Before Jesus healed the two blind men who had cried out to him MANY times (with the rudiments of the Jesus prayer), He said to them: “According to your faith be it unto you”. Remember, since we read the scripture in order to be taught something about ourselves, we MUST apply this saying to ourselves – does it fit us? If we find ourselves to be lacking in faith, or perhaps the fruit of faith – results in things that matter in our lives, then we must find a way to increase our faith. It is reasonable to ask the Lord for this, since the apostles themselves also asked him to increase their faith. Jesus commended several people concerning their faith – including the centurion Syrophenician woman of Canaan, and the woman “who was a sinner”. Each adds to the picture of how we can increase our faith. We look at the example of the two blind men, with humility, recognizing that we have weak faith and need to learn from their example.
St Paul can be hard to read because his theology is so dense. There is a common pattern to his writings however; he presents his theological arguments, and then proceeds to tell us the “rules”. We are in a non-dogmatic age, where there is only one rule – one cannot believe, much less proclaim that there are rules! the Christian life is not this way! Our rules are based on our theology, and are summarized by love. In this selection, St Paul gives a lot of rules, and they are summed up by his admonition: “Let love be without dissimulation.” He gives us a reason for following moral rules just preceding this selection: ” I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”.
Another “TWO-FER” today, with a homily on one of the most important questions in all of Scripture, asked by an unlikely teacher, and VERY IMPORTANT commentary on selection of a husband or wife, inspired by talk around the campfire at the St Peter the Aleut summer camp.
Synopsis: The exorcism of the Gergesenes demoniacs is an incredible story, with lots of bizarre occurrences: demons confessing Jesus as God and begging Him for mercy, pigs committing mass suicide in the sea, and an entire town coming out to meet Jesus after the miracle. None of this is the most important thing. The demon #39;s question is what you must not miss; it is a question being asked of you every day: “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?”. We must learn to recognize and answer the questions Scripture asks of us. This passage teaches us, what not to answer in the reactions of the townspeople. They are among the most tragic people in the New Testament, because they went to Hell quietly. Before we are too hasty in our judgment of them, let us compare ourselves to their actions.
Synopsis: At St Peter the Aleut Summer camp, which is at Possum Kingdom Lake (Texas) in July each year, we love to have campfires late at night with the youth and talk about stuff. This year, Fr Cassian Sibley came up with a gem, a quote from his grandfather: “It takes a really, REALLY good man to be better than no man at all”. This short talk expands on that quote, which is critical for our youth to understand, or else they may “settle” for a marriage to a man (or woman) who is not suitable for them to save their souls and raise good children. There are reliable ways to make sure this DOES NOT HAPPEN. This is important stuff!
Synopsis: Romans Chapter Six is one of the most important chapters of the New Testament. It teaches just about everything that is important: about the effect of the incarnation, baptism, the purpose of life and how to accomplish it, and also something that is very important: how to think about sin. To sin, pure and simple, is to become a slave to unrighteousness, and the end of such things is death. We must learn to consider ourselves slaves to righteousness. It is one … or the other. How can we learn to think AND act in this way?
Synopsis: The Lord commended the faith of the centurion who had a sick servant. We must live our life the way he lived his, or we will not have faith. The centurion teaches us that faith will not exist without profound humility and obedience, and wonder of wonders, the more humble we become, the more bold and confident we will be in prayer. If you lack faith, attention or assurance in prayer, or God in any ways feels distant to you, you absolutely, positively must learn to have the faith of the centurion.
The Lord never gives us a command that He does not explain and teach how to fulfill. In this selection, He first teaches us how to fulfill the command by teaching about the eye, and desire, and then progresses to rebuke our thoughts and anxieties. These things are obviously related! They both tie in to HOW to fulfill the command “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness”.
We are ALL called to be Saints (holy). This is the purpose of Christianity and the church – to guide people towards sanctity and holiness – to become Saints. The scriptures read today are an instruction manual in how to become a saint. It boils down to priorities, the courage to make the effort to hold to them, even when it is difficult (confession) and patience.
The readings for Divine Liturgy on Pentecost give the story of Pentecost and our Lord #39;s prophesy of it. The "take home" for Pentecost is from one of the Vespers readings: "I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26) We can know a lot about Pentecost, but if we do not learn how to discern the old ways, which the heart falls into frequently, from the new ways, we will have learned nothing useful for our salvation. We look into how to learn to discern what is in our hearts, whether it be according to the old, or according to the new. The Holy Spirit will not continue to abide in a heart that does not seek after the new ways. We contrast new and old ways and discuss how to develop the skill to discern between them. This is a critically important subject. This homily is a bit longer than normal, but it is important, and it is difficult to discuss important things, and important skills in 12-15 minutes.
What is the most important part of the healing of the blind man story? It is undoubtedly the courage of the blind man and how because of his courage he was brought to full enlightenment and healing. Our healing in Christ will not proceed to completion without personal courage. It does not matter how talented, intelligent or knowledgeable you are, or whether you have more self control than most and your life is in good order or not – without personal courage and willingness to stand up and be a Christian in our post Christian age (a misnomer term, there has never been a “Christian” age, since the world has always been against Christ), you will not be healed of your passions and sins and achieve perfection. The dialogue of the blind man with the Pharisees of his age (every age has them), shows how we incrementally become wiser and sounder in soul as we react to whatever the world brings to is with courage, and with what we know at the time. This is an “every man” kind of story. The blind man had no special talent, nor did he have complete knowledge (his answers showed him growing in knowledge), but he was courageous, and because of this, he gained not only physical eyes, but also spiritual ones. Anyone who is tempted to cave in to the political correctness of this age, which demands certain ways of thinking, speaking and acting, needs to ponder the healing of the blind man in great detail.
The story of the woman at the well, St Photini (Svetlana) has an enormous amount of deep and important theology, but the most important part is the personality of the Samaritan woman must be understood an emulated to understand any of it. She was very humble; when the Lord exposed her sin, she stayede with Him to hear more. When she understood Him, she left her waterpot. We esplore these two actions. She was an extremist. We cannot be saved unless we are too.
Two homilies on the 4th Sunday of Pascha, the Healing of the Paralytic. One on the Gospel, and one on the epistle.
The Healing of the Paralytic by the sheep’s pool has many deep theological concepts in it, but none of this matters if we do not adopt the character and faith of the paralytic. We examine his patience and also his despondency. All true faith must battle with despondency. The paralytic and other examples during this Paschal period, such at the Apostle Thomas and Peter, and the Myrrh bearing women teach us this critical lesson.
Exegesis of Acts 9:32-42, the reading for the 4th Sunday of Pascha. Two miracles of Peter. The variable relationship of faith to miracles.