33rd Sunday after Pentecost – Orthodox Homily on What is Faith?

Faith is one of those things that the modern rational mind has such a hard time contemplating. In a society where humanists believe that the scientific method is the end all and be all of what we can ‘know’, of what is ‘true’, faith seems almost quaint, if not irrelevant to many who prefer the calculations that they know to the mysteries that are present but unseen.  

The fact is that in our pridefulness, memorizing mathematical formulas and filling our minds with the humanist dogma that man can achieve all things (if given enough time, manpower, and resources), fuels our egos and feels, well, ‘safer’from a rational perspective than trusting in God for which faith is indispensible, and, frankly, sometimes intangible.  

Ironically, I’d maintain that it takes more faith to believe in the random chance involved in many modern theories on the formation of the cosmos, than it does to believe that God purposefully and lovingly created the universe—there is order in the universe, which suggests, if nothing else, an Orderer.  

I’ve also seen the abyss that some of those who choose to trust in themselves or in science, in humanism, fall into when something in life goes array and the carefully orchestrated sense of false security and secular belief they have surrounded themselves with, comes crashing down around them.  When you lose a loved one to a horrible disease, when depression sets in, when all your self-confidence and prideful egoism is shattered by some human failure, when you lose your job, or when a relationship fails because of sin and brokenness, that person without faith in the living God, is left with nothing.  Indeed, the more secular and godless our society becomes, the more drug and other addictions have risen as well.  The statistics bear this out and it seems to be more than coincidence.  We are made for God, as St. Augustine assures us, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him.  We can fill that void with addictions, drugs, entertainment, vanity, but in the end, it will not satisfy us: our hearts will remain restless.   

The problem is that the more time people spend apart from life in God, clinging to humanism, the harder it is to change our ways, to open ourselves up to His healing and really learn what is real love.  In other words, it’s harder to have faith in God over all those temporal things we otherwise find temporary comfort in. 

Now, faith can be scary.  Faith means relinquishing control.  Our pridefulness leads us to believe that we can “do it on our own” without God, but faith demands that we open ourselves up, become vulnerable towards God, and allow Him to change us, work in our lives, and heal us. In other words, to make Him Lord and Savior and God.  To be healed, to grow in faith, we have to recognize that we are sick, and then, to call out to the only One who is the Gentle Healer of our souls—Christ God our Creator, “the only Lover of mankind.”

Yes, faith is scary, but in a good way: the child learning to ride a bike depends for safety and stability on his father’s firm hold on the seat while peddling.  The child depends on his father being there to catch him and comfort him when he falls.  Likewise, God leads us by the hand.  He is there for us and comes to our aid when we call on Him in prayer.  He hears our voice when we call to Him for help when we are falling.  

Faith is a necessary prerequisite for us to achieve all that God has planned for us in this life and the next.  To learn to have faith, we approach God as a little child, trusting that God will lead us, even as we may doubt or fear.  Step by step, God builds in us, as much as we allow Him to, the characteristics of a citizen of heaven necessary for everyone who wishes to spend eternity in God’s near presence. Otherwise, if we prefer our own way, our own beliefs, or those of our culture, we may find ourselves rejecting His love on that awesome day of His second appearing.  

In other words, faith is more than belief.  Faith is the desirefor more: for healing from our sin-sickness, our spiritual ‘blindness.’  Faith is a desire, a cry of the heart, to come into and walk in the light of Christ, however far we may feel from that light and truth now, befallen with doubts, fears, prideful self-focus, habitual sin, the voice of the humanistic culture, whatever.  Faith is that desire for transfiguration, for accountability and growth in humility—for real progress in the life in Christ.  It is the desire for God to take us forward in faith, in life, in love. 

The blind man in today’s Gospel demonstrates such faith to us:  He is yearningfor God, yearningfor healing.  He will not be silenced.  He drowns out the other voices around him, trying to quiet him, so that Christ God will hear his cry, using the title foretold of the Messiah, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”  Christ does hear his and heals him of his blindness and Christ God will heal us too of our spiritual blindness, wherever it may lie.  

So, ask yourself, where is my spiritual blindness? Where are my greatest needs for healing? Christ, the Great Physician of our souls and bodies, stands more than ready to hear us, to help us, to heal us as He did this blind man who receives His sight in today’s Gospel.  

Lack of faith is not God’s doing, for He desires for all to come to faith and new life in Him. God may confirm what is already in ourselves, but He always desires more for us.  No, it’s our own pride, our rationalism, or egos, our reliance on ourselves, our lack of accountability, our unwillingness to cry out to God, to humble ourselves, to listen to His truth over the din of the culture’s latest additions to its humanistic ‘creed’ that weakens faith. 

Ask yourself: Is there anything in your life you’re afraid to give over to God, to entrust to Him, to give up control of?  I encourage you, urge you, to open your heart, to yearn for more of God, to avail yourself of His life in the Church.  Put Christ and His Church front and center in your life, put Him on the front burner rather than relegating Him to the back where He is simply one voice among many and is often drowned out by our scientific, skeptical, rationalism.  Faith demands courage and humility, but it will open you up to more of God’s healing and strength. 

Cry out to God in your heart like the blind man.  If you find yourself trying to avoid conforming yourself to some aspect of the Orthodox Faith, don’t fear, don’t give up; Humble yourself instead, admit you don’t have all the answers, that you can’t do it on your own.  Our Heavenly Father will take you by the hand and lead you further up and further in His Eternal Kingdom.  

Fr. Robert Miclean
Holy Archangels Orthodox Mission
Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019

Epistle:            Col. 3:4-11
Gospel:           Luke 18:35-43