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555Homily for 9/1/13 - P10 - foolishness, weakness, dishonor

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  • David
    Sep 10 4:40 PM
      1 Cor 4:9-16

      It would seem that the Apostle is complaining to the Corinthian Church
      concerning his situation. He recounts how difficult life is for himself
      and the other apostles, how they are poor and hungry and homeless. He
      also says that they are considered to be fools and weak and dishonored
      because of their way of life and work in the world. This is not
      complaining, however, for he is making the point that worldly measures
      of success and prosperity are not the same as those by which we measure
      our progress in the spiritual life. The Christians in Corinth were
      overly concerned with their worldly wealth and comfort and for this
      reason the Apostle points out how such things are worthless and that we
      are better to be counted as foolish and weak and dishonored by the world
      that we might instead gain the wealth of the Kingdom of God.

      Just two weeks ago we read from this same epistle about the preaching of
      the Holy Cross. The Apostle proclaimed that the message of the cross is
      foolishness to those who are perishing. Thus the Apostle points out that
      he is considered foolish by the world not because he is a fool, but
      rather because he proclaims the foolishness of the Cross and holds to
      it. The Christians of Corinth were overly concerned with appearing wise
      to those around them and as such were in danger of wandering away from
      the foolishness of the Cross. This is also a reminder to us of the
      importance of following Christ wherever He leads us – even when we don’t
      understand, or even when we can’t see past the foolishness. This is the
      path that leads us to the Cross. By setting aside our worldly wisdom in
      favor of the wisdom of Christ we subject ourselves to seeming
      foolishness. This seeming foolishness brings forth the fruit of humility
      in our hearts which is the mother of all virtue. As this fruit of
      humility grows in us, our hearts become fertile ground for the other
      virtues such as patience, forgiveness, generosity, hospitality,
      kindness, gentleness, self-control and so on. All these virtues come
      together in us to bring forth love which is the queen and greatest of
      all virtues.

      The Apostle also proclaimed his own weakness, reminding us all that it
      is not by our own strength but by the power of the Cross working in us
      that we are saved. In order to allow God to work in us and to manifest
      His power in us, we must set aside our own worldly strength and become
      weak before Him. By claiming to be weak, the Apostle proclaims that the
      strength of God is working in Him. This is a topic about which we spoke
      in greater length just a couple of weeks ago. “The key to the strength
      of the Cross is, in fact, our own weakness. We can only rely upon the
      strength of the Cross when we realize that we have no strength. Only
      when we give up on our own efforts, our own reasoning, our own strengths
      is it possible for the power of the Cross to be manifest in us. And this
      is exactly where we all too often get into trouble. The root of our
      sinfulness is our desire to be our own God, to be self-sufficient, to be
      able to take care of ourselves. Until we surrender this desire and give
      it up completely, we will leave the door open for sin to enter our lives
      and gain power over us.” In order for the power of the Cross to be
      manifest in us, the two virtues of humility and repentance allow us to
      remain in a state of personal weakness, ready to receive the power and
      might of the cross.

      The Apostle also claims to be dishonored. This too is a claim upon the
      Cross for in the eyes of the world, the Cross is an instrument of
      dishonor – a punishment reserved only for the most wretched criminals,
      for thieves and murderers. An important element of death by crucifixion
      is that the condemned is subject to the mocking and ridicule of
      everyone. And is this not just what was described in the accounts of the
      crucifixion of our Lord in the Gospels. He was ridiculed by the
      soldiers, the leaders of the people and even those commoners who passed
      by. He was deserted by all His followers except the Most Holy Virgin
      Mary, His mother and the Apostle John. He suffered the greatest public
      dishonor possible that the world could give and yet He bore this in
      humility out of love for us. For the Apostle Paul, to suffer dishonor
      from the world became the chance to enter into the sufferings of the
      Lord and to bear on his shoulders the burdens of others, just as our
      Lord bore our burdens Himself. The honors and esteem of the world is of
      no value to us in the Kingdom of God. We look not to men or to society
      for recognition or honor, but rather the only honor which is of value to
      us as Christians is the honor and recognition of Christ. Indeed the Lord
      Himself tells us to pray, to do good deeds in secret; and our Father who
      sees into the secret places of the heart will reward us. Again the theme
      of humility rises up for when we receive honor and recognition openly in
      the world, our pride is stimulated and we become convinced of our own
      worthiness. This self-worth and pride impair our ability to work out our
      salvation by destroying our humility and dependence upon the power of
      God. For this reason many of the saints fled the society of men, hiding
      in seclusion in the desert and other lonely places of the earth. Others
      took upon themselves the mantle of purposeful foolishness, inviting the
      world not to praise them but to revile and disdain them – counting their
      sufferings as great riches in the Kingdom of Heaven.

      The Church in Corinth was overly concerned with their social standing,
      appearing to be wise and strong, self-reliant and worthy members of
      society. For this reason the Apostle reminded them over and over again
      of the power of the Cross and the need for humility. In this part of his
      letter, after describing his own poverty, foolishness, weakness and
      dishonor, he reminds them that he is their spiritual father and says to
      them, “Therefore, I urge you, imitate me.” Later on in this epistle he
      repeats that same instruction saying “Imitate me, just as I also imitate
      Christ.”(11:1) In saying this he points out how it is that we all follow
      Christ. We follow others, the saints, the apostles, our spiritual
      mothers and fathers and imitate them in that they have also imitated
      Christ. By imitating them, we imitate Christ. And so we ourselves leave
      the same example for those who come after us, especially our own
      children. Our children will imitate us (what parent hasn’t found that
      out to his own embarrassment at times) and in order for them to imitate
      Christ, they must see that we imitate Christ. The Holy Apostles, who
      themselves see Christ, imitate Him and they are imitated by their
      followers who see Christ through them and now we too seeing Christ in
      them imitate them so that others who come after us may see Christ in us.

      Brother and sisters, let us then imitate the saints even as they also
      imitate Christ so that we might see Him even as they do and thus enter
      into our salvation participating in the life of Christ.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org