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Homily for 6/24/07 - P4 - Humiilty

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matthew 8:5-13 When it rains, water falls to earth irrespective of the kind of ground upon which it falls. The rain falls on the hills as well as the valleys,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 24, 2007
      Matthew 8:5-13

      When it rains, water falls to earth irrespective of the kind of ground
      upon which it falls. The rain falls on the hills as well as the valleys,
      it falls on the rock as well as the sand, it falls on the city as well
      as the country. But the water does not stay where it falls, but as soon
      as it hits the ground it begins a journey. That journey invariably takes
      it from the highest mountain to the lowest valley. “Water does not stay
      for long on the high steep slopes of the mountain, but rather runs off,
      gathering into streams and rivers until it finds a low place, a place
      where it can collect and remain still. Water does not collect on the
      high mountain bluffs, but in low, level, deep places. Neither does God’s
      blessing abide in the proud, who puff themselves up in opposition to
      God, but in the humble and meek, , who have deepened their hearts by
      humility and meekness, submissiveness before God’s majesty and obedience
      to His will.” (St Nikolai of Ochrid) God pours out His grace upon all
      mankind, but that grace only collects and remains in the soul that is
      truly humble. “God is here on earth only with those whose hearts are
      contrite and whose spirits are humble” (St Nikolai).

      We can see therefore how vitally important humility is to the Christian.
      St Seraphim tells us that the goal of the Christian life is to “acquire
      the Holy Spirit” or in other words to fill our souls with the grace of
      the Holy Spirit. That grace then affects us and transforms us into God’s
      image and likeness and it unites us with Him. We cannot become like God
      on our own – only God can accomplish this through His grace (as the
      Apostle says, “we are saved by grace, not by works”) The way to collect
      this grace and to make sure that it remains within our soul is to humble
      ourselves.

      What then is humility? It is a word we use often and we think we kind of
      have a general sense of it, but we do not think about what it is.
      Today’s Gospel reading gives us an example of humility in the person of
      the centurion who came to Jesus begging for the life of his servant. The
      centurion was a man of power – he was a military officer in command of a
      company of 100 men. He could make anything happen within his sphere of
      control. Anyone who lived or moved in the area under his command could
      be brought instantly into his presence and would be compelled to do as
      he wished by the force of his military might. This man would have
      generally begun as a soldier himself, advancing through the ranks by his
      skill and prowess in battle until finally he had acquired both the
      notice of his betters and the admiration and loyalty of his men and he
      was then raised to command his troop. He was about as high as a commoner
      could rise without also being raised into the ranks of the nobility.
      Here was a man who had much to be proud of for he had accomplished much.
      And yet this centurion lowered himself to care for his soldiers. When
      his servant became deathly ill, he did not just send for another
      replacement and pack the ill man off to some obscure place in the
      company to die. This centurion took upon himself the cure of his
      servant, calling in physicians and healers, all that he could find. And
      when these failed him, he reached out to Jesus, the teacher and
      miracle-worker and begged Him to come and heal the sick servant. And
      again we see how this centurion humbled himself, for he did not send
      someone to fetch Jesus to him, but rather he himself went to find Jesus
      and personally beg His help. And even further, when Jesus agreed to come
      and heal the servant the centurion replied, “I am not worthy that Thou
      shouldst come under my roof; but speak the word only and my servant
      shall be healed.” Not only did the centurion humble himself to come in
      person to Jesus for help, but he also recognized the greatness of the
      Lord and his own unworthiness, not even demanding that Jesus come to his
      house, but having faith on the great spiritual authority that rested in
      Him to heal from afar.

      This is our example of humility, this centurion who did not rely upon
      his own power and authority, who did not insist on his rights, who
      exhibited compassion for others, even when it was inconvenient and
      unnecessary to do so. He had much to be proud of, but he put all that
      aside when he sought out Christ. He did indeed “lower himself” thereby
      providing within his soul a place for the grace of God to gather and rest.

      How unlike the Jews this centurion was. Whereas he sought out Christ and
      went to him asking for His help (when he could have simply sent a group
      of soldiers to bring Jesus to him and demand that He heal the servant),
      the Jews when they came to Christ, came to test and try to lure him into
      some kind of trap so that he could be proven false. When a Pharisee
      invited Jesus into his home, he thought to honor Jesus, but when it
      seemed as though Jesus would come into the home of the centurion, the
      officer himself saw that his home (although the seat of local power and
      authority) was not fit to be honored by the presence of Christ. Whereas
      the Jews sought the power to arrest Jesus, the centurion, who already
      had that power, did not even consider to raise it to bring Jesus to
      himself in his need – but went himself and begged not for Jesus to come,
      but only to heal. He saw in Jesus the true Power and Authority of his
      divinity, which the Jews were unable to recognize. The centurion saw
      this because he was humble whereas the Jews were blinded by their own
      pride. Their pride came from the fact that they were God’s chosen people
      and they knew it. From the time of Abraham, the Hebrews were set apart
      by God as the ones chosen to reveal Him to the world through the coming
      of the Messiah. Being chosen by God brought about in the hearts of the
      great forefathers a profound humility for they saw that they were not
      among the great and powerful of the world and that all that they did
      receive had been given them by God. But over time this sense of awe and
      unworthiness waned and the people became proud of their status as “the
      chosen ones” and even though there were many in the world who were more
      powerful (such as Rome, locally evident in this centurion and others),
      they considered themselves to be more worthy and better than all for God
      had “chosen” them. This pride so blinded the Jews that when the Messiah
      did come, they were unable to recognize him, but saw only a man, a
      trouble maker, who threatened their accommodation with the powers of the
      world. Only the humble were able to see Him as King and God but the
      proud had no eyes to see nor ears to hear.

      Now we too find ourselves in a similar place as the Hebrews of old.
      Though we were nothing, God has “chosen” us and has given to us the
      abundance of His grace. He has revealed Himself to us and given Himself
      to us that we might be united with Him. We have the true faith, we have
      the light of Christ which illumines all men. The whole world lies in
      darkness and we, the Orthodox Church, bear within ourselves the Light of
      the world. Some are born into the Church and have this Light and grace
      as their heritage while others of us come into the Church at a later age
      and have this Light and grace by our own choice. Either way we are
      tempted to become proud, to forget that we in ourselves are nothing, we
      in ourselves are unworthy of this grace, but that all we have and all we
      are is from Jesus Christ. We must not let this happen, but rather, like
      the centurion we need to nurture within our soul the virtue of humility.

      Just a few short weeks ago we celebrated the feast of All Russian Saints
      and it is tempting to see the vast choir of the Russian holy ones and
      say to ourselves, God has chosen the Russian people because of their
      great capacity for holiness. See how great we have become in the Kingdom
      of God. But this would be in error, for God does not abide in the proud
      and the strong, but chooses the humble and the weak as His servants. The
      Russian land became the home of many saints because those very saints
      lowered themselves, and set aside their own pride and instead put all
      their hope on Christ alone. Those of us who were not born into an
      Orthodox society, into an Orthodox home and not raised in the Faith
      might be tempted to look at ourselves and congratulate ourselves that we
      had the wisdom to choose the true Faith, that we were smart enough to
      make this choice and strong enough to bear the consequences of that
      choice. We might also be tempted to pride because of what we have done.
      But this too is an error and must be set aside. While we were yet
      sinners God loved us and we love Him because He first loved us. We are
      here only because we are responding to the love of God. We bring nothing
      to Him, but rather He gives us all that we have. Whatever we think we
      have, we set aside and receive everything from Him. We are not smart or
      strong enough to choose God, rather He, in His great mercy and
      compassion has chosen us, and we only respond to His love.

      This is humility, to realize that in ourselves we are unworthy, we are
      without any goodness or worthiness. All that we have, all that we might
      have, any good thing within us comes from God. We do not deign to honor
      Him with our presence, but instead He honors us even though we are
      nothing. We bring nothing to Him, but He gives to us everything. When we
      exhibit any great skill or ability, we recognize that this is not our
      own achievement, but rather that God has given to us this ability, this
      skill, this strength and therefore we can claim nothing but all honor,
      all praise, all recognition goes to Him alone. This is humility, that we
      are nothing and God is everything. All that we are, all that we have is
      from Him. All of our self worth, all of our self esteem comes not from
      us, but from the fact that He loves us and showers his gifts upon us.
      The more we develop and nurture this sense of our deep and abiding
      dependence upon God for all things, even the most basic foundations of
      our self, the more we lower ourselves and humble ourselves, the more we
      become a pool, a lake, even an ocean of grace. And that grace transforms
      us into the likeness of God and unites us with Him.

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