Self-denial, healing, and service.
Homily 314 – 3rd after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
June 24, 2018
Epistle – (93) Romans 6:18-23 and (112) Romans 13:11-14:4 (Forerunner)
Gospel – (25) Matthew 8:5-13 and (2) Luke 1:5-25, 57-68, 76, 80 (Forerunner)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
St. Paul makes it very clear in his letter to the Romans – put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think how to satisfy the flesh and its lusts.
We think of “lusts” as having a sexual connotation, and of course it does. However, St. Paul precedes this with the idea that we should walk decently, not in parties and drunkenness, and he adds after this idea with our not living in strife or jealousy.
In other words, our objectives in life should not be to figure out how to be happy, or satiated, or entertained, or comfortable.
The direct translation of the Greek is “Decently we should walk, not in debaucheries and intoxications, not in beds and in lewdnesses, not in strife or jealousy – but rather clothe on the Lord – put on the clothing who is the person of Christ – and of the flesh, forethought do not have for desire.”
The order of the world is wrong.
I’ve said it before – and I will say it until I can’t say anything. What the world considers normal isn’t normal at all.
Normal, for a follower of Christ, is self-denial. The complete antithesis of the belief of our society.
If we turn on the television, the radio, the computer, even driving down the road we are bombarded with the message that the only objective of life is our own comfort and pleasure. Carpe Diem! Seize the day! Nobody can take care of you like you!
That is a lie. That is not at all how the world works.
The message is about our rights, our demands – and that’s also a lie, because the only thing we pray for from society is the ability to work out our salvation in peace.
We cannot expect the world, our society, to conform to us. The world has never done that – and never will.
In fact, St. Paul reinforces the idea that we are to live according to our calling – the way we understand God.
That isn’t a popular viewpoint, particularly among Christians of our day. We want society to conform to us, to make it easier for us.
There is an effort to outlaw temptation. To outlaw vice.
St. Paul however is quite bold in his assertion – Who are you who judge someone else’s servant?
C.S. Lewis put it a different way – how can I as a Christian expect those to conform to Christ, when I do not conform to Christ and I have the power of Christ in me?
To be a self-appointed spiritual father or mother, advising others on their path to holiness, is to be blunt – dangerous. We place our own salvation in jeopardy when we do that.
It requires discernment. As a priest, I rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me in confession. I recognize that it isn’t me. And if it is me, I beg forgiveness, because it shouldn’t be.
We are not here to judge others. We are not here to make others holy. We are here to change ourselves.
It is our response to the forerunner’s call – repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand. The Kingdom of God is in our midst. Christ Himself is here.
Regardless of how much we try – how much we beg or cajole – we cannot repent for anyone but ourselves.
Rather, the Holy Spirit is the one who shows us our sins. And He shows us when we are ready to hear. Not before.
It is a corollary to St. Paul’s statement about judgement – but we are not empowered to tell others about what is and what isn’t a sin. We are each given the information when we are ready for it.
To use the medical analogy – not all are healers. Not all are doctors. As priests, we are given the grace to communicate the appropriate prescription for the disease of sin. But we are not all spiritual physicians.
And we shouldn’t try to be. To be completely candid, we shouldn’t even try to diagnose ourselves.
When we go to the doctor, we don’t tell the physician our diagnosis and the medication we need.
Rather, we describe our symptoms. Sometimes they recur so frequently that we know in advance what the doctor will prescribe.
But it is still the doctor who prescribes.
The Gospel also reminds us what healing is to accomplish. The centurion’s servant was healed – so that he could serve the centurion again.
St. Peter’s mother in law was healed – and she served him.
We take a different path from our society. We focus on ourselves, that we may be healed.
And we are healed so we may serve our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!