What is important
Homily 421 – 6th Sunday APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
July 19, 2020
Epistle: (110) Romans 12:6-14 and (334) Hebrews 13:7-16
Gospel: (25) 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.
Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven.
Another way to translate this phrase can be, “Child, take courage, your sins are forgiven.”
As human beings, fallen human beings at that, we exist in a world where the most important aspects of our lives are bound up in our emotional and physical comfort.
We look to Christ, in general, to make us more comfortable in our existence. Make my workload easier, Lord. Provide me with food, Lord. I need a place to stay, Lord.
I am defective, Lord, heal me.
It is a tricky thing – this idea of living in the world, living in the moment, but not wrapping ourselves up in the fallen-ness of creation.
The elders tell us frequently that we need to live in the moment – not in the future, nor in the past, but in the moment.
Then, they add an apparent contradiction or paradox. Live in the world, but not of the world. Your body is here, but your mind and heart and longing focused in heaven.
If you put these two concepts together, it does sound contradictory or paradoxical. It really isn’t. The message is “Live in the eternal Now, the eternal moment, that exists in Heaven, the Kingdom which is in our midst.”
Christ shows us how to live in both worlds simultaneously. On the one hand, He lives squarely in the eternal, in His divine nature. Throughout the incarnation, even until now, and forevermore, He exists in this eternal moment, outside of time, outside of space, unbound.
He reminds us frequently throughout the Gospels that our attention should be in prayer and communion with God, even if the physical is neglected. He says things like, “I have food which you do not know about.” (John 4:32)
He also lives in the creation, in the space and time we share, in His human nature. He experienced the same emotions that we experience – the physical pain, the emotional pain, just as we experience them.
He experienced thirst, and hunger, and sadness – to the point of tears, by the way – and joy, and frustration, even anger.
It is like He lived in this world, and simultaneously in another world. Which is, of course, the truth.
Someone describes it as the world of the “now and not yet.” St. Paul writes of this explicitly: “As it is we do not yet see everything subjected to Christ.” (Hebrews 2:8)
We long for the Kingdom of God with our being – every fiber, every movement. Yet, we live in the world. The land of in-between. The age of in-between.
In Holy Chrismation, as the washing of the Chrism takes place, the one chrismated is reminded: “You are justified. You are illumined. You are sanctified. You are washed.”
Yet, we are still subjected to the fallen world in which we live – we still get sick, we still experience pain and suffering, we still experience death.
Because we still live in a fallen world.
The painful and uncomfortable things, as well as the joyful and comfortable things, affect both the righteous and the unrighteous. The good people and the bad people, as it were.
When Christ encounters Bartimaeus, the man born blind, he is asked directly about the relationship between sin and tragedy. And he answers that there is no causal relationship.
Here, in today’s gospel reading, we are confronted with something similar. The priority of the man with palsy in this world, and the priority of Christ in the Kingdom of God, are completely different.
Christ tells the man, “Child, my son, have courage! Your sins are forgiven!”
I’m guessing that wasn’t what the man was expecting. Certainly, no one else was. In order to show the people that He had the ability to forgive, Christ heals the man of his disease. Freed him from the chains of his fallen body.
The priority is crystal clear – the Kingdom of Heaven.
Christ says this in so many ways throughout the Gospels. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
Our physical bodies are made good, but they are subject to decay and death and corruption as a result of the fall of humanity. And, they will be resurrected whole.
It all boils down to this: this life we lead is important to the extent is prepares us for the life to come. We enter into that life via a new birth – and this life is preparation for that birth.
We begin living in the Kingdom of God, living in that reality, at our birth through baptism and chrismation.
The limitations of this world – the relative comfort or discomfort of this world, have no real meaning in the Kingdom of God. So, we can safely focus on what is important.
Like this paralytic man, we also can rejoice, even if we are not healed, even if we are not comfortable. Because we exist in the Kingdom of God, and that is truly all that matters.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!