Tag Archives: boldness

The Boldness of Humility

Sunday, May 19 (OS May 6), 2019: 4th Sunday of Pascha, Sunday of the Paralytic; Righteous Job the Long-suffering (c. 2000-1500 B.C.); Martyrs Barbarus the Soldier, Bacchus, Callimachus, and Dionysius in Morea (362); Martyr Barbarus the former robber in Epirus (IX). Righteous Tabitha of Joppa (I). (moveable feast on the 4th Sunday after Pascha).

Ss Cyril & Methodius Orthodox Church
Madison, WI

Epistle: Acts 9:32-43
Gospel: John 5:1-15

Christ is Risen!

Following the biblical witness, the fathers of the Church saw bodily infirmity–blindness, deafness, or in the case of today’s readings paralysis–as symbolic of humanity’s fallen condition. The Venerable Bede writes that “anyone who embraces the unstable joys of the present is as through flattened upon his bed, devoid of energy” trapped as they are by the “sluggishness” of “worldly pleasures” (Commentary of Acts of the Apostles, 9.33).

It’s important to say that neither Bede nor any of the fathers were denying the goodness of Creation or the delights that are to be found in this life. Marriage, to take only one example, is a sacrament of the Church and according to St Paul a revelation of the love Christ has for the Church (see Ephesian 5:32).

No, the problem is not the goodness of Creation but the human hearts indifference to God. As in any relationship, indifference today becomes hostility tomorrow.

It is this hostility born of indifference that leads some among the Jews to condemn the paralytic for violating the law by carrying his pallet on the Sabbath. They do this, St Augustine says, because to condemn the healing would have been to invite the rebuke they heard from Jesus at another time. “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 14:5, NJKV)

Instead of criticizing Jesus–and so have their hypocrisy exposed–“they addressed the man, … as if to say: Even if the healing could not be delayed why command the work?” Even so, the question exposes their hypocrisy. Augustine says that to ask this is to invite a response that testifies to the divinity of Christ: “Why should I not receive a command if I also received a cure from Him?” (Tractates on the Gospel of John 17:10)

For the person, indifferent and even hostile to the presence of God brings with it a heavy cost. Unaware of God’s presence in their lives means as well that they live unaware of His great love for them and for the dignity to which they are called in Jesus Christ.

The full implications of what has happened will take the rest of the paralytic’s life to understand. But while his understand is immature, his experience of God’s love for him makes him bold!

When confronted the man doesn’t conceal the miracle. He doesn’t hesitate to proclaim that he had been cured “of his illness.” And when falsely condemned he did not ask “for pardon. Instead, he boldly confessed the cure. This is how he acted” and this is how we are called to act as well (St John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John, 37.2).

Both sin and love make us bold. But where the boldness of sin is fool hearted and rash, love’s boldness is courageous.

Look at St Peter.

At this point in Acts, he has already been arrested twice and beaten once. Stephen has been martyred, Saul is arresting and handing Christians over to the authorities, and “a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1).

And yet, Chrysostom says, Peter walks about “like a general … inspecting the ranks.” Because of his great love for Jesus, Peter always

…goes about first. When an apostle had to be chosen, he was first; when the Jews had to be told that these were not drunk, he was first; when the lame man had to be healed, he was first; when the crowd had to be addressed, he was before the rest; when the rulers had to be addressed, he was the man; when Ananias had to be addressed, when healings were worked by the shadow, still it was he.

When “the situation is calm” the disciples “act in common.” But when “there was danger” Peter acts alone. In all of this he “did not seek a greater honor. When there was need to work miracles, he leaps forward, and here again he is the man to labor and toil” (Homilies on Acts of the Apostle, 21).

And when it is time for the Gospel to be preached to the Gentiles, Peter once again takes the lead in following the path Paul has blazed.

In the Christian economy, evangelical boldness the fruit of humility. Peter like Jesus, “Who conquered persecutors [here] below and reigns over angels [in heaven] above spoke … in a humble voice,” (St Ephrem the Syrian, Homily on Our Lord, 26.1) because the word he speaks is not his but God’s word to him for the life of the world (see, John 7:16, 12:49, 14:10).

To remain silent about the Gospel is not humility. We have all of us been given a word to speak; we are all of us in baptism called to be witnesses of the Resurrection and evangelists of the Gospel.

But a problem remains. If remaining silent when we are called to speak is not humility, how then are we to speak? In this as in all things, Jesus shows us the way.

Before He heal the paralytics Jesus asks the man “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus invites the man to cooperate with grace.

Jesus question reflects the humility of the Father Who never imposes Himself on us but woos us. In doing this He also makes clear “the cruelty of those … who were well” but who never lifted “their hand to help” the man but instead treated him “like an enemy” when he asked for help (Amphilochius of Iconium, Oration, 9).

My brothers and sisters in Christ! Every day, we meet those who ask for our help in coming to know Jesus Christ; every day we meet those who even if they do so poorly ask us about the love of God poured out in Jesus Christ.

Humility, to say nothing of love, demands we speak.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Both Humility & Boldness Are Needed

December 4, 2015: Barbara the Great Martyr, John the Righteous of Damascus, New Hieromartyr Seraphim, bishop of the Phanar in Greece, Juliana the Martyr of Heliopolis, Alexander Hotovitzky, New Hieromartyr of Russia, Missionary to America

Epistle: Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-5
Gospel: Mark 5:24-34

Jesus uses a curious phrase in this morning’s Gospel. St Mark says that Jesus “knowing that power had gone out of Him” asks “‘Who touched My clothes?'” (5:30, NKJV)

In a sermon attributed to St John Chrysostom we read that divine grace is Christ’s alone to impart those “who touch Him by faith.” The sermon goes on to say that grace doesn’t “go out of Him locally or corporeally, nor in any respect pass away from Him.” Rather Jesus says what He does “to show that with His knowledge, and not without His being aware of it, the woman was healed.” In other words, what Jesus is aware of is not a change in Himself, much less a loss, but a change in the woman with the flow of blood. It is a change in her, not Himself that He comments upon. And so Jesus asks “who touches Him so “that He might bring to light the woman… and proclaim her faith.” And what of the crowds? While the throng about Him, they “cannot be said to touch” Christ because ” they do not come near [Him] in faith” (Pseudo-Chrysostom in St Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea “Mark 5:21-34).

The Venerable Bede makes much the same point. Jesus asks what He does to invite the woman to “confess [her] faith … [and] her sudden belief and healing.” Above all though Christ speaks to confirm her in her faith, making her “an example to others” of the necessity of faith (Catena Aurea “Mark 5:21-34).

St Paul in today’s epistle that the Law isn’t there to reveal my goodness but as a tutor. If anything, the Law (and so my obedience to it) reveals not just my immaturity but my bondage to what he calls “the elements of the world” (4:3, NKJV). Whether we are Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, whatever our social status, we are all of us apart from faith in Jesus Christ my “pernicious freedom” is just “the matrix of sin” (Ambrosiaster, Epistle to the Galatians, 4.3 quoted in vol VIII of ACCS NT: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, p. 53).

Like the woman in the Gospel, I pursue “useless remedies” when instead what I need to do is realize “time is short” and “healing is not given to the silent, nor to the one who hides her pain” from Christ. And like her, in the silence of my heart I must take what I dare “not ask for … knowing that healing and forgiveness may be bestowed in this stratagem” and that in “an instant, faith cures where human skill has failed” (Peter Chrysologus, “On the Daughter of the Ruler of the Synagogue, and On the Woman Suffering From An Issue of Blood,” quoted in vol II of ACCS NT: Mark, p. 74).

Faith in Jesus Christ requires from us both humility and boldness. Awareness of my sin makes me humble; confidence in God love makes me bold. One without the other is of no use; both together sets us brings healing, forgiveness and a share in divine glory in this life and the life to come.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory