August 21, 2022

Homily for the Tenth Sunday of Matthew - A Faithless and Perverse Generation (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homily for the Tenth Sunday of Matthew

A Faithless and Perverse Generation

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"O faithless and perverse generation!" (Matt. 17:17)

Today's Gospel reading refers to the healing of the moonstruck young man by Christ. To the words of this young man's father that His disciples could not heal him, Christ replied: "O faithless and perverse generation!" (Matthew 17:17). With this word, Christ connects unbelief with perversion, and by extension faith with the correctness of morals and life.

Indeed, faith is very closely connected with the whole life of man. When one believes in God and adapts to this situation, then both his morals and his social behavior in general are in the right direction. It is not possible for one to believe in God, to accept His teaching, to consider Him as one's creator, who loves Him, to believe that Christ became a man in order to save him, to read Holy Scripture, and not to be permeated in one's life from the gospel word. It is not possible for someone to feel God's love and yet not respond to this love and not love both God and people. Always, what dominates the intellect and heart space of the person is also expressed externally. If, however, a person says that he believes in God, but this does not affect his behavior and external behavior, this means that his faith is anemic, it is powerless.

In the Dogmatics of the Church, there is talk about the relationship between dogma and ethics, or rather between the teaching of the Church, as expressed in the Ecumenical Synods by the Fathers, and ethics, of asceticism. Dogma is theoria and asceticism is praxis. Neither theoria without praxis can be effective, nor can praxis without theoria save man. Saint Maximus the Confessor teaches that faith without works is fantasy and works without faith is idolatry. This is also said by James the Brother of the Lord, when he teaches that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20).

If this happens between faith and works, it certainly happens between unbelief and perversion. Whoever does not believe in God and has no reference to Him, and, therefore, relies on himself and his passions, it follows that they will have perverted morals. When the intellectual part of his soul does not function properly, then also the passionate part of the soul, that is, the incensive and desiring, are affected by the passions and that is why great crimes are committed. Unbelief is connected with the perversion of morals.

Of course, the words of Christ that we observed in today's Gospel reading, "O faithless and perverse generation!", did not refer to unbelief, atheism, but to the lack of faith from theoria (vision), which faith is superior to faith from hearing. Therefore, faith from what we hear about God is one thing and faith from seeing God is another. Thus, when one reaches the theoria of the glory of God, then all the powers of the soul and body are transformed, so that man cannot be influenced by demonic actions. This man is called deified.

However, these words of Christ are also valid for the people of our time, for all of us. We speak of a crisis in our time and limit it to economic, cultural, social and family issues. However, the crisis is spiritual and theological. Many people of our time have moved away from God and the teaching of Christ, they don't pray, they don't go to church, they don't read Holy Scripture, the books of the Fathers and the lives of the Saints. They do not rely on God, but on themselves and their passions. Even when they theologize, outside the ecclesiastical, patristic tradition, they do so through their passions and offer their own "theology of passions". The crisis comes from the perversion of morals and this is caused by unbelief or atheism and hypocritical faith. Man's return to Christ and His Church offers faith and transforms morals.

Christ said to His disciples who asked Him why they could not cast out the demon, among other things, the following: "This kind is not cast out except by prayer and fasting" (Matthew 17:21). Christ cast out the demon with the power of His divinity, the disciples could cast it out with the power of Christ, but they will be able to do it when they pray and fast.

In this answer of Christ, the great value of prayer and fasting can be seen. It is not about autonomous virtues, but about human actions that are done by the Grace of God and offer man great energy, since then man becomes a sharer of Christ's gifts.

Prayer is praise, thanksgiving, confession and supplication to God, it is an offering of all the powers and energies of the human soul to God and, of course, it is a sharing of divine Grace. Through prayer, the human soul is healed, primarily the noetic part of the soul and then all its other energies, such as the intellectual, incensive and desiring. It is about a transformation of the inner world of man, a restoration to its original state. Because all these powers of the soul from the beginning were created to have a direction and impulse towards God, but with sin they lost this original purpose and turned towards creation. Now with prayer this situation is restored.

Fasting is the liberation of bodily energies from enslavement to creation. Just as there are psychic passions (pride, egoism, vanity, etc.), so there are physical passions (gluttony, greed, avarice, etc.). Physical passions show the enslavement of man to creation, to material goods. Thus, fasting manifests man's desire and effort, with the Grace of God, to release himself from this dependence and return the body to its original state, as it was created by God.

The Christian fasts because he wants to gain unity with Christ, to attract His Grace, to be transformed by the Grace of God. Thus, man with Christ-like prayer and fasting is illumined, shines, is transformed psychically and physically, and thus expels the devil and his energies, which devil is a dark spirit and darkens those who are associated with him.

If we want the nous, the soul and the body to be illumined, and to transform our whole existence, to be freed from all psychic and physical dependence, we must pray and fast, with all the theological perspective that our Church sets, and then we will not be counted among the faithless and perverse generation.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.