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homily for 7/13/14 - P5 - a Gospel tragedy

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  • David
    Matthew 8:28-9:1 The reading that we heard today is one of the most tragic events in the Gospels. When we think of tragic events in the Gospels, our minds are
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 13, 2014
      Matthew 8:28-9:1


      The reading that we heard today is one of the most tragic events in the
      Gospels. When we think of tragic events in the Gospels, our minds are
      drawn first to the events of the betrayal and crucifixion of our Lord.
      But these things are not truly tragic – rather they are full of hope and
      promise. It is true that in those events we see our Lord, in Whom we had
      placed all of our hope, overwhelmed by a cruel and unjust death. But
      beneath His suffering and His death, there is the subtext of hope – the
      freeing of man from the chains of sin and the devil and then the
      conquest of death itself culminating in the glorious Resurrection. Yes,
      the betrayal and death of our Lord is, on the surface, full of tragedy
      and hopelessness, but in its fullness, it is the account of a struggle
      taken to its full extreme and a great victory which leads us into the
      Kingdom of Heaven.


      This Gospel recounting the healing of the demoniacs, however, starts out
      with the victory of our Lord over the power of the demons, but suddenly
      takes a turn toward the tragic when we see the reaction of the people in
      the region where this miracle took place. Rather than rejoice that these
      two sufferers were delivered from the torment with which they had been
      afflicted; rather than receive Jesus Christ with open arms as the victor
      over sin and suffering; these men came to Christ and asked Him to leave
      – to depart from their town and not to return. Their salvation had come
      to them and they turned their backs on Him and sent Him away.


      To understand this, let us look at little closer at what happened. At
      first there were two men, possessed by demons so terrible that these men
      had been driven out of the town and lived among the dead bodies. They
      were not themselves dead in body, but because their souls had been
      overcome by such a great evil it was as if they were dead in soul. Our
      Lord encountered these two men and the powerful demons who had
      terrorized the whole populace of the town and who had made these men
      into a sort of “living dead” were themselves terrorized by the mere
      presence of Jesus Christ. They begged Him not to harm them. When it
      became apparent to them that they could no longer possess these two men
      in the presence of Christ, they begged to be sent into a nearby herd of
      swine. With the departure of the demons, the two men became immediately
      whole and sane but the pigs being overcome by the influence of the
      demons ran off the edge of the cliff and destroyed themselves. Then the
      whole populace of the town came out to meet Jesus.


      In another part of the Gospel, Jesus met a woman by a well in Samaria
      and when she had been freed of the darkness that filled her soul, she
      ran and told those in the town what had happened. They too came out to
      meet Jesus, and they welcomed Him into their midst and shared in the
      blessings that the woman had received. This same reception of joy and
      gratitude is what one might reasonably expect when Jesus came and freed
      the demon possessed men who terrorized the region of the town in today’s
      Gospel. But it was not the case. This time the whole town came out to
      Jesus, not to share in the joy of those delivered from the power of
      demons and welcome Jesus into their midst that they too might share in
      the blessing the two men had received; rather the whole town came out
      with but one purpose – to ask Jesus to leave.


      They had been raising swine – something prohibited by Jewish law – and
      from this prohibited activity they gained great wealth. They were less
      concerned with the fact that two men had been freed of torment and that
      the whole region had been delivered from their terrorizing than they
      were about the fact that their unlawful swine herd had perished. They
      placed more value on their worldly wealth and pleasure than on the lives
      of these two men and the peace and safety of the populace of the whole
      region. These men were themselves trapped and enslaved – they were
      enslaved by their own passions of greed and love of money.


      Here is the tragedy, that those who were enslaved by their own sin – by
      their own willful choice to live in that sin – when they were visited by
      the God/man Jesus Christ didn’t even have the same sense as the demons
      who sought to flee. Instead they rejected Christ, they turned Him away
      that they might instead continue to enjoy their material riches and
      pleasure. The people of this town said to Jesus, “Go away and don’t
      bother us. We don’t need your miracles or to be freed by you. Go away
      and leave us alone.” This indeed is a great tragedy.


      There is yet another tragedy revealed to us by this Gospel and that is
      the tragedy of our own lives. Don’t we do the same thing as these poor
      unfortunates. We engage in some kind of sin, some kind of passion which
      gets ahold of our hearts. But we can’t really enjoy it because Jesus
      Christ in our lives is an obstacle. We see our sin, we know it is
      leading us away from Christ, we know it is harmful to our souls – but it
      is so enjoyable, so enticing that we say in the depths of our hearts to
      Jesus exactly the same thing, “Don’t bother me now. I just want to enjoy
      this one little thing and then later I’ll repent. I don’t want You to
      deliver me from the destructive power of this sin just yet because I
      just want to enjoy it for a few moments. Could you just turn your back
      and go away and leave me alone for a little while?” This is a great
      tragedy for here is our Deliverance from our slave-master, here is the
      One Who will deliver us from every sin, and what do we do but send Him
      away. May we never make this choice! May this not come to pass in our
      lives. May we silence this tragic voice of enslavement to sin that tries
      to speak in our hearts and say instead to our Lord the same as those in
      the Samaritan village, “Come to us, stay with us, deliver us and never
      leave 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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