Daily Devotional for August 13-19
Healing of the possessed men Matthew 17:14-23
OSB Commentary: Sickness in Scripture is often connected to demonic activity. By kneeling, this father shows humility, but he lacks faith. While the disciples also lacked faith (v. 20), Christ rebukes the man for placing the blame on the disciples when it was his greater lack of faith that prevented the boy’s healing. In effect, Jesus defends His disciples in front of the multitudes but later rebukes them privately., teaching us that we ought first to correct people in private. St. John Chrysostom notes this rebuke is directed at the nine disciples who could not cast out the demon, whereas “the pillars” of faith— Peter, James, and John (Gal 2: 9)— were not included in the rebuke, as they had been on the mountain with Christ . This kind (v. 21) refers to all powers of darkness, not simply those that cause a particular illness. The banishment of demons requires faith ., prayer, and fasting (v. 21), for there is no healing and no victory in spiritual warfare without all three. Beginning with the Didache, the Fathers have taught that both the person in need of healing and the person performing the healing must believe, pray, and fast. .Jesus predicts His death and Resurrection a second time (see 16: 21) to show that He is going to His Passion freely and not being taken against His will.
This week passages will be from St. Nikolai’s ‘Prologue’
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (John 17: 16).
Christ the Lord is not of this world, but rather is only in the vesture of this world. This is the Commander clad in the clothing of a slave in order to save the captive enslaved by sin, matter and Satan. As is the Commander, so are His soldiers. Even they, according to the spirit, are not of this world: they are not captives but free; they are not slaves but masters; they are not corruptible but immortal; they are not fallen but are saved. Such are all those whom Christ recruited and who, having tasted immortal life, willingly rejected the world and united themselves with Him, remaining faithful to Him until the end of their lives on earth. Abba Moses said: “No one can enter the army of Christ if he is not totally as fire, if he does not abhor honors and comfort, if he does not sever all bodily desires, and if he does not keep all of God’s commandments.” Judas was recruited, but he fell away and loved prison more than the royal court, slavery more than freedom, corruption more than immortality, and destruction more than salvation. But the other apostolic recruits, greater and lesser, remained faithful to Him to the end and achieved victory— that is why they are glorified both on earth among men and in heaven among the angels. All who are glorified by the world perish with the world, but those who are glorified by Christ are saved by Christ. The glory of the world is death, but the glory of Christ is life— life eternal and without death.
Thy will be done, in earth as in heaven (Matthew 6: 10). Blessed be John the Baptist, for he fulfilled the Gospel before the arrival of the Gospel! Going into the wilderness, he gave himself up completely to the will of God, both body and soul. The will of God was carried out in his body on earth as well as in the heaven of his soul. Neither hunger nor wild beasts did harm to his body throughout the many years that he spent in the wilderness. His soul was harmed neither by despair in loneliness nor by pride in heavenly visions. He sought neither bread nor knowledge from man. God granted him everything that was necessary for him, because he gave himself up completely to the will of God. He directed his footsteps neither into the wilderness nor away from the wilderness. An invisible rudder from on high steered his life. For when it was necessary for him to depart from the wilderness and go out to meet the Lord, it is said: The word of God came unto John (Luke 3: 2)…How tenderly and simply he speaks about heavenly things! How terrifying like a lion he is when he speaks out against the injustice of men, against Herod and Herodias! The lamb and the lion dwell in him together. Heaven is as close to him as a mother is to her child. The will of God is as accessible and clear to him as it is to the angels in heaven.
On one of the stones in the Church of St. Sophia, the following words were engraved: “Wash your sins, not just your face.” Whoever entered this glorious church read this inscription and remembered that the Christian Faith requires of him moral purity: purity of the soul, purity of the heart and purity of the mind. Inasmuch as the complete spiritual man is concentrated in the heart of man, the Lord also said: Blessed are the pure in heart (Matthew 5: 8). Total external cleanliness does not help at all in gaining the Kingdom of Heaven. Oh, if only we would invest as much effort in washing ourselves from sins as we invest daily in washing our faces, then God would truly be seen in our hearts as though in a mirror!
When the Lord foretold to His disciples that they would all deny Him and flee, then Peter, confident in his stability, cried out: Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended (Matthew 26: 33). Discerning his very heart and seeing him already fallen into self-conceit and pride, the Lord responded to him: This night, before the cockcrow, thou shalt deny me thrice (Matthew 26: 34). And when such a fall happened to the apostle in the immediate proximity of the Lord, why would it not happen to us? This is why, brethren, when we rise and turn from a certain sin and stand erect, we should ascribe this to the power and mercy of God and not to ourselves, and we should be very vigilant to protect ourselves and implore God that we do not fall again, be it to one side or the other, but walk on the upright path of the Lord.
Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth (I Corinthians 10: 24). This is the principle of the saints of God, both now and in the past, always and forever. This is the principle on which society is built. Upon this principle can be established the most perfect, most God-pleasing and most prosperous human society. This is the saving principle for every type of difficulty, against which contemporary men struggle without victory and without hope. The holy soul is concerned with where the homeless will spend the night, how the hungry will be fed, how the naked will be clothed. The holy soul is concerned, and prays to God that his neighbors be saved; that their hearts be filled with love toward God; that their minds be directed toward God; that the wicked turn from the path of wickedness; that those wavering in the Faith be strengthened; that those who are strengthened be sustained; that those who have died see the face of God; and that the living be written in the Book of Life in the Kingdom of Light. But beware, brethren, and see how the destructive and antisocial principle of the devil can be phrased in like manner, word for word. This principle of the devil says: No one should look to his own body to preserve it in purity from sin, but rather everyone should look to the bodies of others in order to ruin and destroy them. No one should look to his own soul to see how to save it; rather everyone should look to the soul of someone else in order to blacken it, to curse it, to impoverish it and to destroy it. Let no one look at his house in order to build it and renew it; rather, let everyone look at the home of another in order to burn it and demolish it. No one should look at his granaries in order to fill them; rather, one should look at the granaries of others in order to steal from them and empty them. Behold, brethren, how this principle can be a principle either of good or of evil; it is a sharp two-edged sword, an angel or Satan.
Vanity over clothing is taking on a particular momentum in our time. He who has nothing else of which to be proud, becomes proud of his attire. Yet he who has something more costly than clothes of which to be proud, does not become proud. Just as gold is not found on the surface of the earth, so it is that the spiritual worth of a man does not show outwardly. It is said that a certain distinguished philosopher saw a young man who took pride in his clothing. He approached the young man and whispered in his ear: “The same fleece was previously worn by a ram; nevertheless, he was still a ram!” To be a Christian and to display pride in clothing is more insane than to be an emperor and to be proud of the dust under one’s feet. While St. Arsenius wore clothes of gold in the royal court, no one called him Great. He was called Great only when he unselfishly gave himself over completely to God— and dressed in rags. (from the Reflection January 9)