St Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
161 N. Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086
7th Sunday After Pentecost

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

(Matthew 9:27-35)

 

In the Gospel reading for today we hear of the healing of two blind men. The Gospel tells us that: ‘When Jesus departed… two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him: “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying: “According to your faith let it be unto you.” And their eyes were opened.’

What a wonderful demonstration of the kindness and generosity of God and of His marvelous healing powers. And what a vivid illustration we have also of the plight of mankind… blind, calling out to God for His mercy, and – according to our faith – receiving our measure of healing.

We are indeed like blind men, so often handicapped with no spiritual vision to see the obvious workings and blessings of God occurring every day, every hour, and every minute in our lives. We are extremely limited in our spiritual vision and go about this life as men and women who are blind, only occasionally ‘seeing through a glass darkly’ at the magnificence and mercy of God.

Some may not even be aware of their blindness. For a man ignorant of his blindness, this world contains nothing more than that which can be perceived by his five physical senses… measured, categorized, and understood by scientific methods. All of the world, indeed all of the universe, is subject to what can be understood within the bone vault of his brain. Any promptings of a world beyond… from his conscience, from knowledge born of suffering, from the specter of death… these are pushed aside because in our pride and fear, we refuse to acknowledge that we may indeed be blind. As one philosopher put it: ‘Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.’

How do we move from this state of blindness to begin to see? I think this Sunday holds three keys to unlocking this mystery.

The first key is demonstrated by the blind men of today’s Gospel. They demonstrate for us an essential element if we are to be healed. They knew that they were blind. They believed that there was a world of sight which was lost to them, but which they longed to possess. They knew their insufficiency and they wished to be made whole.

This knowledge and admission of our infirmities, of our blindness, requires humility. It requires at least the beginnings of the acquisition of a pure heart. Christ our Lord has revealed to us in the Beatitudes that it is the pure in heart who shall see God. So let us begin there… with a humble admission of our insufficiency and let us call out to God like the blind men in today’s Gospel: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.’

The second key is revealed to us by the saints we commemorate today – the Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils. The Fathers of the Councils were those men who struggled and strived to ‘right define the word of truth’. Over the course of the early centuries of the Christian faith, many false teachings arose which threatened to distort the truth of the faith given to us by Christ and carried forward by the Apostles and their successors. Theological debates arose regarding the divinity of Christ and the humanity of Christ – both of which must be upheld in their fulness if we are to properly understand Christ our Lord and to understand the work of our salvation and the dignity to which we are called as Christians.

So, if we may say the first key to removing our blindness and beginning to see clearly is purity of heart; let us recognize that the second key to spiritual clarity is purity of teaching.

The Holy Fathers of Ecumenical Councils were those definers and defenders of the faith – clarifying the teachings of God and assuring that the Church retained fidelity to the pure teaching which leads man to salvation. One can have a pure and open heart, but if one is not shown the right path, we can still stumble about as if we were still blind.

And so this leads us to the third key… God grant that we be blessed with purity of heart and that this good intention is fed by purity of teaching. Now the third ingredient is found in the words of our Lord to the blind men. And Jesus said to them: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him: “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying: “According to your faith let it be unto you.” And their eyes were opened.’

‘According to your faith, let it be unto you'… this statement contains profound spiritual truth and instruction. How will it be for us?… it will be according to our faith.

We orient ourselves to the proper reception of God’s truth and grace through purity of heart. And that reception must be attuned to the transmission of God’s truth and grace through the purity of teaching of the Holy Fathers and their fidelity to the Gospel and  tradition of the Orthodox Church. And this marriage of transmission and reception is then fueled and given life through purity of faith – which enlivens and illumines us in our relationship with God.

May God grant us this trinity of virtues and gifts of grace from God: purity of heart, purity of teaching, and purity of faith. If we will hold fast to these three, may we hear the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘According to your faith, let it be unto you’. And may our eyes be opened to behold the beauty and the glory of our Lord!

 

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