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August 1, 2021

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Matthew - Christ, the Stranger and the Familiar (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Matthew (9:1-8)

Christ, the Stranger and the Familiar

Today's Gospel reading begins with the sentence "getting into a boat Jesus crossed over and came to His own city." Christ lived with the people of His day, used the means of transportation of that time, and had His city. He lived like all of us, but without committing any sin, because he was a God-man and completely sinless.

To which city does the Evangelist refer and which city was considered Christ's "own city"? This is Capernaum. Sacred Chrysostom says that Bethlehem gave birth to Christ, Nazareth nurtured Him, and Capernaum had Him constantly present. But everywhere Christ had problems, since He was born in a stable in Bethlehem, in Nazareth He faced the fury of his compatriots who tried to cast Him down from a mountain and in Capernaum they did not accept Him, although He performed many miracles there, which is why He said, "And you, Capernaum, which is exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to hades" (Matt. 11:23).

Christ came into the world, but people did not understand Him and He lived as a stranger on earth. So He had a city of His own, but in the end He had no home to stay in. His life as a man began in the manger and reached Golgotha and the empty tomb, from where He was resurrected. There is an amazing troparion which is sung during the procession of the Epitaphion on Great Friday. The holy hymn writer depicts Joseph approaching Pilate and asking for the body of Christ saying: “Show me this stranger, who as a stranger lived in the world as a stranger. Show me this stranger whom his compatriots killed out of hatred as a stranger. Show me this stranger whom the Jews killed out of envy and alienated from the world. Show me this stranger to hide Him in the grave, because as a stranger He has nowhere to lay his head." Christ lived as a stranger in this world, but His work is universal, it concerns the whole world.

From this it seems that Christ takes every stranger and gives them rest. The passage of the Coming Judgment is well known, in which He will say to the righteous people: "I was a stranger and you came to me" and the opposite to the unsaved. We must help strangers as if we do it to Christ Himself.

Beyond that we can say that today the special "city" of Christ is His Church, in which He performs His miracles and performs the resurrections of people. The Church is earthly and visible, but also heavenly and invisible. This is the real city of God. And we live in the city of Christ, His holy Church, with its mysteries and all its life, and we should take care not to despise Christ, but to consider Him familiar, and to accept His life-giving presence.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.