Homily 360 – 6th Sunday of Pascha (Blind Man)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
June 2, 2019
Epistle: (38) – Acts 16:16-34
Gospel: (34) – John 9:1-38
Christ is risen! Xristos Voskrese! Xhristos Anesthi! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
The first thing we encounter in the account of the man born blind, healed by our Lord, is the scriptural counter-argument to the Puritans that settled this land.
It was the belief of the Puritans, and in fact many who are accepting of John Calvin’s teaching, that one’s condition on earth was a result of God’s view of one’s holiness and sanctity.
Same was the opinion of the Jews – if you had some deformity or struggle, be it spiritual, mental, physical, or material – then God must not be pleased with you.
You’d think in reading the account of Job that the Jewish people might know better – but apparently not. They, including the disciples, asked that question.
Our deformities, our shortfalls, our tragedies – none of them provide us insight into God’s pleasure or displeasure with us. None of them, as our Savior plainly says, are the result of sin, neither ours, nor our parents.
Some things may be consequences of our actions. If we place our hand on a hot stove, it will be burned and painful. That’s not God’s judgement on us.
Rather, Christ tells us that our shortcomings, our deformities, our fallen-ness, exists so that God can manifest His power through us. God’s works are revealed through us.
St. Paul, in his second epistle to the Church at Corinth, reveals this message from God also – “My power is made perfect in weakness.”
Popular saying is that God won’t give us more than we can handle. However that isn’t what St. Paul said – he wrote:
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
So we find the trials that buffet us, our shortcomings, our tragedies – none of these should be interpreted as commentary on us.
None of them.
Rather, they are opportunities for us to refocus our dependence on our God, who created us and gives us life. And – most importantly – loves us!
We are never worthy on our own of God’s love. Never. We are never worthy of God’s attention, being that as humans we have fallen. Yet, in that while we were unworthy, Christ died for us.
Brothers and sisters, we need to change the way we think about this world, and the things in it, and even our own feelings. Because through our thoughts and our feelings, we are deceived. We cannot find truth there – we are fallen.
Our only thought, dominating our minds, is of Christ, and of His Father, and the Holy Spirit. Our only feelings are ones of desire and longing and love for the Holy Trinity, and for those united with them – the Theotokos and all the saints gone before us.
When tragedy strikes, we thank God. When we suffer abuse, we thank God. In everything, we thank God.
That seems foolish to the world around us – foolish to our society. But indeed it is the most sane approach we can take to troubles and trials.
The rain and the sun, both blessings, fall equally on the sinner and the righteous. So too the storms and floods and earthquakes equally on both. No one is exempt, not even Christ himself.
The perfect Son of God, who was and is perfect, suffered in this life. He also was abused. He also was taunted. He felt the sting of rejection from those He loved.
We can rest assured that whatever temptation we have experienced, whatever trial we experience, Christ has experienced also.
As did the saints – St. Paul, St. James, St. Photini, even the Mother of God. Martyrs, confessors, monastics – all experience death, all experience hate, all experience suffering.
And for the rest of us – marriage is martyrdom. Self-denial through ascetical practice is martyrdom.
Simply loving one’s neighbor as themselves is martyrdom.
So in the trials we experience, and also in the blessings, we must not say that we are worthy or unworthy of them. But rather that all things are to manifest God in us, through us, to the world.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is Risen!