The work that faith requires

 The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 9:27-35

In today’s gospel reading we hear about the healing of two blind men. This is an amazing physical miracle but as Christians we recognize that the greater miracle is of a spiritual nature. When the Lord was walking He heard two blind men calling out to Him “Have mercy on us Son of David!” What is more interesting is that the Lord did not turn around and immediately help the two blind men. Please notice this important point. The Lord kept walking.
We should begin asking “Why?” Was the Lord ignoring them because He was busy? Did He ignore them because He was not interested in them? What was the reason? The reason is that He was testing their faith. And the Lord Jesus does this twice in the same story with the same blind men. Please notice that after He entered into the house, the blind men followed Him. This is a sign that they passed the first test of faith that the Lord had put to them.

After entering the house they asked for Him to show them mercy. How did the Lord respond? He asked them directly “Do you believe that I am able to do this? This is a second test. The men answered “Yes Lord”. This is a sign that they were full of faith. They were physically blind but the eyes of their hearts were open wide to receive the truth of Jesus Christ. This is also an illustration of the way in which even faith is an act or a work. The blind men were healed by the grace of God. Nothing they could do could earn their sight for them. And yet we see the men must enter into a relationship of faith. They are forced to prove their faith. Had they remained in the streets, had they simply walked away after the Lord kept on walking, they would not have received their sight.

Every time blindness is spoken of in the New Testament it is meant to draw our attention to the only blindness that actually matters, the blindness that comes with a lack of faith. These blind men believed in Jesus though they had never actually verified or proved that He could help them. On the other hand we see that the Pharisees who had many opportunities to see the Lord’s work, did not believe that this was the work of the Son of God, but the work of demons. The pharisees had full physical sight but lacked the sight that mattered most.

In our own lives we each have different levels of spiritual blindness. The one who is the most blind is the one who does not believe in the existence of God. Scripture calls this one a “fool”. Next is the one who believes in God but does not believe in His Son. Next is the one who believes in Jesus Christ but understands Him wrongly. This person might see Jesus as a mere prophet or wise guru, or even as a lower god. When we finally believe in the identity of Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of God, we have some measure of spiritual sight. But we can go further. If we believe in Jesus Christ but deny the existence of a physical Church that exists throughout history, from the time of the Apostles, this is another form of blindness. If we believe in Christ but deny the fact of the Eucharist and the power of the other sacraments, this is yet another form of blindness.

Even if we come to the Church and call ourselves Orthodox Christians we still may have blind spots. For instance we may not ever contemplate our own sins and need for repentance and confession. We may make excuses for not attending the services of the Church on a regular basis. We might make excuses or justify the fact that we don’t fast on Wednesday’s and Friday’s and at the appointed times for fasting.

We might call ourselves Orthodox Christians and yet we might not be living lives of radical holiness. We may not be teaching our children to honor the Lord’s day. We may not be honoring the house of God by bringing our best resources to build up this church community. We may be blind because we claim Christ as Lord and Savior but we neglect the poor and needy who are in our own community and all around us. We may be blind because we claim to follow Christ but some of our actions and habits are anti-Christ.

These things aren’t mentioned to make you feel guilty, they are said to encourage you. We all have room to grow and that is not daunting, it is promising and exciting. I believe in Jesus Christ and His Church but I have areas of blindness that only God can heal. The more I struggle, the more I find that I need the gentle touch of Christ to heal my lack of faith. I believe in Jesus Christ, but the slightest struggle makes me feel anxiety or worry. That means that I require more faith, more belief. “Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief!”

We are all here together in the Church and we all know Jesus Christ to varying degrees. Are we content with that? Do we want more from our relationship with God? It is possible. Orthodox Christianity opens up the possibility of real communion with the living God. This living communion is open to those who obey the teachings of Christ and pursue Him through the doors that have been opened to us by the Church. This life of communion is open to those who don’t simply cry “Lord have mercy”! It is open to those who act like the blind men and continue to follow the Lord with perseverance even when it doesn’t seem that the Lord is paying attention…..  

And glory be to God forever AMEN.

 

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