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Homily for 5/2/04 - Third sunday after Pascha

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  • David Moser
    Acts 9:32-42 John 5:1-15 The Myrrhbearing women came to the tomb of Christ out of compassion. Expecting to find a dead body, their compassion was tinged with
    Message 1 of 1 , May 2, 2004
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      Acts 9:32-42 John 5:1-15

      The Myrrhbearing women came to the tomb of Christ out of compassion.
      Expecting to find a dead body, their compassion was tinged with sorrow. But
      upon arriving at the tomb, the sorrow was turned to joy and their weeping
      was turned to dancing for they received the Good News that Christ is Risen!
      Their joy filled compassion then turned towards their fellow mourners and
      they ran to tell the apostles that Christ is Risen so that their sorrow
      might also be turned to joy. The compassion of the myrrhbearing women was
      the driving force for them to share the Gospel with others. The apostles,
      when they heard this news at first did not believe what the women had told
      them, but later upon seeing Christ for themselves and like Thomas, touching
      the print of the nails in His hands and the wound of the spear in His side
      they too believed and were filled with joy. Then as they looked about
      themselves they saw the world still sunk in the captivity and suffering of
      sin and compassion was stirred within their hearts to go and to spread the
      Gospel that this suffering and captivity might be banished and just as their
      own sorrow had been transformed into joy, so also the whole world might have
      this same opportunity.

      In the Gospel today we read one of the many times that our Lord showed
      compassion upon those who suffered, bringing healing both physical and
      spiritual to those who were sick of body and soul. Coming to Jerusalem, our
      Lord visited the pool of Bethsaida at one of the gates to the city. This
      pool was a place were the hopelessly sick and suffering of the land gathered
      for on occasion an angel would come and stir the water and then the one who
      entered the water first at this moment was healed of his malady. The water
      itself had no medicinal properties, there was no combination of minerals and
      salts that were beneficial to the body, rather it was the grace of God, for
      these healings did not take place continuously, but only when the angel
      came, bringing this grace and stirring the water. This angelic visit had no
      real schedule and therefore people who were ill and who had no other hope
      came and waited for the stirring of the water, waiting for their chance to
      be healed. But in the meantime, the 5 porches surrounding the pool were
      filled with the sick, the suffering, the dying. This was a storehouse of
      human suffering. One did not come here for a pleasant visit or on an idle
      whim. Only those who were ill and those who cared for them came to this
      place. But to this place came our Lord - He was not ill, nor was He engaged
      in caring for any particular person - out of compassion for those who were
      suffering, out of love for all mankind, He came. And coming to this place,
      He reached out His hand and by His own grace, the same that stirred the
      water, He healed one who had waited for 47 years but had not been able to
      come to the water. Since he could not come to God, God came to Him. This is
      a parable for us. We who are sick and suffering with sin desire to come to
      God but are prevented from the very crippling illness of the soul for which
      we seek help - and so God comes to us, bringing us His grace, His comfort
      and His healing. All this is born of compassion.

      The Apostles too were moved by compassion, just as they had seen their Lord.
      In this Paschal season, we read from the book of the Acts of the Apostles.
      In this book we see the compassion of the Apostles in action. Today we heard
      how Peter came to the city of Lydda and there healed a man who had been lame
      for 8 years and then how he, following the example of Christ, was moved by
      the suffering and mourning of the family and friends of a prominent and
      compassionate believer named Tabitha (or by interpretation, Dorcas) who had
      died, came to her bedside, sent everyone out of the room and called her back
      to life (just as he had seen Jesus do with the daughter of the Jarius).
      Again we find the Apostles, out of compassion, seeking out those who were in
      suffering or who sorrowed and by the grace of God allieviating that
      suffering. This same compassion is what drove the Apostles to the ends of
      the known world and beyond to preach the Gospel of the Incarnation, the
      life, the death and Resurrection of the God/Man Jesus Christ.

      This same compassion we must cultivate in our own soul. First is compassion
      for those who suffer in this world. Our Lord instructed us to feed the
      hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, comfort the
      sorrowful. Why do we do these things? Not only because it is "good" or
      "nice" or "polite" or even "humane" rather we do these things because this
      is how compassion develops in us. Do not avoid suffering and sorrow in
      others, but rather seek it out and weep with them bearing their burdens.
      When we are exposed to the suffering of others, it touches our heart and
      develops within us the seeds of compassion. But this compassion must not be
      merely human or worldly compassion. If this seed is watered by our own self
      love, then it bears no eternal fruit, but turns instead into pride,
      impatience, irritation, judgement of others, self-regard, depression,
      helplessness and despair. We must be careful to water this seed of
      compassion instead with the love of God for then it becomes a powerful means
      by which God Himself bestows His grace for the healing of the sick, for the
      transformation of sorrow into joy, for boundless hope and for eternal life.
      Therefore all that you do out of compassion must be wrapped in prayer and
      done for the glory of God. Give no thought to your own benefit, but rather
      being moved by suffering and sorrow of others, pour yourself out in prayer
      and in service to God. Take as your example the unmercenary healers who
      brought care to the sick and dying and accepted no payment, only the praise
      of God. They were full of compassion not only for the bodily sufferings of
      men, but for the suffering of the soul. Through their selfless actions and
      prayers God grants miraculous healing and relief from pain and sorrow.

      Compassion leads us also to those who suffer not only in body but also in
      soul. This sense of compassion, developed in us by the love of God, also
      allows us to see the spiritual suffering of those who are without Christ. We
      can see and sense the captivity of the world to sin, death and the devil. We
      long for their release, we are moved to pray for them, to help them, to
      bring them along with us into the Kingdom of God. It is this practice of
      intercessory prayer that is the primary means by which compassion for the
      spiritual suffering of others is developed in us. Monastics, even solitary
      anchorites who have not seen another person for years, constantly pray for
      the world. This type of prayer develops in them a compassion and sensitivity
      for the spiritual sufferings of others that is truly of divine origin. If we
      also wish to have this same compassion, we too must follow their example of
      prayer for the world. Begin with those you know, with your family, your
      friends your neighbors. Pray for those who ask for your prayer, and then
      pray for those who you see in obvious need. As you do this, compassion for
      the spiritual sufferings of others will grow within your heart. Pray for
      those who God brings to your mind and heart for this prayer and the
      compassion that grows from it are the basis of missionary work.

      This is the same compassion that drove the saints in this life to pray for
      others and that continues to enable them to hear our prayers and to reach
      out and help us on the path of salvation. It is this Godly compassion in the
      saints that brings them to pray for us when we call out to them; it is this
      Godly compassion that moves them to intervene for us in our trials and
      difficulties, providing help in getting through this life. The saints
      motivated by compassion reach out and touch us by the love of God and bring
      to us the same grace that our Lord brought to the pool of Bethesda. This is
      the grace of God which seeks out and saves the lost, which comes to the sick
      and brings them health, which frees the captive, which comforts the
      sorrowing. This is the grace of God which turns our mourning into joy. This
      grace is brought to us by God and His saints moved by compassion, for we are
      weak and unable to come Him. My brothers and sisters, in the same way let us
      be moved by compassion to bring this grace to the suffering world. Let us
      then also be moved by compassion to be missionaries - not in some strange
      land among some strange people, but to our neighbor, right here at home.

      Priest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Boise, ID
      homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      ask Fr David: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/frd_private/
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