Homily 553 – 6 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 16, 2023
Epistle: (110) Romans 12:6-14 and (334) Hebrews 13: 7-16
Gospel: (29) Matthew 9:1-8 and (56) John 17:1-13
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
One of the things that has been made clear to me over the past three or four months of dealing with medical issues is that they aren’t the priority of our lives. That may sound strange – don’t we all want good health? Don’t we want a rich, full, and healthy life?
Well, if God grants us that, sure! But if not, we have to keep in mind – I have to keep in mind – that this Earthly existence is but a moment in the fabric of eternity. Everything – whether pleasant or painful – will pass. Great health? This too shall pass. Extreme illness? This too shall pass.
Selfishly, we want everything here and now, in this life. We may do so because of our doubt – in the world to come when we die, or perhaps in our ability to access that world when we die.
And, perhaps, that is understandable. But it isn’t accurate at all. Every human being has physically died on this earth save one. That one is Elijah, who was taken up to heaven without experiencing death. Even our Lord experienced death.
The Lord, the Church, the Saints – all attest that after we die, we will be resurrected into God’s eternal presence and kingdom. We may hate it, we may love it – but we will experience it.
That is why we need to rethink our view on our Earthly existence, and everything in it.
We leave the earthly existence the same way we enter it. Naked, typically dependent on others to meet our needs, with no ability to access or use our so-called belongings.
So, why should we put any trust or take any comfort for those things? Time has no meaning in eternity, so the experience we have on earth, be it 10 years or 100 years, isn’t even a moment in eternity.
The things will do us no good. The money will be spent by somebody else. The cars will rust, the electronics will soon be outdated, the houses will collapse and return to the earth, as will our bodies.
But what will survive the death of our bodies?
Our relationships. The saints attest to this by continuing to have relationships with the people they knew in their earthly life, sometimes being a presence, sometimes expressing themselves in a manner that can be seen, or felt.
Especially our relationship with Christ, with our Creator, through the person of the Holy Spirit. That relationship, the closest and most intimate of all relationships, exists today and carries over into eternity.
The tangible items we have in this world cannot be taken with us when we meet our physical death. But the relationships we will take with us whether we like it or not.
And so, Jesus sees the faith of the paralyzed man, and says to him, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven!.
The paralytic was, I imagine, just like us and probably thought, OK, this guy is a real nutcase.
The scribes certainly said that – and worse, they called the Lord a blasphemer.
Jesus knew what he was doing. He was as always setting something up. Which is easier, to speak the words “your sins have been forgiven” or to heal, and command the paralytic to walk?
What needs to be stressed is that both of these weren’t just “talking the talk” or “speaking truth” but served to actually accomplish what was spoken.
The more difficult thing to do, to accomplish, so that others could confirm it, would be healing of the man, and so the man was healed.
That was harder, certainly. But – key element here – but! It wasn’t the most important thing to be done. Forgiveness of sins, forgiveness in general, is the most important accomplishment here.
It is through forgiveness that relationships are restored. Relationships are not restored through justice nor through restitution nor through punishment. Relationships, the part of the earthly life that carries over beyond physical death, are restored only through forgiveness.
Forgiveness offered freely, without condition and without restriction, without seeking anything in return. Effective even when the person forgiven does not repay in kind, and maybe even gets angry at being forgiven.
Maybe you’ve experienced that from someone or even yourself. Someone forgives you, and your response, my response, may be “I did nothing that requires forgiveness! How dare you accuse me of doing something requiring forgiveness!”
But that isn’t true at all – we’ve all done acts that require forgiveness. As St. Paul writes, all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. And, ultimately, all forgiveness originates in God anyway, so when another human being forgives us, it is God forgiving us.
We do, like Christ, have the power to forgive sins. Christ tells us that when He tells the Apostles that whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever we loose from bindings on earth will be loosed in heaven. The keys to the Kingdom don’t just belong to St. Peter, or the Apostles, or the Bishops, or even just the clergy. They belong to all of us – they belong to the Church.
And so – adapt to the long-term view of things. Begin to see things, and circumstances, and relationships through the lens of eternity and the Kingdom of God. Things will pass away, circumstances will change. Relationships will transcend our earthly world into the world to come.
And, in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, be the very foundation of the Kingdom in our midst.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!