Frustration leads nowhere.

Homily 262 – Fourth Sunday of Pascha (Paralytic)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
May 7, 2017

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is Risen!

How long does it take before we give up? What is our patience tolerance level?

Could we wait by the pool, as the Paralytic did, for thirty-eight years?

The hymns we sang last night at Vespers give us some insight into the condition of the Paralytic:

The Paralytic was like an unburied corpse.
He saw You and shouted: “Lord, have mercy on me!
My bed has become my grave! Why should I live?
What use is the Sheep’s Pool to me?
I have no one to put me into the pool when the waters are stirred.

Thirty-eight years.

I was bedridden for a week with a back problem and thought I would never survive it.

I get impatient when the drive through at Starbucks takes more than 10 minutes.

Patience is not something our society values. We live on accomplishment – size and speed matter.

Bigger is better – and sooner is best.

So when we are forced into situations where we cannot have what we desire, we get frustrated.

Or, maybe more accurately, we choose to be frustrated.

Frustration is not instinctive. It is not a reaction. It is the conflict between our reality and our expectations.

We expect a place to live, a job, good health – and when reality doesn’t provide those things, we get frustrated. And frustration leads to anger. And anger leads to despondency.

We lose hope.

Like the paralytic, we cannot change reality. So our only option is to change our expectations.

In many ways, our happiness is inversely proportional to our frustration. Frustration is what we see most in society – economic frustration, political frustration. No happiness to be found anywhere.

Happiness doesn’t co-exist with frustration.

OK – this is a rather bleak case. What are we to do?

The example of the paralytic gives us two actions. One, cry to God continually for mercy.

Two, change our expectations.

We can either live in frustration, and allow the cancer of despondency to overwhelm us. Or –

We can live without expectations, and accept whatever comes our way with the knowledge that it is used by God as an opportunity to draw us to Him.

It is significantly easier to change our expectations than to change our reality.

However – that doesn’t mean we simply shut down, either. A very wise man told me that God doesn’t expect success – in fact, in God, there is no such thing as success. And no such thing as failure.

There is only faithfulness. That faithfulness that St. Paul wrote about – doing what he had to do, what God expected him to do. And learning, as he did, to be content in whatever situation he found himself.

Whether in plenty, or in want. Sickness or health.

When the situation warranted, he focused 100% of his efforts on teaching, and preaching. Other times, he had to devote some of his effort to earning a living, making tents.

St. Alexis of Minneapolis and Wilkes-Barre, whom we commemorate this day, experienced this as well.

Imagine coming literally halfway around the world to a new land – being sent there – and then being fired. Not allowed to assume the role to which you have been sent.

A journey which took several months in those days. Steamships were not fast. And then, you arrive, and – nothing.

And I’m sure the expectation was vastly different for St. Alexis. But he was faithful. He sought refuge in the Orthodox Church, and took a job in a bakery because he could not support himself any other way.

He remained faithful. He worked, and still ministered to his congregation as a priest. And later went on to bring nearly 100,000 people from the Carpatho-Russian region of Eastern Europe into the Orthodox Church, here in America, throughout the Midwest, and in Pennsylvania.

Such is the lot of all of us. Continuing to beg God to heal us of our paralysis – our sins and thoughtless acts, as the hymn said.

Learning to live without expectations. Learning to remain faithful.

And through it all – being content. Glorifying God. And begging his mercy.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is Risen!