Sermon 7th Sunday After Pentecost

July 26, 2009

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

two blind men iconMy dear brothers and sisters in Christ today’s Gospel concludes with” And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” (Matthew 9:35)

In this verse of the Gospel the Evangelist Matthew makes it clear that Christ’s work is three fold to teach, to preach and to heal.

Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic says the following about this threefold work of Christ:

“He taught- He interpreted the spirit of the Old Creation and the Old Law.

He preached- He laid the foundations of the New Creation, the Kingdom of God, the Church of the Saints.

He healed- He gave testimony to His teaching and preaching by His acts.”

Our Lord did all of this out of His love for mankind. His love meets with our faith so that there may be the miracle of salvation.

Each time our Lord Jesus Christ performs the miracle of healing He asks “Do you believe? Do you believe that I am able to do this?” When our Lord asks these questions he is knocking at the door of the hearts of men. He is looking for an opening to be let in so that not only healing may occur but salvation may occur. This is described for us in the Evangelist John’s Book of Revelation where it says “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him” (Revelation 3:20)

While the Lord knocks at the door of our hearts it takes action or faith on our part to let Him in to our hearts. We must then also knock at His door and ask for salvation. This is confirmed in the words of our Lord when He says “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Luke 11:9)

We see both of these aspects of knocking at the door in today’s Gospel. The first knock is in the two blind men calling after Jesus “Son of David, have mercy on us.” (Matthew 9:27) Saint Simeon the New Theologian describes this knock at the door by the blind men in the following manner “He who prays according to the flesh, and does not also have spiritual understanding is like the blind man that cried out ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ But another blind man when he received his sight and saw the Lord, no longer saw Him as the Son of David, but as the Son of God. (John 9:35-38)” Thus, any knock at the door must be to bring us to God. This is why Christ does not immediately respond to these men. Jesus does not respond because He wants their thirst for God to increase.

The second knock is when Jesus asks them “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28) Our Lord does this so that they may publicly proclaim their action of faith when they say “Yes Lord.” This should remind us that our faith is not just a personnel thing that we keep to ourselves. Faith is something that must be proclaimed in order to bring others to faith.

When the men respond with the words “Yes Lord”, they leave their fleshly or earthly understanding behind and embrace the spiritual understanding. This is accomplished through their use of the word Lord. They no longer recognize Jesus as the Son of David but as the Lord, the Son of God, the God-Man, the Savior of the World. Thus, they are not only healed of their infirmity but they are brought to salvation. This is confirmed by Saint Paul in his epistle to the Romans when he says “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

All too often we seek after God through miraculous signs of His action in creation and fail to see the spiritual miracles that occur around us. Saint John Chrysostom speaks to this in the following manner “Do not therefore seek signs, but the soul’s health. Seek not to see one dead man raised; nay, for you have learned that the whole world is arising. Seek not to see a blind man healed, but behold all now restored unto that better and more profitable sight; and do you too learn to look chastely, and amend your eye.”

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ seek not after miracles. Seek rather after salvation for Christ is knocking at the door of your heart. Open the door of your hearts to Him that you may enter into the New Creation and receive the spiritual miracles that will change you and the world around you. Though this change you will accomplishing Christ’s work to teach, preach and to heal.

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church on the 7th Sunday after Pentecost 2009.


Saint John Chrysostom on the Miracles, Homily 32 on Matthew 9

July 23, 2009

icon Matthew 9 27-35But the miracles, perhaps, are what ye seek after, such as they wrought when they entered in; the lepers cleansed, the devils driven out, and the dead raised? Nay, but this is the great indication of your high birth, and of your love, that you should believe God without pledges. And in fact this, and one other thing, were the reasons why God made miracles to cease. I mean, that if when miracles are not performed, they that plume themselves on other advantages,—for instance, either on the word of wisdom, or on show of piety,—grow vainglorious, are puffed up, are separated one from another; did miracles also take place, how could there but be violent rendings? And that what I say is not mere conjecture, the Corinthians bear witness, who from this cause were divided into many parties.

Do not thou therefore seek signs, but the soul’s health. Seek not to see one dead man raised; nay, for you have learned that the whole world is arising. Seek not to see a blind man healed, but behold all now restored unto that better and more profitable sight; and do thou too learn to look chastely, and amend your eye.

For in truth, if we all lived as we ought, workers of miracles would not be admired so much as we by the children of the heathen. For as to the signs, they often carry with them either a notion of mere fancy, or another evil suspicion, although ours be not such. But a pure life cannot admit of any such reproach; yea, all men’s mouths are stopped by the acquisition of virtue.

Let virtue then be our study: for abundant are her riches, and great the wonder wrought in her. She bestows the true freedom, and causes the same to be discerned even in slavery, not releasing from slavery, but while men continue slaves, exhibiting them more honorable than freemen; which is much more than giving them freedom: not making the poor man rich, but while he continues poor, exhibiting him wealthier than the rich.

But if you would work miracles also, be rid of transgressions, and you have quite accomplished it. Yea, for sin is a great demon, beloved; and if thou exterminate this, you have wrought a greater thing than they who drive out ten thousand demons. Do thou listen to Paul, how he speaks, and prefers virtue to miracles. “But covet earnestly,” says he, “the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.” 1 Corinthians 12:31 And when he was to declare this “way,” he spoke not of raising the dead, not of cleansing of lepers, not of any other such thing; but in place of all these he set charity. Hearken also unto Christ, saying, “Rejoice not that the demons obey you, but that your names are written in Heaven.” Luke 10:20 And again before this, “Many will say to me in that day, Have we not prophesied in Your name, and cast out devils, and done many mighty works, and then I will profess unto them, I know you not.” Matthew 7:22-23 And when He was about to be crucified, He called His disciples, and said unto them, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples,” not “if you cast out devils,” but “if you have love one to another.” John 13:35 And again, “Hereby shall all men know that You have sent me;” not “if these men raise the dead,” but, “if they be one.”

For, as to miracles, they oftentimes, while they profited another, have injured him who had the power, by lifting him up to pride and vainglory, or haply in some other way: but in our works there is no place for any such suspicion, but they profit both such as follow them, and many others.

These then let us perform with much diligence. For if thou change from inhumanity to almsgiving, you have stretched forth the hand that was withered. If thou withdraw from theatres and go to the church, you have cured the lame foot. If thou draw back your eyes from an harlot, and from beauty not your own, you have opened them when they were blind. If instead of satanical songs, you have learned spiritual psalms, being dumb, you have spoken.

These are the greatest miracles, these the wonderful signs. If we go on working these signs, we shall both ourselves be a great and admirable sort of persons through these, and shall win over all the wicked unto virtue, and shall enjoy the life to come; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.


Saint John Chrysostom on the Two Blind Men, Homily 32 on Matthew 9

July 21, 2009

“And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed Him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. And when He was come into the house, the blind men came to Him: and Jesus says unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord. Then touched He their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened.”

chrysostomWherefore can it be that He puts them off, and they crying out? Here again teaching us utterly to repel the glory that comes from the multitude. For because the house was near, He leads them thither to heal them in private. And this is evident from the fact, that He charged them moreover to tell no man.

But this is no light charge against the Jews; when these men, though their eyes were struck out, receive the faith by hearing alone, but they beholding the miracles, and having their sight to witness what was happening, do all just contrary. And see their earnestness also, both by their cry, and by their prayer itself. For they did not merely approach Him, but with loud cries, and alleging nought else but “mercy.”

And they called Him “Son of David,” because the name was thought to be honorable. In many passages, for instance, did the prophets likewise so call the kings, whom they wished to honor, and to declare great.

And having brought them into the house, He puts to them a further question. For in many cases He made a point of healing on entreaty, lest any should suppose Him to be rushing upon these miracles through vainglory: and not on this account alone, but to indicate also that they deserve healing, and that no one should say, “If it was of mere mercy that He saved, all men ought to be saved.” For even His love to man has a kind of proportion; depending on the faith of them that are healed. But not for these causes only does He require faith of them, but forasmuch as they called Him “Son of David,” He to lead them up to what is higher, and to teach them to entertain the imaginations they ought of Himself, says, “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” He did not say, “Believe ye that I am able to entreat my Father, that I am able to pray” but, “that I am able to do this?”

What then is their word? “Yea, Lord.” They call Him no more Son of David, but soar higher, and acknowledge His dominion.

And then at last He for His part lays His hand upon them, saying, “According to your faith be it unto you.” And this He does to confirm their faith, and to show that they are participators in the good work, and to witness that their words were not words of flattery. For neither did He say, “Let your eyes be opened,” but, “According to your faith be it unto you;” which He says to many of them that came unto Him; before the healing of their bodies, hastening to proclaim the faith in their soul; so as both to make them more approved, and to render others more serious.

Thus with respect to the sick of the palsy also; for there too before giving nerve to the body, He raises up the fallen soul, saying, “Son, be of good cheer, your sins be forgiven you.” And the young damsel too, when He had raised her up, He detained, and by the food taught her her Benefactor; and in the case of the centurion also He did in like manner, leaving the whole to his faith; and as to His disciples again, when delivering them from the storm on the sea, He delivered them first from their want of faith. Just so likewise in this case: He knew indeed, even before their cry, the secrets of their mind; but that He might lead on others also to the same earnestness, He makes them known to the rest as well, by the result of their cure proclaiming their hidden faith.

Then after their cure He commands them to tell no man; neither does He merely command them, but with much strictness.

“For Jesus,” it is said, “straightly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. But they, when they were departed, spread abroad His fame in all that country.” Matthew 9:30-31

They however did not endure this, but became preachers, and evangelists; and when bidden to hide what had been done, they endured it not.

And if in another place we find Him saying, “Go your way, and declare the glory of God, “that is not contrary to this, but even highly in agreement herewith. For He instructs us to say nothing ourselves, concerning ourselves, but even to forbid them that would eulogize us: but if the glory be referred to God, then not only not to forbid, but to command men to do this.

“And as they went out,” it is said, “behold, they brought unto Him a dumb man possessed with a devil.”

For the affliction was not natural, but the device of the evil spirit; wherefore also he needs others to bring him. For he could neither make entreaty himself, being speechless, nor supplicate others, when the evil spirit had bound his tongue, and together with his tongue had fettered his soul.

For this cause neither does He require faith of him, but straightway heals the disease.

“For when the devil was cast out,” it says, “the dumb spoke: and the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel.” Matthew 9:33

Now this especially vexed the Pharisees, that they preferred Him to all, not only that then were, but that had ever been. And they preferred Him, not for His healing, but for His doing it easily and quickly, and to diseases innumerable and incurable.

And thus the multitude; but the Pharisees quite contrariwise; not only disparaging the works, but saying things contradictory to themselves, and not ashamed. Such a thing is wickedness. For what say they?

“He casts out devils through the prince of the devils.”

What can be more foolish than this? For in the first place, as He also says further on, it is impossible that a devil should cast out a devil, for that being is wont to repair what belongs to himself, not to pull it down. But He did not cast out devils only, but also cleansed lepers, and raised the dead, and curbed the sea, and remitted sins, and preached the kingdom, and brought men unto the Father; things which a demon would never either choose, or at any time be able to effect. For the devils bring men to idols, and withdraw them from God, and persuade them to disbelieve the life to come. The devil does not bestow kindness when he is insulted; forasmuch as even when not insulted, he harms those that court and honor him.


Sermon 6th Sunday After Pentecost

July 19, 2009

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord says “be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2) in today’s Gospel.

healing paralytic matthewWhat are our sins that need to be forgiven? Our sins are our imperfections of character. They are the things about us where we miss the mark of what we were created to be by God. Sins take many forms but they are all rooted in our miss use of our created being. In particular we find that our God given needs for socialization and security are misused by are self will.

When we sin we place ourselves above God. We make ourselves are own God. When we sin we put ourselves in conflict with God. This conflict with God is often seen in our conflicts with our fellow man. This is because our fellow man, as well as we are, is created in the image and likeness of God as it says in Genesis “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26) Thus our conflicts in life are a result of our conflict with the image and likeness of God that exists within us and our fellow man as a result of placing our will in front of this image and likeness of God; or simply put our sin.

This conflict is not only with ourselves but with God because we were created to live in harmony with God. We were created to submit our will to his in order to have this harmony with Him. As we live our lives in conflict with God, others and the image and likeness of God within us our souls become sick.

The soul becomes sick because it is cut off from its Creator that nourishes it with the fruit of the tree of life. This lack of nourishment of the soul weakens the soul. In the worse cases it can no longer respond to God; it becomes paralyzed much like the man in today’s gospel.

When the soul is sick it is often accompanied by physical illness. We see this often in the Gospels with the healings of the blind, the epileptics, the deaf and dumb, and paralytics. In each of these healings we hear our Lord Jesus Christ say before the healing, as we heard in today’s Gospel, “your sins are forgiven you.” Thus, before there can be any physical healing there must be a spiritual healing.

In order to receive this spiritual healing the one that suffers must first come to believe in God and trust in Him. We see this need for belief in the healing of the epileptic child when the father says “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

Once belief is achieved then action must be taken. The action of belief is faith. We see the belief in action or faith in today’s Gospel by those that brought the paralytic to Christ. However something we may not notice is the faith of the sick man. Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic describes the faith of the sick man in the following manner “anyone in his right mind, were he to have no faith, would scarcely allow others to drag him along the streets on his bed and – even more important- haul him up onto the roof and let him down into the house.”

When the action of faith is taken it is an outward sign of repentance or a change of mind. The change of mind that occurs for the sick soul is knowing that it cannot live without God. Repentance is the recognition of the brokenness of the soul, the recognition of its imperfection. Without this repentance there can be no forgiveness, no healing, no restoration.

Repentance is a sacrifice of the self will to God’s will. In reality it is bringing our imperfection before God and offering it to Him to forgive, to heal and to restore. This is made clear to us in Psalm 50 where it says “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 50(51):17)

We are further given an image of brokenness as sacrifice in the crucifixion of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. We see His broken body offered on the Life Giving Cross for the sin of the world. This sacrifice of Christ resulted in the Resurrection that opened for all of mankind the gates of paradise. The Resurrection of Christ allowed mankind’s corrupted image, brokenness, or imperfection to be restored, to be healed by Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on the cross. It allowed mankind to be forgiven, healed and restored to its created nature as our Lord said in today’s be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2)

So my dear brothers and sisters and Christ be of Good Cheer so that you may come to believe that you may come to faith and repentance so that your brokenness may be healed by our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church on the 6th Sunday after Pentecost 2009.