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August 14, 2022

Homily for the Ninth Sunday of Matthew - The Internal Problem of Mankind (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Homily for the Ninth Sunday of Matthew

The Internal Problem of Mankind

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Take courage, it is I; be not afraid" (Matt. 14:27)

Sacred Chrysostom, interpreting the event according to which the Apostle Peter, while walking on the waves, then sank, says that Christ at that moment did not stop the wind, but stretched out His hand and caught him, saying "O you of little faith, why did you hesitate?" (Matt. 14:31). In this way, Christ showed that the change in Peter was not caused by the force of the wind, but by his lack of faith. If his faith did not weaken, then he could easily face the wind. That is why Christ took him by the hand and let the wind blow, showing that the wind cannot do any harm when the faith is firm.

According to the holy Fathers, the demons constantly take a stand over the three parts of the soul, that is, the intellectual, incensive and desiring, and irritate them with their furious attacks. They move the intellect to heretical and blasphemous intrusive thoughts, the incensive to actions against those who have harmed them, and the desiring to impure desires.

All of us have experienced this storm of intrusive thoughts, which happens when the devil with his rage and his art has introduced into us an intrusive thought either against God or against our fellow human beings. Perhaps in this matter modern man is more vulnerable, that is why he suffers.

The holy Fathers from their experience have taught us that we must fight against simple intrusive thoughts so that they do not become lingering, against lingering intrusive thoughts so that they do not become impassioned, and against impassioned intrusive thoughts so that they do not become consent, because then sin is active.

There are many ways to get rid of this horrible state of the dynasty of intrusive thoughts, which creates suspicions, imaginations, hatreds, etc. with the result that there will be great turmoil. Intrusive thoughts are either banished by prayer, work, etc., or cut off by contempt of sensible things. Also, intrusive thoughts disappear with perfect trust in God. "He who always dedicates himself to God, gives rest to his mind," as Saint Isaac the Syrian says. Also, in cases when we are struck by a storm of intrusive thoughts, the prayers of the saints help us. Saint John Chrysostom, interpreting the order given by Christ to the Apostles to bless the house they will enter, says: "Many times we have a war in our thoughts and we are disturbed without anyone bothering us and evil desires constantly rise up. This battle is suppressed by the word of the saints, that is, their blessing, and it brings about much peace within us. The moment they say this, every evil memory and every inappropriate intrusive thought immediately leaves our soul."

That is why the "peace be with all" that the officiating Priest says or the blessing of our spiritual father gives brings peace to our soul. He casts off the devil who causes trouble.

When we do not know how to deal with impassioned thoughts and we leave them undisturbed to do their corrupting work, then carnal revolutions come and various sins are committed. Carnal revolution is also a special activity of the devil. That is, as the holy Fathers say, the devil attacks man, sometimes by applying various intrusive thoughts and sometimes by provoking the flesh, so that pleasure may develop, the mind may be attracted and captured and sin may be committed.

Facing this storm is done with the power of Christ. The cessation of the wind of intrusive thoughts and peace is not the result of good and pious thoughts, but the arrival of divine Grace. As the tempest of the sea ceased with the entry of Christ into the ship, so also the carnal tempest ceases with the entry of Christ into our heart. Therefore, the Christian uses the spiritual means that Christ Himself indicated, namely prayer and fasting. Mainly he invokes God's help with the short and comprehensive prayer, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner."

When the Grace of Christ comes into us, then there is a great peace, everything is peaceful. Man experiences deep and inalienable peace. Even those most prone to carnal transgressions, receiving the Grace of Christ, can feel the deep peace of temperance. A drug stops the pain. Much more, divine grace soothes the flesh and soothes the soul.

Everything that has been set forth so far shows us a great truth. Usually we attack others and go against society. We believe that society is the cause of all the evils that plague us. In difficult times we say that the system, the establishment, the sick society, the bad people are to blame. However, we make a big mistake, because we give society an impersonal meaning and because we see the existence of evil outside of us. The problem is internal. The evil that exists in society is the result of sick people. In other words, sick people make social institutions sick and social institutions make people sick even more.

The problem is not so much the society, the system, the establishment, as the individual. The quest to build society, to change social institutions in the hope that our lives will improve, shows ignorance of the problem. When we have inner peace, then we are not bothered by external stimuli and in this way we help to change society. When we are overwhelmed by intrusive thoughts and passionate situations and have an inner storm, then we suffer and make others suffer as well.

We must make peace, freeing ourselves, with the power of divine Grace, from intrusive thoughts and carnal revolutions and then we will be social people, a source of peace for the world.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.