Homily 500 – 5th Pascha
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
May 29, 2022
Epistle: (28) – Acts 11:19-26, 29-30
Gospel: (12) – John 4:5-42
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is Risen! Christos Voskrese! Christos Anesthi!
As we look at the Gospel of the man born blind, one thing that jumps out is what the people, particularly the Jewish leadership, kept asking – how is it that you now see?
What did he do? Are you sure you were blind? Can you find people to vouch for you? What do your parents think? What do you think?
All of these questions – yet, no one seems to want to celebrate that this man can now see! They are all skeptical – not willing, or at least not wanting, to believe.
When I read about these accounts of crowds confronting or being confronted with a miracle of our Lord, I often wonder what my reaction would have been.
Would I have also been one of those who said “prove it!”? Would I have been one who questioned the man, his parents, those who were around him, to validate the veracity of his claim?
Probably. Not proud of that, but probably. That is our lot as modern enlightenment-driven individualists, particularly idealistic Americans.
We can be a lot of things – but do not, under any circumstances, think us gullible. That is worse than being thought simple or uneducated.
One of the questions I get frequently from those who know I am a believer and even those who know I’m a priest – one of the questions I get is “You don’t really believe all that miracle stuff, do you?”
If I’m honest, I have to fight the initial urge to say, “of course not.” I don’t like being labeled gullible either, may God forgive me.
Suppose I’m wanting to project a sophisticated, educated appearance. In that case, I may start in on the symbolism or mystery of the event – how it is our spiritual eyes that are opened, how we are all blind to the mysteries of the spiritual.
And that is all true – but at the core, I don’t want to be seen as gullible or simple.
Yet, it is the simple, the gullible, the unlearned, who were able to be used by God for great things! Oh, that we are all gullible and simple and unlearned when it comes to the things of God!
Many of the great saints, particularly the monastic saints, were not educated nor sophisticated as we understand it. However, when it comes to the things of God and of the Christian life, they were PhD’s every one.
The issue that we have, by and large, is that we want desperately to be part of the group, to be accepted by those around us. And not only accepted – but respected.
But God doesn’t work that way.
If we are respected and perceived as educated and sophisticated and all the other qualities that we believe are positive, then, whatever happens, reflects on us. If it is a positive thing, we are quick to accept credit or not refuse credit.
If there is a negative outcome, we are equally quick to come up with excuses or deflections to ensure the negative outcome doesn’t reflect poorly on us.
But here is a significant learning opportunity for us.
If we are weak, or inadequate, or unsophisticated, or uneducated – then, whatever happens, is a manifestation of God, not of us. God’s power is manifest in our weakness.
Christ’s healing is found in our inability to heal ourselves.
And the more we try to explain it, or justify it as unimportant or not miraculous, the more we deny the Lord Himself.
This is why the Fathers of the Church tell us, in their wisdom, not to argue with those who demean us, but rather accept their criticism. Even if we don’t believe it to be justified.
We accept the demeaning comments, the words that imply we are gullible or simple or uneducated. Maybe even just plain stupid.
We accept it – not because it is true, not because it is humble – but because it gives all Glory to God.
That is what the Lord says plainly at the first of this entire passage – the man was born blind so that the power of God might be revealed in Him, made manifest in Him.
It is an amazing blessing, isn’t it – to have God’s attention and to have Him made manifest through us – through me. How many of us have that desire?
That is what the apostles have. That is what the saints have. That – humility to want only that God works through them, and that all credit and all honor and all glory go to God and not to them.
How refreshing it is. We look around and see people, including religious people, including leaders in the Christian Church, who don’t seek weakness, who don’t seek to be humbled.
Rather they seek power. They seek their own Glory or Glory for something they believe will reflect positively on them and their influence.
It will never be, though, because any such power or influence or status or glory will be taken away so that God will be glorified through the weak and powerless.
It is a message I have to remind myself of. Hopefully, it is a message we all can remind ourselves of. It is the message of the Forerunner and Baptist John.
I must decrease, that he might increase.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is risen!