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Homily for 4/6/08 - L4 - this faithless generation

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  • Fr David Moser
    Mark 9:17-31 This father out of love and concern for his son, came to Jesus hoping for a miracle. His son, from an early age, had been possessed by a demon
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 6, 2008
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      Mark 9:17-31

      This father out of love and concern for his son, came to Jesus hoping
      for a miracle. His son, from an early age, had been possessed by a demon
      which caused the child to go into fits and throw himself into the fire
      and into water. No one had been able to heal the child, not even our
      Lord’s disciples and so finally Jesus Christ Himself became the last
      hope for this father. Our Lord, seeing the desperate, nearly hopeless
      people that were gathered spoke out against “this faithless generation”.
      He grieved, not because they were ill or tormented by demons or
      suffering, but rather because they did not recognize and take the cure
      that was offered to them for their ills. This cure, this remedy which
      surpasses all others, is quite simply faith – the trust and hope in
      God’s mercy and utter dependence upon His help. The great forefathers,
      Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had such faith and they put themselves and
      their entire households under the provision and mercy of God. Moses had
      taken the entire nation out of Egypt and through the wilderness to the
      promised land entirely by such faith. The great kings David and Solomon
      ruled the whole land according to their faith in God. These great men,
      from whom the nation of Israel had descended, had this close and
      personal faith, but these, their children by many generations had lost
      that intimate knowledge of God and so had lost the faith of their
      forefathers. No longer did they have that awareness of God as a personal
      and powerful help in all things – a constant presence like a brilliant
      cloud of light or pillar of fire – now they only had dim memories of
      such a God and thus had lost such an immediate and personal faith. They
      were left with only formality and ritual, only holding onto such faith
      as they had by the tenuous grip of ritual and tradition.

      How much is this like us? Where is the faith of the Apostles in us?
      Where is the faith of the martyrs for whom God was so real that the
      sufferings of this world faded in comparison to the joy of His presence?
      Where is the faith of the desert Fathers who were ministered to by
      angels, could move mountains, and who were so infused with the life of
      Christ that they required very little of this world’s food to sustain
      them? Where is the faith of the Holy Fathers who experienced God so
      deeply that they experienced and wrote of the great and profound
      mysteries of the faith – and saw even things that could not be told or
      written for the lack of language? Where is the simple faith of those
      saints who saw the Divine Light flowing from the altar and from the
      chalice when the Holy Mysteries were present, or those whose prayer
      raised not only the soul but even body towards heaven? Where is that
      faith in us? Too often we are satisfied not with the faith of the
      saints, but the minimal “faith” like that of those in the Gospel. We
      have forgotten that such a personal and intimate encounter with our Lord
      Jesus Christ is not extraordinary, but rather open to all. We have
      become blinded by our complacency and sin and cannot see the Light of
      Christ around us. In order to “see” the light emanating from the altar,
      we are satisfied with turning up the lights – but forget that this is
      only a weak and poor image of the divine light that streams from the
      Holy Place only to go unseen by our blind and weak eyes. We are that
      “faithless generation” bemoaned by our Lord.

      The possessed youth brought to Him in the Gospel was not separate from
      the faithless generation, but was an integral part of it – in fact he
      was representative of the whole of the people. He was bound and
      dominated by demons which caused him great torment and which sought to
      destroy him. His demons were obvious for they caused him to fall into
      fits and to fall into fire and water. But what about our demons, those
      passions that bind us and control us and seek our destruction. Our
      passions are less obviously harmful and in some cases are even approved
      and promoted by the world in which we live. The demons that have their
      hold upon us, that seek to destroy us, that blind our souls to the
      presence of God are those sins which we have accepted as a part of our
      being and which have become a part of our daily lives. These demons are
      the passions which chain us and weigh us down in our spiritual lives.
      What are these demons? They are pride, vainglory, love of pleasure,
      acquisitiveness, self indulgence, self reliance, lust, gluttony, greed,
      envy, the remembrance of wrongs, love of self, sloth. All of these
      passions and more are the demons which possess us and drag us down and
      seek to destroy us. These are the demons that hold us enslaved and which
      prevent us from seeing the imminent and powerful presence of Christ with
      us.

      Look at your life, look at yourself. What are the passions by which the
      demons hold onto you? There are the passions of pride and self
      centeredness. These passions bend everything around to self. It is all
      about me, my needs, my desires, my rights, my justification, my
      prestige, my way and my ideas. This is a basic passion that afflicts us
      all and yet, our Lord teaches us that we must deny ourselves, that we
      must take up the cross and die to ourselves and forsake our own wisdom
      and reliance and ideas and follow Him instead. Where and how does this
      demon touch you and hold you down?

      Another type of passion is the love the world – greed, gluttony,
      acquisitiveness, selfishness, love of pleasure and the distraction of
      many “experiences” These passions tie us to the things of this world,
      not as instruments of God’s love and tools by which we acquire the
      Kingdom of heaven, but as ends in and of themselves. We seek the bodily
      pleasures, thrills and comforts that such worldly things can give us.
      This downward tie blinds us to the joy and blessings of the Kingdom of
      God and so holds us firmly away from the presence of God. Each of us is
      afflicted by such love of the world; again look into your own soul and
      your own life and see where and how this demon touches you and holds you
      down.

      One of the great passions is that of sloth – laziness, over contentment,
      lack of motivation or action, “inertia”. We give in to these
      temptations, thinking that it is too much effort to seek the blessings
      of God. Like Esau of old, we grasp at the porridge which is easily
      accessible and neglect even our own birthright as sons of God.

      These are only two examples of such demonic passions that bind us and
      seek to destroy us. There are plenty of others and I’m sure you can name
      those that are in your own life much more easily than I could list them.
      The question is not whether these things are present in us (for they
      are) but how we can get rid of them. These demons have no power over us,
      except the power that we give them. They do not enslave us by
      overpowering us, but rather we willingly and voluntarily submit
      ourselves to such things. How then do we break away from this and come
      to a true faith in Christ? How do we leave the chains of these passions
      and demons behind and experience the Divine Life as did the apostles,
      martyrs, fathers and other saints?

      Our Lord himself answers this question for us. When the disciples came
      and asked why they could not expel this demon, Jesus said to them, “this
      kind does not come out but by prayer and fasting.” This is the remedy
      for us as well. By prayer, that is by focusing all of our life on living
      in communion with God and by fasting, that is by the ascetic labor of
      self denial. These two things, prayer and fasting, are essential to our
      healing. By these two things, we cast off the chains of the demons and
      the passions which keep us from Christ. By these two things we ascend
      into the presence of God and our blindness is cured. By these two things
      we begin to experience the life of Christ directly. By these two things,
      we are no longer faithless but believing. Our faith is no longer simply
      a ritual that we follow by rote, but it becomes a living experience and
      encounter with the all powerful God, the Creator of all things Who is
      our compassionate and merciful Lord and Father.

      Thus we have the injunction that we be no longer faithless but believing
      and the means by which we accomplish this transformation – to throw off
      the chains of unbelief by prayer and fasting. Why is it that we have
      Lent, why is it that we fast, why is it that we exert all of this extra
      time and energy in prayer during this time? The answer is simple – that
      we might no longer be faithless, but believing, that we might be
      delivered of our blindness and see God with us, that we might experience
      the life of Christ first hand and be united to that life. Throw off the
      chains of the passions by prayer and fasting – be not faithless but
      believing – experience God face to face. This is our calling, this is
      our destiny, this is the purpose for which we were created.

      --
      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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