FIFTH SUNDAY OF SAINT MATTHEW – FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God?
Thou come hither to torment us before the Time?” (Matt
After having departed from Capernaum; where Jesus met the centurion of last Sunday’s Gospel; He then went to the country of the Gergesenes. On His journey, describes today’s Gospel; came two men out of the tombs who were exceedingly fierce because they were possessed by demons. They were so fierce that no man was able to walk toward them. When our Lord walked toward them, they cried out to Him, saying: “Jesus, Son of God, what business do we have with Thee?” “what dost Thou want with us? Didst Thou come here to torment us before the time?” Not so far from them, there was a herd of swine, feeding; and the demons knowing this, they begged Christ, to send them into that herd of swine. Jesus said for them to go, and so they came out of the two Gergesene men and immediately went into the herd of swine. Once this had taken place, the herd of swine ran aggressively down the hill into the sea, where they perished in the water. After this peculiar thing, the swine farmers quickly went into the main city, and started explaining to the people there, the things which had taken place and what they had witnessed with the possessed men. The people of the city, obviously unhappy with what they heard, came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw Him, they requested for Him to leave their city, and get away from their coastline. In seeing all the commotion, our Saviour Jesus Christ got into a ship, and went to His home city.
What is really disturbing to me my dear brethren, is that most of us Christians today, behave just like the citizens of Gergesene. And in case you are wondering, I am not referring to the two Gergesene men who were possessed by demons, no, I’m talking about the other people who were told about the miraculous events which took place, but reacted negatively to them. These are people who became witnesses to Christ’s power and mercy, yet, instead of embracing Him, they turned against Him. The Lord expelled out of the two possessed men a whole legion of demons, and instead of gratitude for healing two of their fellow countrymen who suffered for many years, they came out to meet our Lord, only to plead for His departure from their country.
Our Lord Jesus Christ went to their country, for a purpose, He went there to transform them into children of the Kingdom of Heaven.
He knocked on their door, loudly, so loud in fact, that there was no way they weren’t going to hear Him. It seems though, that Christ’s calling became annoying to them, so they not only refused to invite Him in, instead, they sent Him away, they wanted him to leave their country.
Unfortunately, so many of us today have become imitators of the Gergesene people. Our hearts, just like theirs, have become corrupted by pride, unrighteousness, and materialistic things. They were a people who preferred to remain in ignorance rather than seek wisdom; and sadly today’s society is the same. Saint Theophan the Recluse, who was a saint pretty much of our times said: “Some people often strive to avoid any circumstance which might lead them to repentance and divine wisdom, so that they might continue living quietly in their old habits, pleading ignorance. These are the sort of people who are afraid to read the Gospels and patristic books, or to discuss spiritual matters. They fear that if their conscience is thereby disturbed, it might wake up and start forcing them to abandon what they have and take up something else.” According to the scriptures, these people are regarded as fools and Godless, just listen to the Prophet David who says in his Psalms: “The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God. They are become corrupt and loathsome in their ways; there is none that doeth good, no not one.” (Ps 13:1) We do not have to verbally say that we do not believe in God to be Godless or atheist; our actions scream louder than our mouths.
The Gergesenes, chose not to receive Christ, the Word of God Himself, instead, they preferred to continue living their lives in ignorance without disruptions, however the Lord tells us in another Gospel passage: “whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” (Matt 10:14-15) What Christ said, refers to the Gergesenes, but also to all those types of people who refuse to accept God’s calling. A lot of us today also hear Christ’s calling, but we ignore it, because we know that if we listen to His calling, the sins which we enjoy committing, will become more difficult to do. Most people like to live materialistic lives, and they look to the happiness they gain from there, not realizing that this happiness is temporary. Every day by our actions and we plead with Christ to leave our hearts, because the sweetness of sin seems to gladden them, not realizing that this sweetness will turn into bitterness when we die. It is like taking a piece of lemon, dipping it into honey and placing it in your mouth. In the beginning, you will only be able to taste the sweet sensation of honey, and the taste almost makes you forget about the bitter sensation which you will begin tasting once the honey is finished. When the honey is consumed, you instantly start to taste the sourness and bitterness of the lemon; this of course causes a natural reaction of disgust to your face, causing you to spit out the lemon. On the other hand, a wise person will actually eat a lemon, in order to receive the nourishment which comes from it. Even though the lemon is both sour and bitter for the mouth, for the body’s health it is sweet. This example applies to our Christian way of life, if we accept the sourness and bitterness of our cross and temptations, then when we die we shall eternally be sweetened and nourished, by Christ Himself. Unfortunately though, like the Gergesenes, we become annoyed with Christ, because He threatens our luxurious and sinful way of life. We prefer not to disturb the pleasures which our bodies have. Many Christians even avoid coming to church or coming to confession, because they know they will hear things which do not agree with their lifestyles. They choose ignorance as their way out, thinking that if they are not told or made aware of a sin, then the sin cannot be classed as a sin, while others choose ignorance in order to excuse themselves remaining in schism or heresy. Let me tell you right there, that ignorance is one of the greatest sins, because you are willingly blinding your conscience, just as the swine farmers in today’s Gospel did. They became upset with Christ because they saw Him as the one responsible for their swine perishing. They could only see their profit losses, because they obviously traded or sold their swine. What they should have done is celebrate the healing of two of their fellow countrymen who suffered so long while they were possessed by the demons.
Let us remember, that swine was not allowed to be consumed by the Jews, because it was considered an unclean animal to them. It seems like they tolerated the use of swine, which is why Jesus allowed for the demons to go into the herd of swine, knowing that they would perish.
Let us not forget the two possessed Gergesenes my fellow Christians. When Christ walked towards them, they cried out saying: “What have we to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God? art Thou come hither to torment us before the time?”
In simpler words they shouted: “Jesus, Son of God, what business do we have with Thee? What dost Thou want with us? Didst Thou come here to torment us before the time?” In their first question, the demons did not just ask a question to someone who they thought was a random person. In fact we learn from their words, that Satan has realized that he no longer has anything to do with God, but in the same question, the demons also make a confession, interesting enough. They confess Jesus as the Son of the living God, and they acknowledge that Christ will be the Judge and enforcer of their eternal torment, on Judgment Day. They realize and feel that their time is coming to an end and they fear God’s wrath and judgment, which is why they begged that Christ send them to the herd of swine rather than judge them. The demons proclaim Christ as God, fear Him and acknowledge Him as the one Who will Judge them, but from the passage, we also heard that they ask God before they do anything, remember; they asked Christ for permission to enter the swine.
This is where I begin to think to myself, what will become of us then, who do not fear and confess God even as the demons do. How many of us for example, really proclaim Christ as our King and God, not many, because if we did, we would all worship Him day and night and be devoted to Him. Do we acknowledge Christ to be the one Who will judge us? I don’t think we do, because if we believed this, we would not live sinful, unrighteous and materialistic lives; we would know that God is watching us; therefore we would not intentionally sin. In public places, especially when we know that a camera is watching us, we do not do anything which is wrong, because we fear the authorities and we fear punishment. How much more should we be careful of our actions when we know that our Creator watches and hears everything? That is why I say that we do not truly believe that Christ will judge us; neither do we believe that our time here on this earth is limited, because again, if we did, we would not focus on investing only in things like money and properties or anything else which will one day perish.
My dear Christians, I think that we must open our ears to the Holy Scriptures, not only our physical ears but our spiritual ears, so that we may begin to understand the literal and allegorical message of the Bible. We must seek our spiritual well-being, by becoming active and conscientious members of the Church. We must start feeding our souls with prayer, fasting, Confession, the Holy Mysteries, and our soul will repay us with happiness, because when the soul is spiritually fed, then the body also enjoys happiness, but when the soul is not spiritually fed, then we feel depressed and fall into greater sins.
People sometimes think that the things we say are for monks, nuns and priests; but those who think like this are usually the ones who do not want to disturb their way of life, they are the ones who want a church, just for baptisms and weddings, or simply for the sake of belonging to a church, they are the ones who chose ignorance over wisdom. When the priest mentions things like fasting, prayer, confession almsgiving, these people find excuses like: “it isn’t what goes into the mouth which is a sin, it’s what comes out of the mouth” or “I don’t need confession, I haven’t done anything which is really bad”. Unfortunately, we try to excuse our sins, instead of humbling ourselves before God and ask for His help. In the Psalms we come across a verse which King David wrote which explains what we just said: “Incline not my heart unto words of evil, to make excuse with excuses in sins”. (Ps 140:4) This is the sin which Adam and Eve made after their disobedience to God. When God asked Adam about what he had done, he blamed Eve for what had happened, rather than repent and beg for forgiveness, and sure enough when God asked Eve what she had done, she blamed the serpent.
My dear brethren in Christ, let us start paying attention to the words of the Gospel, let us come to church whole heartedly and with good intension. Let us remain attentive, so that we may constantly hear the Lord’s calling. Let us humble ourselves before Christ, and seek His wisdom, so that we do not fall into the deep sleep of ignorance. Let us put our faith in Christ, and pray for His mercy and compassion to be upon us, unto the ages of ages. Amen.
|Back to: Contemporary Articles|