A homily given by His Grace Bishop Partenij of Antania, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Bigorski on the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, after the reading of the Holy Gospel at Divine Liturgy on August 21st in the year of Our Lord 2022.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
The miracle of the healing of epileptic, which we heard about in today’s Holy Gospel, happened immediately after the great miracle of the Transfiguration of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, in front of His three disciples on Mount Tabor. After Christ had visibly revealed His Divine character at His Transfiguration, He went down to the foot of the mountain and witnessed a very tragic sight: a hapless father, desperately begging for his sick child to be healed. Up the mountain, on Tabor, the disciples Peter, James, and John had tasted just a part, as much as they could endure and receive, of the ineffable heavenly glory of the Son of God, while below, in ordinary, everyday life, they were presented with the extreme contrast of the consequences of man’s fall: diseases, unbelief, despair, agony, and death. The desperate father looked everywhere for a cure for his suffering child, he took him to various doctors, physicians, and healers, but it was all in vain. He finally took him to the Apostles, but as we see, they could not heal him either. Then the Lord sighed as if to reprimand them: “Oh faithless and perverse generation! How long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?” (Matthew 17:17).
The Merciful Lord was disappointed by the unbelief of the people and He first reprimanded the Holy Apostles, because they had seen so many miracles with their own eyes, yet they were so weak in faith. Christ’s Transfiguration took place immediately before His Passion. That means three years had already passed since the Apostles had left to follow Christ and had had the opportunity to see Him performing many great miracles. But even so, their faith was weak and they were unable to heal the boy.
However, the Lord did not intend this reprimand only for the Apostles, but also for the father, for the people standing around, and for all of us. He rebukes us all, all mankind, like a Physician, because we do not faithfully follow His prescription for blessedness, His life-giving commandments. You know, when a person does not follow a doctor’s instructions, then he is wasting both his own time and the doctor’s, so it would be logical and normal for the doctor to get angry and scold him. In this case, God exposes all of us, because we are not living as we should. We don’t have enough faith. And we don’t have it because instead of loving heroic efforts for the sake of God and our neighbors, we love comfort; instead of sacrificing ourselves for others, we wallow in our own selfishness. People hardly know about patience, asceticism, or the fighting spirit anymore. That’s why Christ emphasizes: “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21). From prayer and fasting, which imply good deeds, humility, gratitude, self-discipline, and readiness to serve one’s neighbors, are born a deep, lasting faith, a permanent relationship with God.
And faith, my beloved, is the most important thing; it is essential. If we have faith, if we trust in the Lord and surrender to His will, then all things will fall into place. Therefore, when the Apostles asked Christ why they could not cast out the evil spirit from the boy, He answered them with this teaching: “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Of course, here He is not referring to the physical mountains we see in nature, but rather to the problems, temptations, and worries that we have between each other and within ourselves, which often seem to be as big and insurmountable as high mountains. However, if we really have faith reinforced by deeds, then with the help of God’s grace, these huge troubles will become as small as a mustard seed and disappear. It is enough just to fully trust the Lord and have confidence in His Will and His Providence and He will do His work, He will fix everything. Since He is Almighty, All-Powerful, All-Seeing, and All-Knowing, He can do literally anything. And not only can He, but He wants to do everything to save us. That’s why he came to Earth, to heal sick humanity. So, don’t be afraid to entrust yourself to Christ, because He will not stand you up. To trust someone means to confide in them, to surrender yourself into their hands. And to whom else should I entrust myself, if not Christ, Who came, suffered for me, and rose again, to take me to Heaven with Him?
Let’s make good use of today’s Gospel so that we will make more of an effort to live our faith. Let’s strengthen our faith with prayer, fasting, and good deeds, and this way we will become spiritually strong, with an unshakable trust in God’s plan. If we do this, then we will become witnesses to God for others. From this, we can easily conclude that a large number of those who call themselves Christians today have almost no, or very little, real faith. Unfortunately, we also see that there are Christians who read the Gospels, but instead of living them, they use them to argue amongst themselves and condemn others. This is totally wrong and very misguided. Instead of being receiving life and blessing by reading the Gospel with humility and longing for the God of love, they become even darker and bring wrath upon themselves.
Most of us, today’s Christians, have a faith that is not efficacious because we do not want to entrust ourselves to the will of God, but instead we give ourselves over to the desires of our hearts. When we speak about the Lord, we should do it from a heart that is overflowing with faith. Therefore, my beloved, let us make our own the words that the Lord Jesus addressed to us through the Apostles and “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance to the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, Who for that joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). We are all His elect in some way, because we are all baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and as such we are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that we may proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). This means that we are His messengers, His apostles to this generation and that we should be light, as He said to the Holy Apostles, and thus to all of us: “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Amen.