Homily 4th Sunday After Pentecost

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.  Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory Forever!

          “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof…”  These words of the centurion should be familiar ones to us.  Two of the pre-communion prayers by St. John Chrysostom use a variation on these very words.  These prayers are masterpieces in showing us how to take the Scriptures and apply them to our own lives and how to pray.

          The first prayer begins, “O Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy nor sufficiently pleasing that Thou shouldst come under the roof of the house of my soul, for it is entirely desolate and fallen in ruin.”  St. John has taken the humble words of the Centurion and increased their level of humility.  The Centurion was speaking simply of his own home and his unworthiness as a Gentile and a sinner for the Lord to come to his home….although it must be noted that the Lord was willing to come to the man’s home.  St. John recognizes that now it is not just that we are inviting the Lord to come to our home, but we are inviting the Lord and indeed we have been invited by the Lord Himself, to partake of the body of Christ and to have Him dwell within us.  Even as we have the Holy Spirit dwell within us (as we pray in the O Heavenly King prayer….Come and abide in us), even as we are as St. Paul tells us “Temples of the Holy Spirit” so the Lord Jesus Christ also comes and dwells within us and we become together the Body of Christ.  This is what the Church is, the dwelling place of the Lord.   And St. John, one of our greatest saints, prays, and we pray with him, that we are “not worthy nor sufficiently pleasing” that the Lord should come under the roofs of our souls for they are “desolate and fallen in ruin.” 

          St. John Chrysostom’s prayer continues, saying that in addition to his soul being a home in desolation and ruin, “and Thou wilt not find in me a place worthy to lay Thy head.”   Only a few verses below those that were read today from chapter 8 of Matthew, we hear our Lord telling a scribe who desires to follow Him, “And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”  St. Chrysostom has taken the Lord’s words about this fallen world and the poverty Jesus faced in it for our sake and has applied them to the poverty within himself.  He, and we if we pray his prayer sincerely, recognize that there is nowhere worthy for the Lord to lie down and rest within us.   We note, though, that St. John was not without hope, nor should we be without hope that the Lord will come to us as he continues his prayer, “But as Thou didst humble Thyself from on high for our sake, so now humble Thyself to my lowliness.”

          Our Lord has told us to be humble even as He is humble.  That could be kind of confusing when we think about the fact that Jesus is God in the flesh and He speaks of being God in the flesh and being glorified.  How does that seem to be humble to us?  There can be no greater act of humility, actually, than what the Lord did for us than by becoming one with us, one of us.  The eternal Logos, the second Person of the Uncreated Trinity, the Son of God the Father…equal to the Father in all things and in all power, emptied Himself and took on the form of a servant and suffered and died for us. 

          The Church recognizes that between the Created and the Uncreated…between the material things and God there is an unbridgeable gap….which has been bridged and crossed by the Lord Himself.  If one truly understands the separation of God and His creation, then one can begin to understand how completely astounding this is.  Most of the Jewish people could not make that leap of faith.  They could not conceive of the God of all becoming a man.  They refused to believe it even when faced with the Godman Himself.  The concept of the Trinity has been called a cross for the intellect…it’s not something we can truly comprehend or understand, and yet it is the truth and we accept it.  The same could be said of the Incarnation.  It is too hard to comprehend truly….because it is too wonderful!  It’s too good to be true!  That God would become one of us and raise us up with Himself to the very throne of the Father….words cannot truly capture this glory.  Faced with this astounding truth, though, causes us to either turn away in utter disbelief or to embrace this truth with profound gratitude and humility. 

          It has been said that the closer one gets to the Lord, the more one becomes aware of the distance between the created, us, and the uncreated, God.   The holy ones truly understand how small they are in comparison to God.  A man could perform miracles, heal people, raise them from the dead, levitate, see the future…whatever…and if he were truly enlightened and wise he would know that in comparison to God he is nothing and those deeds are nothing for God to perform through him.  A saint knows not to take credit for the miracles.  He also knows that his holiness is not the cause of the miracles.  It is all up to God because our greatest holiness is as nothing compared to Him.

          And yet… God does not treat us as nothing.  Read the prayers of St. John Chrysostom and we learn again of the great things that the Lord has done for us by His humility in becoming one of us.  We are reminded of the Nativity, “As Thou didst deign to lie in a cavern, in a manger of dumb beasts, so now deign to enter into the manger of my beastly soul, and into my soiled body.”    We are reminded of the forgiving of the sins of the the sinful women, the healing of lepers…and in all of these acts of the Lord we see ourselves.   “As Thou didst no disdain to enter and to eat with sinners in the house of Simon the leper, so now be pleased to enter into the house of my soul, humble and leprous and sinful.  As Thou didst not cast away the sinful woman who came to touch Thee, so have compassion on me a sinner who comes to touch Thee.”  We are reminded of the prophets when St. John likens Christ’s body to the fiery coal that was placed on the lips of the Prophet Isaiah that took away his inquity (Isaiah knew that faced with God he was as nothing).  It is truly a wonderful and astounding prayer, and just as today’s Gospel reading, it resounds with hope which springs from a firm faith and bedrock of humility. 

          The centurion knew that he was an unworthy sinner.  Does he slink away without hope and let his servant suffer because of this?  No, he shows astounding faith in the Lord and His mercy and power despite his unworthiness for the Lord to come to his home.  As I noted before, though, the Lord was willing to come to the man’s home.  The Lord does not hesitate to come to those who need Him.  He humbles Himself every day and every second and comes to dwell within our hearts continually.  His love sustains us all.  He loves us despite ourselves….and St. John’s prayer is full of that hope and faith in Christ’s love.  He (and we) asks the Lord for sanctification, enlightenment, strength of soul and body, relief from the burden of our sins, victory over passion and evil habits.  The list goes on stating boldly the gifts desired and granted by the Lord.  Even in his humility the Centurion was strong in faith and so was St. John and so should we also be.  The humility comes first, and then comes the ability to ask from that humility.  Out of our humility, our imitation of the Lord, will come the Lord’s blessings because of His great love for us.

          “For I do not come to Thee in presumption,” Continues St. John.  We cannot assume that we are due anything.  Once we start expecting things as either a reward or a right, we are not praying but we are demanding things.  One does not make demands of their king.  “For I do not come to Thee in presumption, O Christ my God, but made bold by Thine inexpressible goodness, lest I stray far away from Thy flock, O master, and become caught by the wolf of souls.” 

          We do not presume that God will grant our desires, but we are made bold by God’s goodness.  We are given the faith to accept that God has become one of us and loves us more than we could ever love ourselves.  He knows us from the inside out better than we ever could.  God desires nothing more than to be in communion with us.  The Lord of all creation, the uncreated God of all became and remains one of us as well as God.  He waits for us to allow him into our hearts.  He will not force Himself and He won’t go where He is unwanted.  Sometimes we get too caught up in our own unworthiness and forget the second half of the equation.  Yes, we are unworthy of having God dwelling within us…but that is where He wants to be.  Sometimes we find ourselves distracted by the world and our passions and we don’t even think to ask the Lord in.  We might use the words and say that we want Him, but the insincerity of our requests will keep Him away.

           Let us truly humble ourselves and turn our whole lives toward God.  Let us with gratitude, recognize how much the Lord has humbled Himself and come to us because of His great love for us.  The truth is too good to be true…and yet it is true.  Despite our unworthiness, despite our sins…actually because of our unworthiness and because of our sins, God has come to us and has become one of us in order to bring us up to Him and to have Him dwell within us.  This is no small thing.  This is not something to take lightly and so we do not approach the chalice with presumption, but we do approach with boldness and with humility and most of all with love….because that is how the Lord approaches us.

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.  Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory Forever!



©2009 Fr. Philip Kontos