Homily on the 10th Sunday after Pentecost

10th Sunday after Pentecost – Healing the Possessed Youth

Homily From “The One Thing Needful,” Sermons of Archbishop Andrei (Rymarenko)

As last Sunday’s Gospel told us about a storm on the Tiberian Sea, in the same way today’s Gospel also tells us about a storm, only about a storm which is even more terrible. Back then, there were waves on the sea, but here.. .listen to what the father of the youth said to Christ: “Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatic, and sore vexed: for of times he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water” (Mt. 17:15). There, Peter got out of the boat in which the other Apostles were sailing. Notice that Christ did not send him as He sent all the disciples across the sea. But Peter himself, filled with the rapture of faith at seeing Christ walking upon the waves, asked for permission to do the same. And what happened? He doubted and started to drown. And Christ said to him, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Mt. 14:31).

And what about today’s Gospel? In today’s Gospel, the father of the possessed son brought him first to the disciples of Christ. The power to cast out devils and to heal sicknesses had been given to them; this seemed to go along with their obedience. And yet they could not heal hint. And when the father in deep grief related this to the Lord, Christ in anger exclaimed: “O faithless and perverse generation.. .how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him…. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could we not cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. However this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17:17-21).

This is what faith means! But where do we find this faith? Only in the Church. The Apostles, sailing in the boat in obedience to Christ, despite the storm, did not doubt. Their boat had sides which protected them from the pressure of the waves; it had a bottom which separated them from the water; it had a rudder which guided it. In the same way the ship of the Church has everything which is needed to sail over the sea of life, through its storms, to the other shore of Eternal Life.

As in the boat the bottom is its foundation, so in the ship of the Church, the foundation is the teaching of Christ which points out the way to life through the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-11). Poverty of spirit, weeping for sins (that is, repentance), meekness, hunger and thirst for righteousness, mercifulness, purity of heart, peacemaking, suffering for the truth — this is the foundation of the Church ship. And its sides are the Apostolic rules. This is everything which Christ has passed on to His Apostles, which for the most part is again based on Holy Scripture, and partially is kept in the treasury of Church Tradition.

And what treasure is being carried by the ship of the Church? These are the seven Sacraments of the Church which all have their foundation in Holy Scripture. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles relates to us about the ordination of priests and deacons from which comes our Sacrament of the Priesthood (Acts 6:3, 5-7). In His first appearance after the Resurrection, Christ breathed on the Apostles and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whose so ever sins ye remit, they are remitted” (Jn.20: 22-23). Here is the foundation of the Sacrament of Confession. The words of Christ at the Last Supper, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Lk. 22:19); and all the chapters from John where it speaks about the Bread of Life  —  this is the establishment of the Sacrament of Communion (Jn. 6:32-58). The teaching of the Apostle Paul about the relationship between husband and wife speaks of the holiness of the Sacrament of Marriage (I Cor. 7:2-17; Eph. 5:22-33). In the Epistle of James instructions are given about the anointing of the sick one with oil and about the prayer of faith for him (James 5:14-15). And so with all the sacraments. And still more: all Church establishments come from the Lord Himself. Here in today’s Gospel it tells about the necessity of fasting and prayer. And this is Christ Who says it to His disciples. In the Orthodox Church there is nothing invented by man or added; but neither is there anything subtracted, abbreviated from the teaching of Christ and His Apostles.

“I believe in one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Another Catholic and Apostolic Church does not exist on earth.

So let us treasure our Churchship. Let us never abandon it. It has everything for us. It also has this wonderful faith which even moves mountains, and with such faith nothing will be impossible. It will lead us through the storms of life and will bring us to the shore of Life Eternal.