Homily 422 – 7th Sunday APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 19, 2020
Epistle: (116) Romans 15:1-7 and (n/a) Philippians 3:7-14
Gospel: (33) Matthew 9:27-35 and (n/a) Mark 10:29-31, 42-45
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
I know I’m not saying anything you don’t already know by reminding us this world is very self-centered.
What the readings today remind us is that humans have pretty much always been self-centered. We can go all the way back to the Garden and find the advent of ego.
As we look back, though, we also find that the righteous, the ones remembered as holy, set that ego aside in obedience.
Abraham offered Isaac, his miracle child. Joseph accepted being sold into slavery in Egypt. Moses gave up his life in Midian, and before that, life in the court of Pharoah. God Himself gave up His only-begotten Son to demonstrate what Love is.
It is that Son that tells us, then shows us, what is necessary. The disciples tell Jesus that they have given up everything – “for what?”, they ask.
Jesus tells them something interesting: “blessings and persecutions. And in the age to come, eternal life.”
Blessings – houses, family, land. And persecutions – Christ Himself tells us to expect this in the Gospel of St. John: Because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19)
St. Paul offers a similar promise. In his second letter to Timothy, he writes that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)
The blessings we have to prepare to give up at any moment – just like Abraham offering Isaac. And the persecutions we have to prepare to endure because we know that we will have them.
St. Jacob whom we remember today, the enlightener of the Alaskan peoples, he knew about giving things up. He left everything he knew to return to his native Alaska and share the Gospel with his people.
He also suffered – losing his wife and father to illness, losing his home to a fire.
The blind men, begging to be healed, also had to be prepared to give up something. We hear of the miracles of God at times and perhaps add a bit to the story – at least, I think I do this.
In the end, after the healing, in my head, my assumption is “and they lived happily ever after.” But did they? We don’t know.
What we can know is that the lives of those healed were completely transfigured. To leave a life of begging, to leave the bed to which one was confined, counting on the help and mercy of others – I have to imagine that was a frightening prospect.
Think about the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda – forty years he laid there. Depending on others to support him.
After their healing, they would likely be expected to support themselves, and perhaps they had no means to do so. The blind and lame were not likely to be fishermen or merchants or carpenters.
Healing is a tricky business.
Yet if we abandon our fear, and abandon our self-interest and attempts at self-reliance, like the blind, like the missionary, like the possessed, we will find freedom. Freedom in Christ – the freedom to be, to become, what we were created to be.
We are illumined in holy Baptism. We were blind, held in the darkness of the world, but now we can see things, still yet dimly, but ever more brightening, until as St. Gregory of Nyssa says, we will see Him as He is.
Now that we are illumined, now that we see, we must understand that we now live in a new reality. We now see things are they truly are – we are enlightened.
So the old ways – the ways of self-interest, the ways of self-preservation, are no longer in force. The reality formerly hidden is now made manifest to us. And we have to live accordingly.
For who, having seen, returns to blindness? Having encountered light, who returns to darkness?
Now that we see, we also see that the things of this world aren’t important. They are, significantly, irrelevant. When I say things of this world – we speak of houses and power, and respect, and family.
No, the only thing that matters now is the Kingdom of God. The only thing that matters now is following Christ. Examining His life, and following it.
We are set free from possessions, free to pursue those things that are indeed important in the Kingdom of God – Relationships. Love. Giving. Worship.
It isn’t an easy path to follow – the way is narrow. But it is possible. We can, through the ascetical disciplines of the Church, learn how to sacrifice ourselves, distance ourselves from the worldly distractions that ensnare us.
But what Christ promises us – all of us – is that by serving others, denying our self, picking up our burden – the burden of loving and caring and supporting others – by doing all these things, we will find our fulfillment in God, our Creator.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!