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Homily for 9/11/11 - P13 - Repent

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  • Fr David Moser
    Mark 6:14-30 John the Baptist was the last and greatest of the prophets. His message was the same as that of all the other prophets for he announced the coming
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 11, 2011
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      Mark 6:14-30

      John the Baptist was the last and greatest of the prophets. His message
      was the same as that of all the other prophets for he announced the
      coming of the Messiah and called out to the people to repent. It was
      this call to repentance that was the cause of his greatest difficulty.
      Everyone looked forward to the coming of the Messiah with anticipation
      for His coming signaled the deliverance from their afflictions, however,
      repentance was something very different.

      Repentance is a dangerous idea that demands of us that we do something
      both difficult and unpleasant. In order to repent, we have to admit to
      ourselves and to others that there is something in our lives from which
      we must repent – we have to admit that we have sinned. This is something
      that challenges the self-centeredness of our fallen nature and thus it
      is something that our self resists with great energy. To admit that I
      have sinned means to admit that I am flawed, that I have erred and made
      mistakes; I am not perfect and fall short of my own delusions of being
      the equal of God. Against this admission, the self pride fights with
      great vigor because it strikes at the very base and foundation of my
      idea of who I am. All kinds of “ego defense mechanisms” born out of our
      pride come into play here to defend the self from this dangerous thing
      called repentance. First we tend to simply deny that we have sinned at
      all, or that if it appears that we might have sinned, it is minimized to
      make us feel like it is “nothing” and “not at all important”. This kind
      of denial sometimes works, but since it is nothing more than a weak
      attempt at self deception, it is not always effective. If we are honest
      with ourselves, we see through our own lies and realize that there is
      something to the idea that “I have sinned.” When the self delusion
      begins to break down, then the self begins to seek to distract us from
      the truth, presenting to us this or that distraction with which to
      engage ourselves. But if we remain firm in our intention to attend to
      our own errors, then the next “ego defense mechanism” kicks in.

      This next defense that we face is that of anger born our of our pride.
      If we can no longer ignore the awareness that we have sinned, then the
      self stirs up anger against the source of the threat to its own delusion
      of perfection. The person that confronts us with our need to repent must
      then, from the perspective of the self, be destroyed or at least driven
      away and silenced. Thus thoughts and feelings of anger against this
      “other” person who calls us to repent begin to rise up in the heart. By
      becoming angry we often drive away or silence those who attempt to call
      to our attention something in our lives that needs changing. This is so
      pervasive that it has been encoded into the ethics of our modern and
      enlightened society; it is considered rude or ill mannered to speak of
      such things to others, and we are encouraged to “mind your own
      business”. The anger which is generated by such confrontation drives
      away the source of that confrontation, or even prevents it from
      approaching in the first place.

      But such passive anger is not always effective and very often, that
      anger is expressed in many ways. Sometimes we simply denounce the person
      speaking to us by recounting their sins and attempting to discredit what
      they are saying. Sometimes we complain and gossip about that person to
      others attempting to gather a group of sympathizers who will shore up
      our anger by adding their own criticisms to ours. Sometimes we lash out
      directly at the person with words of anger, shouting, accusing, and
      threatening them. With our fury we cut off any further intrusion into
      our self deception. In some cases, our anger might become so great that
      we go beyond words and physically attack the person in an attempt to
      stop the perceived “attack” on our pride.

      This kind of anger and fury describe the reaction of Herod and his wife
      against the prophet John the Baptist. He had denounced Herod for taking
      as wife, the wife of his own brother. Herod reacted by imprisoning John,
      attempting to shut him up by removing him from sight and sound.
      Herodias, however, could not even bear this silent unseen presence and
      her anger went even further. She demanded, through her daughter, that
      Herod not only imprison John, but that he silence John by killing him.
      Due to his own weakness, Herod was trapped into acceding to her demands
      and commanded that St John be beheaded and that the head be brought to
      the daughter of Herodias on a platter as a reward for her dancing. Even
      Herodias, however, having achieved the silence of her accuser, was still
      faced with the evidence of her sin – the head of the Baptist – and so
      she took it out of the palace and outside the walls of the town to the
      top of the Mount of Olives and there she buried it in the ground so that
      it might never again disturb her. By God’s grace, however, this deed
      done in secret was in the proper time brought to light and the head of
      the Forerunner was found and was venerated with great honor by the
      Church. The place where it was buried was initially marked with a Church
      and the remains of that Church is now found on the grounds of the
      Russian Convent of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives where the hole
      from which the head was removed can be venerated by the faithful.

      On this day, we also remember the tragedy of the terrorist attack on the
      twin towers in Manhattan and other symbolic places in the nation’s
      capitol. These attacks were perpetrated by persons who, for many
      reasons, hate Americans and the idea of the American nation. They sought
      and continue to seek to inflict suffering and damage on the citizens of
      this nation. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 are symbolic of this ongoing
      terrorist assault and has become a symbol for our nation. We hear many
      things on this day – one of the most poignant and enduring perhaps is
      the simple phrase, “Never forget”.

      This phrase begs the question however, “What is it that we must never
      forget?” Certainly the tragedy, the sorrow, the fear, the pain of that
      day remain with us – but what is it that we must draw from these things.
      These attacks act as our “John the Baptist” and they point out to us
      that as a people, we have our own faults and failings which should then
      draw us to repentance. But like every situation that demands of us that
      we face our own shortcomings, we are tempted by our pride to respond
      with denial of our own weakness and shortcoming and to strike out with
      anger and hostility towards those who point out to us that we have
      sinned. But we must resist that temptation. What must we “never forget”?
      We must never forget that we are sinners and that we are called to
      repentance.

      Having recognized and confessed our sins, then it is necessary to
      complete our repentance by turning away from our sin – rejecting them
      and pushing them out of our lives. The anger that we would turn against
      the light which reveals our sin is misplaced for it is more properly and
      truly given to us that we might direct it against the sin itself. This
      goes against our pride and thus requires humility – humility to admit
      first that I have sinned and humility to set aside my own will and to
      follow instead the will of God that leads to eternal life. This is true
      repentance, to confess our sins and then to turn away from them and
      reject the way of sin that leads us away from God.

      The Forerunner is a fitting image on this day of national tragedy. As
      the last and greatest of the prophets even today he continues to call us
      to repentance – to admit that we have sinned and to turn away from our
      sins – and to point us towards the God/man Jesus Christ, the One Who
      opens the doors of eternal life and Who, if we will follow Him, leads us
      into His Kingdom.

      --
      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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