August 3, 2022

Homily Four for the Seventh Sunday of Matthew - Slandering and Blaspheming the Church (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Slandering and Blaspheming the Church

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

But the Pharisees said, "He casts out demons through the prince of the demons." (Matt. 9:34)

With the healing of the two blind men and the deaf man who was demon possessed, the crowds "marvelled, saying, 'It was never so seen in Israel'" (Matthew 9:33). However, the immediate reaction of the Pharisees to the cures and to the opinion of the people was not to deny the miracles, but to distort them and attribute them to the power of demons, saying: "He casts out demons through the prince of the demons" (Matt. 9:34). This is a serious form of slander that ends up in blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The interpretation that the Pharisees gave of the miracles showed the illness of their soul, it revealed the existence of the evil spirit in their hearts.

The reaction of the Pharisees to the work of Christ is repeatedly seen in the Gospels and that they often misinterpreted them. They did not dare to deny them, but they misinterpreted them, seeking to disorient the people, to turn their attention away from Christ.

Sacred Chrysostom asks: "Could there be a more mindless thought than that?" Because Christ did not only cast out demons, but also healed lepers, raised the dead, calmed the sea, forgave sins, preached the Kingdom of God, led people to His Father. Also, He loved and benefited people, which is something the devil did not do nor cannot do, because he divides, hates, disturbs people. Then, as we see in another cases when the devil encountered Christ, asking: "What do you want from us, Jesus, Son of God? Did you come here to torture us early?" (Matt. 9:29). Therefore we see that the Pharisees are worse than the demons, because they recognize His divinity, while the Pharisees deny it.

The conduct of the Pharisees continues throughout the ages. Christ is constantly blasphemed by people enslaved to their passions. By this we do not mean only the insulting words that one can utter against Christ, but the denial of His divinity. There are some who believe that Christ was a wise man, who taught people to behave properly and socially.

However, the denial of the divinity of Christ and His downgrading to the rank of being a creature, is the greatest slander, the greatest blasphemy against Him and against the Holy Spirit. Christ worked miracles as a God-man. And when we do not believe in the God-manhood of Christ we are not Christians and we become followers of an earthly emotional religion that satisfies our psychological needs.

When Christ is slandered, it follows that the Church is also slandered and blasphemed. As long as the Church is the Body of Christ, within which there is the Holy Spirit, who gives her life, what is said against her results in blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

We will mention two types of slander.

One is when the gifts with which the Holy Spirit graces the members of the Church are questioned. The Apostle Paul writes: "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues" (1 Cor. 15:7-10). Every Christian has a special gift according to the purity of their heart, their faith and the interests both of themselves and of the Church. Whoever denies the gift of another member of the Church falls into the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, Who gives this gift.

More generally, we can say that whoever despises the hesychast life (monasticism-noetic prayer) or whoever rejects any other ministry that takes place in the Church (pastoral activity, missionary work), he shows that he lives a detached life.

After all, according to Orthodox teaching, there is a wonderful coupling between theoria and praxis. Just as the eye must not despise the foot and vice versa, so theoria cannot despise praxis, nor praxis deny theoria. Unfortunately, at this point many mistakes are made by various Christians and this is how ecclesiastical unity is broken.

The other kind of blasphemy is that modern people constantly slander the work that the Church does. There is no such thing as the Church being right. They have to offer a counterpart to everything. They distort everything. They consider it a human organization and they consider even the sacred Canons as "mandates of men". They consider it a social organization that should be consumed in social work. Thus, sometimes they accuse her of not doing social work, while sometimes they question her work that deals with social work. This happens in many cases. Also, others claim that the modern Church has lost its ancient glory.

Despite this, the Church is the Body of Christ. And just as fire does not melt iron but makes it shine, so the Church shines with the Light of Christ. The fact that we cannot see the glory of the Church is because we do not have purity of soul. The "non-liturgized" constantly slander the Church, while the liturgized, the ecclesiastics, feel the Church as the "world of the world", as "the spiritual charity of humanity".

Let's drive away the wickedness. Let's be simple. Simplicity associated with humility will deliver us from the suffering of slander and blasphemy.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.