Tag Archives: 7th Sunday after Pentecost

Homily: Don’t Be A Busybody!

Sunday, August 9 (OS July 26), 2021: Tone 6; 7th Sunday after Pentecost; Hieromartyrs Hermolaus, Hermippus, and Hermocrates at Nicomedia (ca. 305); Ven. Moses the Hungarian, of the Kyivan Caves (the Near Cave) (1043); Martyr Parasceve of Rome (138-161); Ven. Gerontius, founder of the Skete of St. Anne, Mt. Athos (13th c.)

Epistle: Romans 15:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 9:27-35

The Apostle Paul ends his exhortation to “bear with the scruples of the weak” by telling us to “receive one another, just as Christ also received us.” To bear with the weak, to serve our neighbor, and work for his salvation even when he criticizes and condemns us for doing so, all these things glorify God.

And not only does this glorify God; it builds the unity of the Church. By bearing with each other we slowly learn to think and speak “with one mind and one mouth.”

To this though, I need to set aside the besetting sin of the Pharisees. For all their learning and authority in the life of the Jewish People, the Pharisees were simply busybodies. It offended them that somewhere, someone had an experience of grace that they–as the “leaders” of the People–hadn’t first approved and sanctioned.

Look at the Gospel we heard this morning.

Once again, Jesus restores sight to the blind and casts out a demon. And, once again, what is the response of the Pharisees, those self-appointed guardians of Israel’s social order and false peace with Rome? They ignore what their eyes tell them and condemn Jesus. “He casts out demons by the ruler of demons.”

And though He is, once again, rejected by the religious leaders of Israel, Jesus doesn’t turn His back on the People of God. Even as the words of condemnation follow Him, Jesus goes to “all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every disease among the people.”

The Pharisees, these self-appointed guardians of an unjust and uncharitable worldly order, find Jesus to be so offensive because He is truly free. And, once again, they make clear that human freedom is as much an affront to the busybody as any self-serving politician or tyrant. 

Our freedom is not found in the crass ability to choose between options. As we’ve seen before, whatever practical value it might have, freedom of choice is inherently self-limiting. Money spent for this is no longer available for that; time that is given to complete this or that project or task vanishes in the doing.

When I limit freedom to merely the exercise of discrete choices, life becomes an unending series of tasks; of ever-increasing costs and ever-decreasing benefits.  There is never enough time, there is never enough money, there is never enough help. When freedom is for no more for me than the ability to pick between “A” and “B” or between  “B” and “A,” communion with God and neighbor slowly evaporates into a life of anxiety and resentment.

And then, one day, I wake up and realize for all the success, for all the people in my life, I am alone and feel like a failure. 

It is this life of ever greater loss and increasing isolation that characterizes the life of this world, of the Pharisees, of the busybody. The anger and the jealousy, the divisions, and bitter words, the petty frustrations, anxieties, and fears that characterize the world (in both its secular and religious forms) are the fruit of pursuing a communion that always slips away.

But, to return to St Paul’s admonish this morning, we who are in Christ are called to a different kind of freedom; the freedom of self-sacrifice, of bearing with others in their weakness, of welcoming the stranger, of putting the whole of our life at the service of the salvation of others. When we live in this way, we are not simply imitating Christ, we are not simply channels of grace but ourselves reservoirs of grace from which others can draw as needed for their own salvation.

The Christian’s new freedom doesn’t ignore the practical details of life that so often drive us to distraction. Piety without technique is simply another way of pursuing faith without works and

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:14-17, NKJV).

So what must we do? How then are we to live?

Let me suggest this. Take a moment and simply stop. 

And when you stop, say the Jesus Prayer, read a short passage from Scripture, or simply speak to God as one friend speaks to another.

The things that distract me, the obligations that seem to pull me this way, and that are usually not only unavoidable but important and necessary. The temptation is that I all too often allow the good things in life to overwhelm me.

This happens because I see them merely as tasks to be completed, responsibilities to be met rather than what they are.

We are, the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas says, made of our responsibilities for “the widow and the orphan, the stranger and the sojourner.” We have these responsibilities, however, because God has invited us to share in His great love for the world.

In all this, however, God is not a harsh taskmaster or judge but an indulgent Father Who takes delight not only in our success but also accepts our well-intentioned failure. God knows that I am weak and that I struggle to love as He calls me to love. And when, as I inescapably do, I fall short of what love demands, He is there to lift me up, to heal me, and free me from the chains that bind me.

And not just me but you as well.

God knows that we only slowly grow in love for Him and for our neighbor. But, like Jesus in the Gospel this morning, the Father never turns His back on us even when we fail or when, like the Pharisees, we turn our back on Him.

We can love not simply because God loves us but because He will always love us. 

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Practing Hospitality, Pleasing Others

Sunday, July 15 (O.S., July 2), 2018: 7th Sunday after Pentecost; Placing of the Robe of the Mother of God.

Epistle: Romans 15:1-7/Hebrews 9:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 9:27-35/Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28

Glory to Jesus Christ!

We have been looking at the importance of taking seriously the spiritual gifts that each of us has been given at baptism. The thing I want you to consider today is this: Because our personal vocations emerge out of the exercise of these gifts, hospitality is essential to the life of the Church.

Hospitality is not a matter of potlucks or fellowship meetings or open houses. Seen in the light of our baptismal vocation, hospitality is the willingness–the eagerness really–to support each other as we pursue our personal vocations.

This reveals a depth of meaning in Paul’s admonishment that we “who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak” and that we “not to please ourselves” but rather seek to “please” our neighbor.

This doesn’t mean giving in to each other. Rather, we are to act for the “good” of each other and for our mutually “edification.” This is only possible, however, to the degree that we each of us personally pursue the will of God for our lives.

So, again, hospitality is rather more encompassing–and serious–than potlucks, fellowship meetings, and community open houses.

In the full sense, hospitality means dedicating ourselves personally and as a community to fostering each other’s vocation. This is why St Paul tells us to “receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.”

Turning to the Gospel, we get a clear picture of what it means to practice hospitality.

Jesus doesn’t simply heal the blind men. He does first something He often does. He affirms the faith of the two men. In doing this He also creates the opportunity for them to affirm their faith in Him.

Jesus saying “Yes!” to the men is what makes it possible for them to say “Yes!” to Him.

In doing this, Jesus also ennobles the men. Or rather, He reveals to them–and to those around them–their true dignity. These men, blind and broken, poor and on the margin of society, though they are can nevertheless approach the Creator of the Universe and make a direct request of Him. A beggar can stand before the King and expect to have his petition not just heard but granted!

I suspect this as much as the restoration of their sight is what inspired the men to go and “spread the news about Him in all that country.” Even though Jesus told them to remain silent, experiencing the mercy of God and grasping for the first time their own value, these men became bold.

St John Chrysostom says that the “command to silence” was meant not to constrain the men but to rebuke “the religious leadership” of the Jews. As we see in the next verses, many among the Pharisees were hard-hearted. They refused to accept that “the crowds placed Jesus before everyone else–not merely before people who lived at the time but even before all who ever lived.”

Chrysostom goes on to say that the crowds put Jesus first not simply “because He was healing people but because He healed them quickly, …. easily” and of “countless” incurable diseases (“The Gospel of Matthew,” Homily 32.1, in ACCS, NT vol Ia, pp. 187, 188).

In other words, what Jesus does, He does freely and with authority. His love and mercy are not conditioned by anything other than His willingness to make right that which is wrong and broken in us.

As Jesus is for us, we must be not only for each other but for all we meet.

As Jesus is always ready to heal us, we must be willing to do for each other and all who we meet.

As Jesus reveals to us our true dignity and worth, we must do for each other and all who we meet.

My brothers and sisters in Christ! We hear today that the Theotokos is worthy of praise not because she gave birth to God but because she heard the word of God and keep it!

Today God speaks to us and tells each of us to practice hospitality. God calls each of us to assist each other in fulfilling our vocations. The details of these vocations are as different as the gifts we each have been given.

But for all that they, and we, are different, we share one vocation. To reconcile the world to God and to reveal to each person their true worth and dignity as those loved by God.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory