunday-06_2008-06-01+the-blind-man.mp3

 

 

 

 

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Homily:Sunday of the Blind Man. 2010. Audio.

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Ikons of the Sunday of the Blind Man

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All homilies on the Sunday of the Blind man  are at:

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6th Sunday of Pascha (mp3 format) 2001

6th Sunday of Pascha (mp3 format) It takes character to be able to see. 2002

6th Sunday of Pascha (mp3 format) We must do what we do not understand in order to gain understanding. 2003

6th Sunday of Pascha (mp3 format) It really is about character too.Video of this homily: Part 1 Part 2

6th Sunday of Pascha (mp3 format) 2010

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Homilies about the Sunday of the Blind Man.

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Ikons of the Sunday of the Blind Man

All these homilies are in audio, with one in video. Recently an angel has volunteered to start transcibing homilies, so God willing, more will appear in text form.

All these links are also at:

http://www.orthodox.net/sermons/index.html#The_Blind_Man

 

6th Sunday of Pascha (mp3 format) 2001

6th Sunday of Pascha (mp3 format) It takes character to be able to see. 2002

6th Sunday of Pascha (mp3 format) We must do what we do not understand in order to gain understanding. 2003

6th Sunday of Pascha (mp3 format) It really is about character too.Video of this homily: Part 1 Part 2

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Questions about the Sunday of the Blind Man

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Ten Questions and answers here: http://www.orthodox.net/questions/blind_man_1.html

Ikon for the Sunday of the Blind Man,sixth Sunday of Pascha

A few of the questions:

Why was the man born blind? The scripture mentions two possibilities.

What is the tradition concerning the "eyes" of the man born blind?

Many of Christ's healings recounted in the Scriptures consists of TWO healings, sometimes in a different order. What are these, in general terms? Describe these two healings of the blind man, in the order they occurred. Give at least one other example of a "double healing".

Why were the Jews upset about the healing of the blind man? What were the stated reasons, and what were the real reasons?

The healing of the blind man shows in a striking way that God gradually illumines a soul. This event was recorded for our benefit, and together with many other events and recountings, helps us to see the diverse manner in which Christ heals and illumines a soul, and also serves as an instruction to us, who are also being gradually illumined, more or less according to our reaction to God's grace.

The illumination of the soul has been a constant theme since Pascha. Describe at lease three other examples of this most important action of the grace of God, which the church has recently contemplated. What may these recountings teach us?

The trip of the blind man to the pool of Siloam cannot be overlooked, as it is very instructive to us. What is this trip a model for? Describe the trip, and don't be so laconic! We must understand the difficulty of this trip, if we are to benefit from it.

Jesus said to His disciples, after they asked him about the blind man: "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." ((John 9:4)

What is the meaning?

Ten Questions and answers here: http://www.orthodox.net/questions/blind_man_1.html

 

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Fifth Monday of Pascha. John 8:42-51

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

The Church Lectionary.

The Pedagogical services – Matins and Vespers.

On being called a Samaritan.

Fifth Monday of Pascha. John 8:42-51

 

 

On the day after we have read about Holy Equal to the Apostles, Photini, the Samaritan woman, the Gospel selection has the Jews calling the Lord a Samaritan, and demon-possessed.

 

They did not know what they were talking about!  The proud, the jealous (a child of pride), the religious (or irreligious) elite  – they never know what they are talking about. The Lord took their characterization and turned it on its head, in the parable about the Good Samaritan, where He is the Samaritan!

 

A few thoughts about this reading and the place it holds in the church calendar.

 

Recently, a priest suggested that our lectionary (the guide for when various selections from the bible are read) may need to be changed because our people are no longer biblically literate. As for the latter, he is absolutely correct – most people, no matter how much they consider themselves to be “Christian” barely know the Bible and its best commentary (from which they will learn much of its deep meanings) –  the services. Matins is particularly important, and it is a forgotten service in most Orthodox parishes, even in many of those those which “serve” it and shorten it to the point that its pedagogical, theological magnificence is lost.

 

This priest mentioned that such an important selection as first Corinthians 13 (please do not take this as being negative – if you do not immediately recognize this selection as the one about love, you have an indication that you most likely do not read the Bible enough) is read during the week, when most people are not in church services. In his estimation, he wants to at least consider a revision of the lectionary to include such readings on the weekend.

 

The sad fact is that most people are not in church services on the weekend either, and most that do go attend only the Divine liturgy, or perhaps the last half of liturgy, often coming after the Gospel has been read and preached. Most people do not read, and many count their prayers before a meal as “praying” for the day.

 

As a pastor, I feel one of my greatest and most important tasks is to encourage my flock to read the scriptures and worship in the pedagogical services (especially matins and vespers) with consistency, expectation, zeal and understanding. The understanding comes AFTER many years of effort; until then, much of the services, which explain the scriptures, are unintelligible to us.

 

The Holy Spirit enlightens every man, as he is open to enlightenment, but He works with our current understanding and brings it higher. Our theological understanding as a people is very low, and our desire for theological understanding, as a people, is low This is why we are so mediocre.

 

The juxtaposition of today’s reading with yesterday’s is startling and edifying to the student of the scriptures.

 

By student I mean the one who reads the scriptures as the church does, with her understanding. This involves not only following the lectionary (which is a minor point – it does not really matter if your daily discipline is to read the daily readings, or if you read the scripture in some other way, but you MUST read if you want to be saved), but is especially having the same “mind” as the church regarding the scriptures. Each word is a revelation of truth, and truth is Jesus Christ.

 

Again, in the redundancy and repetition department, this “mind” is most present in the services, and best understood when standing in prayer – reading Patristic commentaries can supplement this admirably, but not replace it.

 

It MATTERS that this reading follows Sunday’s reading.

 

It is been like this for a long time. Of course, the lectionary could be changed – the church has this authority, but an attempt to make sure all the “most important” readings are on Sunday is well-intentioned, but impossible. They are all important. If a person is not steeped in the scriptures, many “important” readings are as edifying to them as the reading of the phone book. We must try to awaken zeal in our flock to read, and to pray in an Orthodox way. Until a person has thirst for the living water, no rearrangement of the lectionary will be beneficial to them.

 

The Episcopalians rearranged their lectionary so that the entire NT is read in a three year cycle on Sundays. Many  of their people, and their bishops do not follow the Scripture (this is patently obvious, by  just casually observing the immorality that is encouraged, even among their clergy – individuals we cannot judge, but as an organization, it is clear that they are “off the reservation”). Rearranging the lectionary is not the answer for them, or us. Living the Gospel (and also preaching it) is the only answer.

 

If the lectionary was rearranged, little consolations like today’s reading, in the light of yesterdays, would be lost. Those who care would miss out, those who do not care would not even know that they are missing anything. Perhaps, if God wills, there will be changes in time, but none of it will mean anything to the vast irreligious majority. The way is broad… (and how is it that one can be sure he is not on it?)

 

Other thoughts.

 

The attempts by supposed Christians, including even Orthodox, to consider Jews and Moslems to be “people of faith” is contradicted by our Lord’s words. He said it – if we do not love the Son, we do not love the Father. Why are people afraid to say this? Perhaps it is because in our PC climate, they are afraid of being judged as “Samaritans”. Our Lord was judged – and if they did these things to the “green tree”, can we expect any less?

 

The Samaritan woman was despised, even by her own kind, and yet, we now know her as “Equal to the Apostles”. It is an honor to be called a Samaritan.

 

 

John 8:42-51 42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. 43 Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. 45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. 46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? 47 He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. 48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? 49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. 50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. 51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2010.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

http://www.orthodox.net/scripture/pascha-week-05-monday_church-lectionary-pedagogical-services-being-called-a-samaritan_john8-42-51.doc

 

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The Samaritan woman teaches us what we MUST do to receive the Living Water. Audio Homily 2010.

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

SYNOPSIS:The story of the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman, Photini, must be understood in a historical, theological, mystical and practical context. She said "the well is deep", and this story can be discussed from many perspectives, many of which are, alas, unintelligible to most because of their low loevel of theological knowledge and interest. The most important one for us is what we must do do get the living water, the Holy Spirit. Saint Photini shows us several things that we MUST be if we are to be saved – theologically literate, having thirst for righteousness, humility, and zeal. Her conversation with the Lord and subsequent actions show all these things

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