March 29, 2020

Homily on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (St. John of Kronstadt)

By St. John of Kronstadt

Today, beloved brothers and sisters, was read the Gospel passage from the Evangelist Mark on how a father asked Jesus Christ to heal his son, a deaf and dumb child who was possessed, by casting out the evil spirit who was the reason the child was deaf and dumb. ‘Deaf and dumb spirit,’ said the Lord to the impure one, ‘I command you, come out of him and enter him no more.’ Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose (Mark 9:25–27). But see how evil was the spirit who tormented the child. His father told the Lord how wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid (Mark 9:18). This happened also at the time when the father brought his son to the Saviour. And when the Lord asked the father, as if he did not already know, even though, as God, He knows all, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him,’ and he asked the Lord to have compassion on him and his son, and to help them, if He can do anything. Jesus told him: ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ And the unfortunate father of little faith cried out with tears ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:21–24).

Do you see what power the Lord attributes to faith and to the one who believes? 'All things are possible to him who believes,' He says. The one who believes is able to cast out demons and to heal all kinds of diseases. And how powerless and miserable is the unbeliever! He cannot even control himself, and cannot overcome his own sins, but as a slave he serves them and is tormented by them. And as the unfortunate father initially brought his possessed son to the Apostles and they were not able to expel this demon from him, they asked the Lord in private why they were not able to expel him. The Lord answered them: 'This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting' (Mark 9:29). Such is the Lord’s praise for prayer and fasting. This is the evangelical basis for fasting. How could those who call themselves followers of the Gospel have expelled fasting from our common life, as if it was unnecessary?! Is it not because in our days passions and iniquity and demonic possessions of all kinds have multiplied, so much so that some Christians have broken their ties with the Church and have renounced prayer and fasting as something superfluous? And they live like dumb beasts, guided solely by their various lusts, while others, due to their malice, foam at the mouth like men truly possessed, intent on committing every evil deed: murder, suicide, arson, placing mines, causing explosions, and so on.
Yes, beloved brothers and sisters, , such people have reached such a terrible frenzy precisely because of their unbelief, intemperance, impurity, and from all of the ruinous consequences of this unbelief. The meek faith of the Gospel does not preach murder, regicide, placing mines, and causing explosions; it says: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God," and it is necessary to be subject unto them "not only because of wrath but also for conscience's sake" (Rom. 13:1, 5), and it commands us to pray "for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (1 Tim. 2:2). Lord, illumine the eyes of the hearts, blinded with malice, of these miserable possessed people of our unfortunate times, who rise up against the authority appointed by God, let them know what a terrible abyss they dig under their own selves, and unto what a terrible hellish pit they are about to plunge.

In ancient, pre-Christian times, some unfortunate Hebrews revolted against the established authority, against Moses and Aaron, reproaching them for an alleged love of power, only murmuring against them; and what came of it, what was God's punishment? The earth opened up underneath them, and they went down alive into the pit of hell together with their families, while others, not as guilty as those, were consumed by a fire that came from the temple (Num. 16:1-35). See what a terrible sin it is to revolt against those in authority! What then awaits our nihilists and terrorists? Baptized people, Christians, committing such acts of violence, such murders and suicides, such satanic villainy! Oh, why were they born? Why did they not perish in their mother's womb? It would have been better had they never been born. To trample so ungratefully, viciously, madly on God's gifts: on the grace of baptism, of chrismation, of communion of the Lord's Body and Blood, is something truly terrible! Oh, hapless parents of such children! What shame they must suffer!

Brother and sisters! Let us hold onto the faith of God's Church wholeheartedly, onto this unique saving ark that saves us from the fiery universal flood that will befall all transgressors in due time. Let us hold onto the holy precepts of the Church, leading us to salvation, let us observe unwaveringly fasting and prayer, and be zealous to serve God. "The devil," the enemy of our salvation, does not sleep, but "walks about like a roaring lion" around us, "seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8), and how many has he already devoured! Fasting and prayer observed with zeal, with humility, with faith and love, are powerful weapons against the devil and against all the passions that war within us. Amen.

From Season of Repentance: Lenten Homilies of Saint John of Kronstadt.