Becoming human.

Homily 223 – Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
August 7, 2016

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Something in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans is striking in its simplicity, and at the same time, its complexity.

He says that we are to bear the weaknesses of the weak, and not just please ourselves.

To do what edifies our neighbor – our brothers and sisters – rather than follow our own desires.

And we do this in imitation of Christ – our Lord, our Master, our Savior.

We hear those words, and we quickly acknowledge them, and we dismiss them, and life returns to normal. At least, what we call normal.

It is anything but normal – it is fallen, and distinctly abnormal.

But still, we perhaps fail to understand the significance of what this statement says, and we don’t occupy our mind with it, and we quickly forget and dismiss that thought.

And we do so at our peril.

To understand what Christ did – how he lived, how he loved – is to understand what it means to be human.

Sometimes, we think about Christ – even big things like his death and resurrection – and most of us think to ourselves “sure, it was probably difficult, but after all, he is God.”

It’s easy for Christ to love the unlovable – he is God.

It’s easy for Christ to show mercy and heal – he is God.

But beloved of God – He is also human. A male human being.

With all the emotions and temperament. With all the quirks of humanity.

The God of all the cosmos – the creator of everything that is, everything that exists, enters our world – the creation. Not as God, but as a created being. Taking on our flesh, our blood, our mind and our heart.

Like us. Exactly like us. Except, of course, his humanity wasn’t fallen.

Or rather, his humanity was restored.

We don’t know how the two natures of Christ interacted with one another. We don’t know how the God-nature influenced the human-nature.

But the Fathers of the Church, particularly St. Gregory Nazianzus, were adamant – what was not assumed by Christ was not healed in humanity.

And that is a bold statement – Christ experienced temptation, sorrow, joy – in exactly the same way we do.

He struggled with his thoughts. We see that clearly in the Garden of Gethsemane when he asked His Father – our Father – to take the cup away from him, if it was possible to do so.

He struggled, as we struggle, with keeping his humanity subject to God.

And he did it by thinking always – always – about others. About their burdens, about their souls, about their worries and needs.

He risked everything, particularly his reputation, to offer help to others. At the end of it all, after the dispensation had been fulfilled, he was on the Cross, and his disciples, save St. John, abandoned him.

Rejected by the ones he loved – rejected by his creation itself.

The way he lived showed his disregard for himself – even his reputation.

The two blind men, the mute man – healed. And Christ was accused of being a disciple of Satan, the Evil One and deceiver.

Such gratitude. Such wonder. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Christ always looked at the needs, the desires, the wants of others. Never himself. He only had one thing in this world – the seamless garment which he wore.

No house. No transportation. No employment.

Just a laser-like focus on what everybody else was looking for.

That is how Christ bore the burdens, the failings, of the entire world.

That is what we are called to do as well.

Not because we are God – but because we desire to be truly, fully human. It is the one thing needful. It is what redeems us, what transfigures us.

It is – what saves us.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!