Sermon Sunday of the Blind Man

May 24, 2009

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

Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ in today’s Gospel, the Gospel of the blind man, we heard our Lord say “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5)

What does it mean to have Christ as the light of the world or on a more personal level to have Christ as the light of our lives?

In order to understand what it means to have Christ as our light we must first acknowledge our own blindness. Like the man in the Gospel most of us have been born blind when it comes to God and His Christ. We are unable to see that which is directly in front of us. Our Lord describes this type of blindness in the Gospel of Saint Mark “That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.” (Mark 4:12) This is truly describes our state of spiritual blindness.

Did mankind always have this spiritual blindness or what changed to create this blindness? This question is similar to the disciples question in the Gospel “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2) Our Lord’s answer to this question is “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” (John 9:3)

In the beginning God created the world. The world came forth from God and was created from God. The Gospel of Saint John reminds us that just before the moment of creation when it says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1) Then God spoke the Word and said let there be light. God not only spoke the Word and there was light but, God spoke the Word and there was all of creation.

What or more properly who is this Word?

This Word is our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. We are reminded of this in the hymn of the second antiphon; “Only begotten Son and immortal Word of God…”

Thus, everything that is created is of Christ and one with Him in its naturally created state. When Adam and Eve exerted their own will over the will of their creator they changed this natural relationship. The result was a world in which death and sickness ruled.

The Son of God, the incarnate Word of God, entered into this world created by man, through the exertion of mans will over God’s, to restore it back to its natural created state.

In today’s Gospel we see the action of the Word of God. We see the Word as creator through Jesus’ action of taking clay and anointing the man’s eyes with it. The fathers speak of this action taken by Jesus saying that He created eyes for this man by taking the same actions that were taken when man was first created. Through the clay that was formed from the spittle from the Lord’s mouth we see the creative action that that proceeds from the mouth of God through His Word.

The Lord Jesus after anointing the man’s eyes sends him to the pool of Siloam to wash. This first shows that we must cooperate with God in order to receive the gifts of God. God loves us and wants us to receive salvation through Him but, if we fail to take action we will never obtain salvation.

Secondly, this washing shows all healing comes from our Lord Jesus Christ. This is seen through the interpretation of the name Siloam given in the Gospel. That interpretation is of Siloam is sent. The blessed Theophylact describes the pool of Siloam as a figure of Christ in the following manner “Just as Christ is the spiritual rock, so He is the spiritual Siloam.” Our Lord continually declares Himself to be this spitual Siloam in the Gospels by saying “The Father has sent Me.” (Matthew 10:40, Mark 9:37, Luke 10:16, John 5:36-37, etc.)

While light is being given to this man by the Light of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Pharisees show their own blindness and the darkness in which they live by attacking this miracle of Christ. They accuse Jesus of being a great sinner for healing this man on the Sabbath. They accuse the man of lying about his blindness.

Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic describes the darkness created by the lack of Christ in the following manner “the human soul without Him becomes hell; a people without Him becomes a pack of famished and ravening wolves; a school without Him becomes a poison-factory of folly; a workshop without Him becomes a place of grumbling and hatred….hospitals and prisons without Him become dark caverns of despair!”

If we look at the world around us we can see the truth of the words of Saint Nikolaj. The words of the Lord “for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) are confirmed by these difficulties that we see around us as the world around us tries to live without Christ. It is only through our actions as followers of Christ do we make Christ real in this world. When we bear witness to Him we bring the restorative action of the Word in to the world.

So, my dear brothers and sisters my prayer for you is that you may bear witness to Christ bringing His light into the world that He as the incarnate Word of God may restore the world to its intended nature through the creative action of the Word.
Amen
Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on Sunday of the Blind Man 2009.


Sermon Sunday of the Samaritan Woman

May 18, 2009

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе! WELL

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ we live in a country that is full of abundance, there are very few that live in need. Those that are in need in this country are better off than most of the peoples of the world. Yet we see a society that is hungry and thirsty. People walk around unhappy and unsatisfied.

We must ask ourselves why this situation exists. It exists because something is lacking in the lives of these people. Our own Serbian Orthodox people often find themselves in this same situation.

So, what is lacking? What is lacking is a Christ centered life.

Today in the epistle we heard the miracles that can be worked by having a Christ centered life in Peter’s escape from the Jews and the many conversions in Antioch. We were told in the epistle that the followers of Christ were first called Christians.

What does it mean to be a Christian today?

We need to look at today’s Gospel for the answer to this question. We see Christ meet with a woman of Samaria. He asks her for a drink of water, when in fact He is trying to quench the thirst of her soul. He tells her about life and reveals Himself to be the Christ. This all occurs in the absence of His disciples. When they arrive they are astonished to find Him talking with her. She goes and gets the towns people to come and meet Him so, that they also may have their thirst quenched by the living God.

The first point we should examine is that this is a woman of a race of people that the Jews are at odds with over many things, cultural and religious. The Samaritans look almost like they are Jewish externally but on close examination one can see the differences. Some of these are pointed out in today’s Gospel. Additionally He is doing something against the cultural norms of the time by having a conversation with a woman. What we should get out of this point is Christ has come for all men (mankind).

It is important for us to share our faith with others. Think of the conversions in Antioch or of our own people. If the faith had not been shared the Church would not have grown. We must do this to meet Christ’s command to baptize all nations. That means even those that we are at odds with it. We as Serbian people must be very careful because of the persecutions we have received over the years. It is very easy for us to be inward looking and to hate those of races that have persecuted us in the past. However we must remember the words of our most holy Patriarch Pavle at a memorial service for those who died as a result of the US and NATO bombing, we must pray that this evil should never fall upon another race of people. Thus, to be a Christian we must love all of mankind, even those that hate us. With this type of outlook we will draw all men to Christ’s Holy Church when they are ready to accept Christ.

The second point is how our Lord speaks to the woman about her five husbands and that one she currently has that is not her husband. She is embarrassed by this fact and tries to hide it with her words. Christ being God sees all things and all knows all things. He knows the truth of her situation and confronts her with it. Saint Nikolai Velimirovic in one of his sermons on this topic refers to the five husbands as the five senses. He goes on to say the one she is with now is what happens to a soul after it has indulged all the senses and grown tired of them. This is a depraved state for the soul. This is when the soul starts to become lost in sin.

It sounds a lot like the world around us. The TV shows have more and more racier material to indulge our senses. It is not just TV; it is radio, advertising, printed material, the internet, the list is almost endless. Thirty years ago what you see today in the open would have been only talked about in some dark corner, with a feeling of shame.

Most of all money rules the day. How is the economy and how are our investments are doing matter most of all. It does not seem to matter if the gains were achieved ethically.

As the woman finds out her life has left her thirsty and hungry for something that she cannot find within herself. This is the state most of us find ourselves in, hungry and thirsty for something the world cannot provide for us. The woman finds that it is only through a life in Christ that she will able to be satisfied. It is same for us. All of the indulgences we have should be given up. Our focus should always be one the one thing needful, Christ.

The final point for today’s gospel is about worship of God. Both the Jews and Samaritans had a misunderstanding regarding the worship of God. Christ corrects the misunderstanding in today’s Gospel. He says that God is to be worshipped in Spirit and Truth.

People often misunderstand these words of Christ. They often think that this gives them some sort of exemption from following the rules of the Church. Christ did give to the Church certain rules to maintain order and to ensure people stay on the right path. Thus, prayer and fasting are necessary; attendance at the services is required as well as confession and the communion.

The harder part of this command has to do with the worship of God in Spirit and Truth. All too often it is very easy for us to fall into a certain routine and become mechanical in our worship of God. We get bound up in all the rules and forget the Spirit and Truth of the rules. The rules are important but, we must remember why they are there as a help for us. We need to have love in our hearts for each other and our fellow man for the rules to meaningful. Without this love we will be like Israel of old “a whitewashed tomb.”

Without this love no one will want to be with us. The fields that are ready for harvest will go to waste. So we must do the will of God and full all that He has taught us.

The Samaritan woman went on to become a disciple of Christ. She was given the name Photini, illumined, or Светлана in Serbian. Through the example of her life she brought many into the Church, even the Emperor Nero’s daughter Domnina. She died a martyr after many torturers.

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ my prayer is that the Lord our God will illumine us as He did the Samaritan. So that we may share in the illumination she received and truly to live a Christian life. Thus, having the thirst of our sinful souls quenched by Him; so we may live as examples of faith and love to others so they will come to Him.

Amen

Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on Sunday of the Samaritan Women 2009.


Sermon Sunday of the Paralytic

May 10, 2009

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ today is the Sunday of the Paralytic. In today’s Gospel we hear of a man that has been paralyzed for thirty-eight years. He has been waiting at the pool of Bethesda for the stirring of the waters by the angel so he can be healed. The man then encounters our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, who asks him if he will be made whole. The man then explains that he has no one to help him enter the water when it is stirred. Jesus then immediately heals him by saying “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” This healing occurred on the Sabbath. The man then encounters the Jews, who are only interested keeping the law, who ask him why he is carrying his bed on the Sabbath. He tells them that the man who healed him told him to carry his bed. Upon further questioning he tells them that he does not who it was that healed him. Jesus finds him and then tells him to sin no more lest something worse come upon him. The man then tells the Jews that it was Jesus who healed him. The Gospel then concludes with the Jews seeking to kill Jesus because he had healed this man on the Sabbath day.

The paralysis of this man prevents him from receiving God’s grace in the pool of Bethesda. This man suffers in loneliness because he has no one to help him. He understands that he cannot bring about his healing through his own efforts.

Many of us are like this man in that we suffer from physical ailments that keep us from doing the things that we want to do. Those of us that are less fortunate find ourselves with no one to help us; much like this man.

However there is a deeper type of suffering that we can suffer. This type of suffering comes by many names. What it is in reality is a soul sickness that paralyzes the soul and keeps it from God and other people.

We can make two choices in our suffering. The first is to become angry because no one is helping us. The second is to patiently endure the suffering looking for God’s mercy.

The wise person will examine his suffering to determine its causes. We are reminded by many examples in scripture of the various causes of suffering:
King David suffered because of his own sins
Rehoboam suffered because of the sins of his father King Solomon
The Prophets suffered because of the sins of their neighbors
Adam and Eve suffered because of their faithlessness in God
The Righteous Job suffered because of the dark malicious spirit of evil
Finally, the young man that was born blind, whose eyes were healed by the merciful Lord, suffered to the Glory of God and his own salvation.

All too often when we examine the causes of our sufferings we try to find causes outside of ourselves. In short we try to place blame on someone or something other than ourselves. This is because we do not want to look at ourselves, because we do not want to see our own selfish self-centered behaviors that put us into conflict with others or caused us to abuse our own bodies. If we look honestly at our lives we will find some aspect of this type of behavior is the cause of all of our suffering no matter how much fault we can find with someone or something other than ourselves as the cause of our suffering.

Selfish, self-centered behaviors are sinful behaviors. The question is how long are we going to let sin bring us suffering? If we let sin run its course in our lives it will bring us to death, both a spiritual and physical death. Saint Paul reminds us of this in his epistle to James “…and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death” (James 1:15) or again in the epistle to the Romans “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)

If we have become paralyzed because of our sin we have reached a bottom where there is no one to help us, which is like there being no one to help the man in the Gospel. However we all have someone, who is all powerful and merciful, not only to help us in our paralysis but, to heal us of it. That one is our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. In other words our sufferings bring us to God.

Thus we should embrace our sufferings as a gift from God because they bring us to Him. The Holy King David reminds us of this when says in the Psalms “You, which have shown me great and sore troubles, shall enliven me again, and shall bring me up again from the depths of the earth. ….unto You will I sing with the harp, ….My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto You; and my soul, which You have redeemed.” (Psalm 70:20-23). Saint John Chrysostom further reminds us of this when he said “Glory to God for everything” as he was dying in exile despised by the men of his day.

So my dear brothers and sisters in my prayer for you is that you will be able to see your sins in your suffering and that as a result you may able to embrace your suffering by coming to God and rejoicing in Him for them.

Amen

Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on Sunday of the Paralytic 2009.


Sermon Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women

May 3, 2009

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ today is the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women. These women came very early in the morning to anoint the body of Jesus with myrrh and sweet smelling spices. When they arrived at the tomb they found the stone rolled away. They were the first to experience the resurrection. They were the first to hear the joyous words “He is risen, He is not here!”

What were these women doing to receive this joyous message? The answer to this question is that they were loving one that had died. These women were loving and caring for a lifeless body that could not return love to them. This was a selfless act on their part.

We find it very easy to love or care for those that are around us because there is always the hope of receiving something in return. All too often we find that our love and care for others is based our own selfishness. The deceased however have nothing to offer. This is what makes any love and care that we show for the departed selfless.

What are we asked to do for the departed? Most of all we are asked to remember them and to pray for them. We are reminded of this by the final prayer of the memorial service, or parastos; memory eternal or vechnaja pamjat.

Why should we remember the departed? We do this because they need our help. They can no longer change the course of their lives. It is through our remembrance of them that mercy and compassion can be given to them for things that they can no longer change about their lives.

The Church asks us to pray for the departed at particular times; the third day, the ninth day and the fortieth day after the departure of the soul from the body as well as on the yearly anniversary of the repose of the person.

Why do we pray at these specific times? We pray at these times because of what has been revealed to us by the saints regarding the transition of the soul from this life into eternity. Our Church believes that during the forty days after the departure of the soul from the body the soul receives particular judgments to determine where it will wait until the final judgment at the general resurrection. These judgments or trials are described in Ephesians, “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

What we know of this judgment was described by the blessed Theodora in a vision to Gregory a disciple of Saint Basil the New. What was described by her is a spiritual reality in human terms.

On the first two days after the soul’s departing from the body the soul spends it time visiting places on earth that are dear to it.

On the third day the soul starts its journey through what are described as toll houses or the places that the particular judgments occur. The soul passes through twenty judgments or toll houses for the various types of sins. The soul does not go through this judgment alone. Two angles accompany the soul as its defenders. These angles use the good works and virtues of soul to defend it against the demons that make accusations against the soul because of its sins.

On the ninth day this period of trail is completed. The soul is then escorted by the angles through heaven and hell to give it a foretaste of eternal joy and eternal damnation. These visits of heaven and hell occur until fortieth day. During this period the soul does not know where it will find rest.

On the fortieth day after the separation of the soul from the body the soul receives its particular judgment or the determination of where it will spend eternity waiting for the general resurrection.

Through our personal prayers for the departed and the offering of prayers for the departed through the services we become like the holy myrrhbearers. We do this by performing acts of love for the departed so that the departed may be found in the in the heavenly kingdom at the general resurrection.

Through these prayers we share in God’s concern for the departed. Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic describes for us God’s concern for the departed with these words “He (God) is, …, constantly concerned about how to give resurrection to men. He constantly visits the graves of men,…,with His holy angles…..Caring for the dead, we also share in God’s concern, and become in this way God’s friends and fellow workers.”

So my dear brothers in sisters in Christ my prayer for you is that you remember the deceased that you may share in God’s work of bringing them to the resurrection of life by being like the holy myrrhbearers through acts of love both the departed and you may hear the joyous message of Christ’s resurrection “He is risen, He is not here!”

Amen

Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women 2009.