In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
The disciples asked our Lord a question today in the first reading, brothers and sisters:
“Why could we not cast him out?”
When you read the Scriptures, I’ve told you many times because this is very, very important - read them as if they are speaking to you.
So this is not just a question about why the Apostles could not cast out a demon from the boy.
This is a question about: Why do I feel unhappy? Why do I have trouble with a relationship or with my marriage or with something that makes me sad all the time? Or why can I not do this thing that is good that I know I should do? Or why can I not stop doing this thing that is bad that I know I should not be doing?
The Lord answers all of these questions:
“Because of your unbelief.“
Now, we all believe in God, don’t we? We all say that we believe in Him. We believe in the Trinity, God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And we believe in the Holy Church and that the Church is the Body of Christ. We believe all these things. So how can it be that we still have troubles? Because we believe, don’t we?
Belief is not just knowing something; belief is acting according to what we know. So when we have some difficulty or trouble, it is always because of unbelief.
Now, I don’t mean that if someone runs you over in a car, that it was your unbelief that caused that! But when we have troubles in our hearts, when things are just not right in us, it is because of our unbelief. Always.
This is a fundamental Christian principle that those experienced in living the Christian life know.
Those who have the Holy Spirit abiding in them and have no shred of darkness in them are not upset, disquieted or fearful because of what is happening to them because they’re always in Christ. A hymn sung during the priest’s communion sums it up:
“In everlasting remembrance shall the righteous be, he shall not afraid of evil tidings”
Everything that happens to us that we don’t like, causes us tension in our hearts, makes us angry or does something rile us up -- is because of our unbelief.
So then, the important question is: ‘How can I believe?’ It’s not enough to say, I believe in God, because we still have our troubles. There must be something else. It is to live as the God-Man taught us to live.
I suppose no more perfect example of how we should be, if we live in this way, is from Galatians. We read it today. We always read it for venerable saints. Saint Seraphim of Sarov is celebrated today.
So we read from Galatians:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance”
Now, that’s a recitation of virtues, and they are only words unless we live them. So how can we live them?
That’s the critical question. It’s really the only question that you will need to answer in your life. How can I live according to the Resurrection? Our Lord Jesus Christ was resurrected, and still many are not going to be saved, including those that say they believe in Him. So the Resurrection is not enough. Saying we believe in God is not enough. We must live according to the Resurrection.
And Saint Paul puts it in this way:
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
In this day and age, we have many troubles that are really epidemic: Depression and a feeling of hopelessness and the feeling of not having purpose in our life, and those sorts of things. Why are they rampant? Because we are not living and walking in the Spirit.
And living and walking in the Spirit is always about the other guy. It’s not about us. It’s about our neighbor.
It’s about having the love of God within us reach out to others. Not for something so trite as to say to fulfill the “great commission,” as I was taught years ago as a Protestant; that’s not the reason why we spread our love to others. It’s because the love of God is within us, and we must act as God acts. The result of that is to show people the Gospel, to tell them the Good News, and some of them will indeed come to believe in this Good News. But that’s not the reason why we tell them of the Gospel. It is because of the love that is within us that we do it.
So we have to look to others and care about others. So the Gospel tells us:
“Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another… if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
So what is the law of Christ? It is love. It is to love, and therefore, to know God -- Who is love.
It’s not a list of 37 things we must do. We are to love God, as He has loved us. And in loving Him as He has loved us, we reach out to others. And we’re not envious; we’re not provoking, and we care about people, even those who don’t care about us, even those that would not return our good favor to them.
This is how you obtain belief. This is how you have peace in your soul. To care about others as Christ cared about them.
Because they are all God’s creatures, and we are of the same state as they and have the same needs as they, of the same brotherhood as they. And therefore, if we love God’s creatures, uncritically and unhypocritically, then there will be a peace come to our soul.
When the Apostles asked this question, they didn’t yet understand the fullness of the answer. He gave them one means by which they can have this kind come out when they were saying, Why couldn’t we cast him out. He said, This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting. And the Church tells us, this is not only the demon in the boy but our passions, the things that hold us back, and these things will always make you feel dissatisfied in some way. You might be able to grab certain pleasures, but inwardly there is the dissatisfaction, there is an emptiness in you that searches for God.
We can find God only if we become like God. That’s the Christian teaching, to love as God loves.
If we are not moral, we cannot believe. It’s just not possible.
So if you have any difficulty in your life, anything that you do that you shouldn’t do, or don’t do that you should, or feelings that you wish you didn’t have that just keep coming back like a bad penny, the reason why is because of your unbelief.
And the way to have belief is not to go and read a theological treatise but is to live according to that treatise, and look to your neighbor and care about your neighbor. This is how we gain belief, brothers and sisters.
The Lord said that, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent. “ We know Him by living as He lived. And He lived only caring about His neighbor.
So eternal life, sometimes, I think, seems far away to us because we live in a time when everything is important for a moment and then it’s gone, it’s forgotten. What is incredible news for a day, or a week or a month is forgotten a year from now, and something else equally, supposedly, fantastic replaces it. I think we’re kind of numbed to how important it is to know Jesus Christ. Because we live in an age that doesn’t value things.
The only purpose in life is to know Jesus Christ. If you know Him, that means you live like Him. And then you will have true belief, and then you will truly have peace in your heart.
So, brothers and sisters, if you have some problem in your life, look to your neighbor, not that your neighbor is causing the problem, mind you, but that you are causing the problem because you are not loving your neighbor enough.
May God help us to love our neighbor. Amen.
Transcribed by the hand of Helen. Edited from the Audio version.
Priest Seraphim Holland 2010
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