Seventh Sunday After Pentecost 2012

July 26, 2012

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

Your Grace, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ;

There once was a man that visited a village in the mountains. The setting was pristine; a clear mountain stream was going through the village. There was clear mountain air, green fields, the wild flowers in bloom, the snow capped mountains were in the background. In the village all of the houses were well cared for with fresh paint and very ornate trim work. This village was a gorgeous sight to behold. The man thought the people here must be very good people by looking at the way they cared for their village and its surroundings.

The man thought he would spend the night there. He thought he would give a precious gift to the people of the village and a special gift for the person he stayed with that night on the next day. He came to one house and knocked on the door. The person inside told him to go away without opening door. The man came to another house. This time when the door was opened the stench from inside drove him away. He excused himself and went on to the next house. This time he said no matter what he was going to enter and stay at that house. Well, while he was in the house the smell, the bugs and filth that was inside finally drove him out. The man left the beautiful village without ever giving his special gift.

This story is very representative of our relationship with our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. People look at us, seeing on the outside what appears to be good and righteous people. However our Lord knows something different. He sees our inside. He sees the sins that we have found a way to keep hidden from everyone else. Then we wonder why the Lord doesn’t work miracles in our lives like He worked in the Holy Scriptures and those recorded in the early Church. The reason more often than not, that we don’t experience miracles has to do with our sin and our lack of faith.

Today’s scripture readings deal directly with two points; our sin and lack of faith.

In the Apostle reading of St. Paul calls upon the Romans that the strong or the righteous live lives that will be an example for or edify the weak, that all may be of one mouth and mind glorifying Christ Jesus and the Father.

The Holy Gospel tells us of two separate healings by Jesus. The first healing is of two blind men that cry out to him. Jesus asks them if they believe before he heals them.

The second healing is of a demon possessed man who is brought to him for healing. This time our Lord sees the faith of those bringing the man to Him. He doesn’t ask for any other confession of faith, than the faith of those bringing the man, before He heals the man. Wwe also see in the Gospel that there are others that reject these healings.

The Lord gives all men a special gift if they are willing to accept it; as he did for those in the Gospel. However there are those that will always reject the gift; like the Pharisees that accuse Him of casting out demons by the prince of demons. They are like the people that wouldn’t answer the door or those whose houses were beautiful on the outside and filled with stench and filthiness on the inside in the village.

There is a condition to receiving the gift of healing or salvation from God. The condition is faith. We must believe in God. We must acknowledge the fact that we need Him for our very survival; that we need Him more than our career, family, friends and all other things. As it says in the Gospel of St. Matthew “He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,” (Matthew 10:37). This is what it truly means to believe in God. It does not mean these other things are not important but, God comes First!!!!! Then, everything else.

The gift of healing is the restoration of our being to all that it was ever meant to be. It is the healing and restoration from the consequences of death and corruption that entered into the world by the ancestral sin of Adam. The healing may be for physical or spiritual ills according to what is need for our salvation or glorification in God. For this to be accomplished we must first free ourselves from our sin. As we saw in the story of the village that God cannot live in a dirty dwelling place and impart His gifts, no matter how hard He tries.

We must do something to clean up our lives because God will not do it for us because He respects our free will to reject Him.

The only way we can clean up our lives and receive forgiveness of our sins is through Confession. As our Lord told us “Truly I say unto you, Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18) Confession is where we can openly an honestly clean our house so that we can receive God into our being and receive His gifts.

The season of the Dormition Fast is coming upon us in a few short weeks. We should each prepare our confession to clean the house of our souls and receive the Precious and Holy Body and Blood of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ in order to be healed of all of your physical and spiritual ailments according to what is needed for our salvation.

O Lord our God we cry out to You, as the blind men and those that brought the demonic possessed man, to dwell in us so that we may receive Your gift of healing of all of our physical and spiritual ills for our salvation and not be like the Pharisees or those in the beautiful village that rejected Your healing salvation.

Amen.

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Midland, PA; the Seventh Sunday After Pentecost 2012.

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Fourth Sunday After Pentecost 2012

July 1, 2012

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

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ we heard the Lord say “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” (Matthew 8:10) Our Lord says this in response to the Centurion saying “but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it.” (Matthew 8:8-9)

What is this faith that our Lord God is marveling at? Is it a belief or is it something more? In order to answer these questions we must examine the words belief and faith.

Belief is a word that expresses a concept of understanding. In a very real sense one could say that an unproven idea is a belief. A theory is a great example of a belief.

Faith on the other hand implies something that is known or proven. When I set the alarm clock at night I have faith that it will alarm in the morning at the time for which I set it. I have this faith because every time that I did this in the past it alarmed at the time for which it was set.

This is how are faith in God should be. We have faith in God because we have experienced Him; we have come to know Him through our relationship with Jesus, God incarnate. It is through this relationship that we obtain salvation. We confess our faith in this salvific relationship in the Creed or the Symbol of Faith.

It is interesting that the first words of the Creed have been translated into English as “I believe in…” in the Slavonic text these first words are “Vjeruju vo” or “Verujem u” in Serbian. In both cases the root word is “Vera” or faith. The first words of the Creed could be translated as I have faith in…We have faith in the God revealed and experienced in the Holy Trinity as expressed in this Creed, in history and our living experience of Him.

One of the most concrete ways that we experience God is through prayer. Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ tells us “whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13) Many of us question our faith because sometimes the things we ask for in prayer we do not receive. This is because God knows what we need. The answer to our prayers maybe “No, that is not good for you” or “not at this time, wait” or we may receive what we ask for in the manner we ask or in a different way. When we don’t get what we ask for our faith sometimes wavers because we forget what we say in the Lord’s Prayer “Your will be done.” (Matthew 6:10) Unwavering faith has nothing to do with our will. Unwavering faith has to do with seeking God’s will in all things.

An example of unwavering faith in the face of great adversity is seen in the Holy Prophet Job. Job lost his family, his lands and his health but remained faithful to God. Even his wife told him to “curse God, and die.” (Job 2:9) Job’s response to all his suffering was “shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10) Job did not want to experience the difficulties he had in his life. However he had faith that God would give him what he needs. Job surrendered his will to God’s will or Job emptied himself so that God could fill Job with Himself.

This self-empting is what we see in God in the person of Jesus Christ; especially at His passion. The person of Jesus shows that when we cut off our will or empty ourselves we become obedient to God. Jesus the God-Man is obedient to the will of God while Adam was disobedient exerting his will over God’s will bring the consequences of death and corruption into the world. Christ’s obedience to His Father brings us back to life and restores our natural relationship with God.

Thus, when the centurion speaks about obedience of those that report to him he equates that obedience to the obedience of all of creation to Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ. The centurion says that I not only believe that my servant will be healed but, I know from the experience of You that he will be healed. The Centurion has faith because he knows how faith and obedience are related by others fulfilling his will and by being obedient himself fulfilling the will of others, as “one under authority” as it says in the Gospel (Matthew 8:9).

Christ marvels at this because the centurion is able to understand the relationship between obedience and faith; that obedience is and faith are about fulfilling the command or will of another. That faith and obedience are about freedom. When we fulfill the will of God we come free. We become free from death and corruption. When we turn our will and our life over to God He gives it back to us transformed. It is transformed because we no longer need to make choices about what is the right thing to do in any situation; we are set free. This is what it means to have great faith.

Saint Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic explains this wonder of great faith inhe following manner “Christ did not marvel at the beauty of the sea of Galilee, for what is such beauty compared with the beauty of the kingdom of heaven….Neither did He ever marvel at great human wisdom, wealth or strength; for all is nothing compared with the wisdom, wealth and might that are familiar to Him in the Kingdom of God….The great faith of one man is to be marveled at. It is the greatest and most beautiful thing on earth, for by faith a slave becomes free, a hireling becomes a son of God and a mortal man becomes immortal.”

So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ let us have great faith obtaining freedom and life everlasting by surrendering our self will to God’s will by being obedient to His commandments. Amen

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at St. Archangel Michael Serbian Orthodox Church on the 4th Sunday after Pentecost 2012.