Homily 367 – 5th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 21, 2019
Epistle: (103) – Romans 10:1-10
Gospel: (28) – Matthew 8:28-9:1
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
What are the demons that possess us?
Frequently, I suspect we don’t even realize we are possessed. May be demons – maybe not. As humans, though, we are possessed by something.
Discovering what possesses us isn’t hard to do, and it is valuable. We need to simply take an inventory of how we spend our time.
How much time do we spend at various tasks?
For example, I spend about 10 hours a day associated with work. Now, at this point, we don’t need to evaluate each activity – we just need to know.
How much screen time? How much time with family, or in prayer? Any time left for reflection and contemplation?
Our lives are hectic, and I’m not sure that works to our spiritual advantage – which is the only advantage that really matters.
We multi-task. We eat and watch TV. We check news as we are involved in conversation. We have music and videos running while we work.
Of course, multi-tasking means we do none of them well.
After we know how we spend our time, how do we evaluate our time?
We do so by looking at what we do through the lens of Christ, and the example of the Saints.
The first, and most important, is are we serving others? In our work, in our home, the focus is on meeting the needs of others rather than ourselves.
I was reminded the other day about the life of St. John Chrysostom. He wanted to be a monk from a very early age, and after he finished his schooling, he asked his mother for her blessing.
In turn, she asked him to stay with her until her death – which he did. He delayed his calling to serve his mother. He put the desires and needs of someone else before his own.
Even before what he knew God’s will – God’s calling – to be. That pleases God.
In our time, self-care is a trendy issue. The world asks us: How do we care for others if we don’t first care for ourselves?
And the Church answers: We care for ourselves by first caring for others. Like a lot of things in the Church, it is a paradox. First shall be last, last shall be first. Or giving up your life in order to save your life.
So, in our evaluation of ourselves, we have to be honest and understand the criteria of Christ and the saints. Christ came to serve, and expects us to do the same.
Once we know how we spend our time, and we look at the activities themselves, we will see what we do that isn’t helpful. What we do that doesn’t benefit our life in the way Christ intends for us.
Those things that don’t conform to the image of Christ? Those things are the demons. Nothing is neutral. Our activities either further our growth toward Christ, or inhibit it. No middle ground here.
For those activities that inhibit us, that do not further our sanctity and our theosis, we have to decide if we want the demons to leave us. The Gospel makes clear that the demons don’t want to leave!
But they will, because they are not able to disobey Christ. And whatever their ultimate disposition, we shouldn’t care, nor mourn, their departure.
A herd of swine was the lowest form of life in the Jewish world. The swine had no reason to exist, as they were forbidden for Jews.
And what about our life when the demons are gone?
We will experience freedom, first and foremost. Our lives will not be crammed full of things to be endured.
As Christ mentions in the Gospels, the demons leave and the place is swept clean. So that the demons can return, more in force than ever. Doesn’t sound good.
So we must fill our house with something different – fill our house with God, with love, with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Our lives should be, and will be, more intentional. We can decide affirmatively what to do, instead of mindlessly moving through life without intention.
When things happen, we give thanks, and use whatever it is to bring us and our attention back to God. In this way, what St. Paul says is so true. Everything works good for those who are called of God.
What God asks of us is this: Serve others, and love Him. He will take care of everything else.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!