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Homily for 5/24/09 - Pascha - response to irritation

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  • Fr David Moser
    Acts 16:16-34 The Holy Apostle Paul and his companion Silas were teaching in the city of Philippi and a certain young slave girl who was possessed of a demon
    Message 1 of 1 , May 25, 2009
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      Acts 16:16-34
      The Holy Apostle Paul and his companion Silas were teaching in the city
      of Philippi and a certain young slave girl who was possessed of a demon
      began to follow them around crying out that they were the servants of
      God. Although this was true, it was not good for the people to begin
      listening to the words of one who was demon possessed for even the truth
      in the mouth of a demon can be twisted to deceive and lead one away from
      God rather than nearer to Him. This continued for many days which must
      have been a source of irritation for the apostles. Finally Paul spoke to
      the demon which possessed the slave girl and commanded him to depart
      from her, releasing the girl from her possession.

      Like the Apostle Paul, we too are often subject to constant irritations
      in our lives – some person who has a trait that just grates at us day
      after day. For those of us who are married, the source of such
      irritation can often be our spouse – or perhaps for those of us who are
      parents, it could be a child – or perhaps a friend or co-worker or even
      someone on the radio or television who keeps “popping up” and saying or
      doing something that is sure to irritate. What do we do when faced with
      such irritation? Very often our response is to become angry and lash out
      verbally or emotionally or even physically at that person to “swat” them
      away in effect. But the Apostle shows us a different response for
      instead of becoming angry and striking out at his irritant, he turned
      and acted in love, healing the slave girl and giving her release from
      her bondage to the demon. This instructs us as to how we should respond
      to those who irritate us or inconvenience us. Instead of allowing such
      things to drive us to anger, these things should incite us to love and
      compassion.

      The owners of the slave girl, rather than attempt to find a cure for her
      bondage, had used the girl to bring them profit. When she was delivered
      by the Apostle Paul, they did not rejoice at the good fortune of the
      child, but rather they become angry that they had lost a source of
      revenue. They had no compassion for the suffering of the slave girl, as
      did the Apostle Paul, but only greed. They reacted to her healing not
      with joy but with anger and rage – looking for someone to blame. That
      someone was the one who had healed her, the Apostle Paul. Instead of
      gratitude for his act of love and compassion towards the slave girl, the
      Apostle received judgment and imprisonment.

      Here again we can observe the Apostles facing a situation that for many
      of us would bring about anger, or despair. Paul and Silas were jailed
      unjustly because they acted with compassion and mercy. Their response,
      however, was to pray and sing hymns. Even in the inner parts of the
      jail, chained in shackles, they did not strike out or fall into despair
      but instead began to praise God. The ability to do this comes from a
      complete and utter trust in God’s love and providence for us. We are
      taught that God loves us and cares for us – there is nothing that
      befalls us that can overcome us and take us away from God. All that
      befalls us is within His will. There are times when we can see this
      clearly – the benefit of some events in our lives are clear to us. On
      the other hand there are some things about which we do not understand
      how they can be good or even things that seem to us to be evil. However,
      we must never lose our faith that God knows even better than we do what
      is necessary for our lives, what will bring out the qualities and
      virtues in us that will enable us to grow and mature in the life of
      Christ that is in us.

      Paul and Silas, though they were in prison unjustly, did not lose faith
      in God, but rather put themselves entirely in His hands trusting that
      even this turn of events would be for their salvation. In this case we
      see that they were rescued miraculously from their situation and because
      of their faith and endurance, they were in a place where they ready to
      fulfill the work of God in the life of the jailer and his family. Had
      Paul and Silas complained or fallen into despair; had they run out of
      the prison in the earthquake, they would have missed the task that God
      had prepared for them to save the life and soul of the jailer and to
      baptize him and all his household.

      We must develop within our own lives that same trust and confidence in
      God’s providence for our lives. As I have said before, one of the most
      effective means of doing this is by giving thanks each day for all that
      God has given us. In this manner we train ourselves to see the hand of
      God constantly at work in our lives. In addition to thanksgiving is our
      prayer. God wishes to give us all good things and to provide the tools
      that we need to work out our salvation. It is His great joy then to give
      us those things that we ask for. Do you wish to love God more? then ask
      God to give you love for Himself. Do you wish to trust God more? ask God
      to strengthen your trust and faith in Him. Frequently in the lives and
      sayings of the saints we find this same advice for they tell us to
      simply ask God to give us what we need and they reassure us that He will
      deny us nothing that is necessary for our salvation. Even when we do not
      know what we need, we can still ask God for help. St Philaret,
      Metropolitan of Moscow, teaches us to pray thus: “My Lord, I know not
      what I ought to ask of Thee. Thou and Thou alone knowest my needs. Thou
      lovest me more than I am able to love Thee. O Father, grant unto me, Thy
      servant, all which I cannot ask. For a cross I dare not ask, nor for
      consolation: I dare only to stand in Thy presence. My heart is open to
      Thee. Thou seest my needs of which I myself am unaware.” St Philaret in
      this prayer puts himself so fully in the hands of God that he asks only
      for God to give what God knows he needs. He does not know what those
      needs might be, but he has full faith and confidence that God does know
      and puts himself completely at the mercy of God.

      While St Philaret’s prayer will strike a chord with all who have
      experienced God’s love, for many of us, it is still somewhat beyond our
      reach. We live in the world and our lives are filled with the events of
      family, friends and the normal course of life. We need a prayer that
      touches us on a lower level, a more “earthy” level, but which all the
      same lifts us up to heaven. The Optina Elders taught their spiritual
      children a prayer that meets just that need:

      “O Lord, grant me with tranquility of soul to meet all that the coming
      day may bring. Grant me to surrender myself completely to Thy holy will.
      At every hour of this day guide and sustain me in all things. Whatsoever
      tidings I may receive in the course of the day, teach me to receive them
      with peace of soul and the firm conviction that all is in Thy holy will.
      “Govern Thou my thoughts and feeling in all my words and deeds. In all
      unforeseen circumstances let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee.
      “Teach me to deal uprightly and prudently with every member of my
      family, disturbing and grieving none.
      “O Lord, grant me strength to bear the weariness of the coming day and
      all the events of the course of the day. Govern Thou my will and teach
      me to pray, to believe, to hope, to be patient, to forgive, and to love.”

      Here is a prayer for all of us – asking God to help us through every
      event of the day, to remember that everything comes from Him, to do all
      things in accordance with His will. This is a prayer that we should all
      add to our prayer rules, every morning saying this prayer with all our
      soul and letting the words of this prayer rest in our minds and hearts
      throughout the day so that with every event of the day, they echo again
      in our soul, refreshing our hope and trust in God.

      The Holy Apostle Paul and his companion demonstrated for us how it is we
      respond to the irritants of the world around us – with love and
      compassion, seeing in each person who comes across our path the image of
      God Himself. We give to each as God gives to us to meet their needs. To
      one they gave healing and freedom from the torment of the demons – to
      another they showed the path of salvation and opened the gates of the
      Kingdom of Heaven. In all things, however, the Apostle surrendered
      himself to the will of God, trusting God in all things and even in the
      midst of difficulties and trials, he gave praise and thanks to God.

      We can have this same trust and confidence in God. By taking the
      examples of the saints and learning to pray as they did, we willingly
      put ourselves in the hands of God. As we then surrender ourselves to the
      will of God, we will find ourselves continually in the place where He
      wants us and perfectly situated and equipped to do His work and to live
      the life that He gives to us.

      --
      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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