A HOMILY FOR THE TWENTY-FOURTH
SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
About Not Despairing of Our Salvation
Brothers and sisters!
In today’s Gospel reading we heard about two wonderful miracles worked almost simultaneously by the Lord Jesus Christ: the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead and the healing of the woman with an issue of blood. Jairus’ daughter was still alive when the father came to beg Jesus to heal her, and the Lord agreed to go to Jairus’ house. The crowd, however, thronged Christ and made it difficult for Him to get there. Amid the swirling mass of people was a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years and had spent all her money on physicians, but without receiving any help. This woman slipped in behind Jesus, touched the border of His garment, and was healed immediately. When she saw that she could not hide from the Lord, she came forward, with fear and trembling falling down before Him, and admitted that it was she who had touched Him. She proclaimed before all the healing, and Christ did not reproach her for her boldness, but rather spoke calming words to her, saying, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace. Then the Lord went on to raise up Jairus’ daughter, who had died in the meantime. Before doing so, Christ assured the father and the others that they had but to fear not and believe only for the maiden to return to life.
Dear brothers and sisters, as a spiritual father, I can testify that many of you really do strive to please God and save your souls. You pray at home, attend the divine services regularly, support God’s temple, give generous alms to the poor, strive to overlook the faults of others, confess, and partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. In a word, you try to live as the Holy Orthodox Church teaches. Yet some of you frequently become afraid and worry that nothing you do is pleasing to God, and you imagine that it is almost impossible for you to be saved. Worse, you drive yourself to despair over the matter to such an extent that at times you are almost ready to throw over all your struggles for salvation.
You must realize that such an unsettled, tortured state of soul is hardly pleasing to God. Our God is boundless Love, Kindness beyond measure. He is an abyss of mercy, an infinite ocean of compassion. All that we do for His sake is pleasing to Him. He accepts our every offering, however modest. He remembers every word we utter in praise of Him; He hears every thought beseeching Him; He sees every tear shed in remembrance of Him and His immeasurable condescension on our behalf. When we stand before Him and utter the simplest of prayers -- “Lord, I have nothing to offer Thee, for I am a sinful man, a weak, poor sinner” -- He is greatly pleased with us. So, why are we torturing ourselves about saving our souls, when we are already in the process of being saved? Should we not rather trust in Him, and repose in His mercy?
I will not hide from you the reason why we are tortured by despondency over our salvation. It is because we become forgetful of what we know, and lapse into thinking that we must save ourselves unaided, that we must attain the Kingdom of heaven solely by our own efforts: that our good deeds must of themselves suffice to win for us eternal blessedness. It is in this light or, better to say, in this darkness that we view our life, our deeds. This being the case, it is no wonder that we feel, that we convince ourselves that we are far from the Heavenly Kingdom; that we are unworthy of salvation and unfit for it. Hoping totally in ourselves, yet aware of our inadequacy, we are tortured in heart, for the person who trusts only in himself and not in God cannot know spiritual tranquility; he cannot know the peace only Christ gives.
This is why we must never trust in ourselves, in our powers, in our efforts. We are not our own saviors. Our Saviour is Christ the Lord, and we are saved by His help, by His mercy. Of course, as human beings, as creatures endowed with spiritual capacity and free will, as Christians, we must labor according to our calling; we must labor earnestly for our salvation. But the only one who can save us is Jesus Christ. Why then do we torment ourselves with doubts and allow ourselves to be tempted by despondency, or even the despair that urges us to throw away everything, when everything in the end depends not on us, but on Christ? Is it possible that Christ is too weak to save us if He wishes? Is it possible that Christ desires our salvation less than we do? He came down from heaven for our salvation. He poured out His blood on the Cross for our salvation. Everything He did on earth was for our salvation. If then, we have such an Intercessor for our salvation before the Father, why do we allow black thoughts and feelings concerning the matter to overwhelm us?
And so, dear Christians, do your best to live according to the teaching of Christ, the teaching of His Holy Church, the Orthodox Church, and be at peace. Labor earnestly, with a pure, sincere heart before God, and do not fear, do not become despondent, do not despair. Await with good hope salvation from Christ Jesus, through His help and by His mercy. Fear not, dear Christians, fear not; but believe only and your souls shall be saved. Amen.