21 October OS 2018 – Saturday of the 5th Week of St. Luke; St. Hilarion the Great; St. Christodoulos of Patmos; Holy Martyr Ursula of Cologne
The reading from the Holy Gospel today is Luke 7: 1-10.
At that time, Jesus entered into Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this: For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.
What prevents us from having the great faith of the centurion? Here is a man who was a pagan, not a member of the Church of the Old or the New Testaments, and he had sufficient faith in the Lord Jesus that he believed that all He had to do was to speak and the servant would be healed. We the baptized, the people of the New Israel the Church, who belong to Christ through being purchased by His own blood, should we not have such complete and lively faith?
One reason we do not have such faith is that we do not ask for it! Here is Christ, the Giver of all good gifts, waiting to give us spiritual gifts – the gift of prayer, the gift of courage in temptations, the gift of peace in the midst of troubles, and so forth – but usually we confine ourselves to asking Him to give us outward things, or we do not ask for anything at all.
Why do we not ask? This is related to a deeper reason that we lack faith: Secretly or unconsciously we have a mechanistic and deterministic view of the universe, in which things just happen according to impersonal laws or material circumstances, and we are just “stuck.” Our faith is a psychological prop, a comforting thought system, not a lived reality. We are all closet materialists to some degree, not in our stated philosophy of life but in our hearts.
When do people usually come to real faith? The disagreeable truth is that we come to deep, profound faith, real trust in God, when something so big and terrible happens, or when so many smaller bad things happen at the same time, that our life feels out of control, and we are forced to turn to God as the last resort…or despair. Sadly, many people today choose despair. They call it realism, but, as Soren Kierkegaard said, one characteristic of despair is precisely that it does not know that it is despair.
Let us not wait for the “big wake-up call” but rather wake ourselves up, make earnest prostrations, and beg on our knees for absolute Faith in the One Who made us and redeemed us. Let us ask for new eyes to see the universe and this earth and the lives of the people around us and our own lives as they really are in the eyes of God: a tiny, extremely manageable world, where the Infinite One works His sovereign will for our salvation in the blink of an eye prior to taking us into eternity. Now that is realism.
Glory to Thee, O Lord! Glory to Thee!