Freedom from Fear and Darkness

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Freedom from Fear and Darkness
23rd Sunday after Pentecost
23 November, 2008
Ephesians 2:4-10 ; Luke 8:26-39

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Today, we have a very strong lesson about the love of the Lord, and the nature of the love of the Lord. To begin with, the Apostle Paul is telling us that everything we are, in fact, is the result of the love of God (who created us in the first place), and the continuation of the love of God throughout our lives. Our tendency is to boast, as the Apostle warns us against ; and therefore, it is important that we understand that our self-proclamations, self-congratulations and so forth are out of order. Instead, we should be giving glory to God for everything.

This is emphasised today by what our Lord does amongst the Gadarenes for the demon-possessed man. The work of the devil is not related to unity and love. Rather, it is characterised by fear and division. This man (who was demon-possessed) was possessed by fear. He was separated from all who loved him, and whom he loved. We see at the beginning of the Gospel today, that this man is a man of the city. However, he had been so overtaken by fear ; he had become so violent, and so absolutely out-of-focus, that he became completely uncontrollable. We are told that he became so violent that he even broke the chains that were restraining him. There was no way to restrain him. He was driven out of the city, away from all that he loved, into the wilderness where he did not even wear any clothes, and where he was violent, nasty, and a terror to everyone around. He was driven by fear, and out of his mind. He was separated from everyone and everything that he loved.

This is how evil works. Evil works on the basis of fear. It works against unity ; it works for division, and, in fact, for destruction. Every activity of the evil one (as we encounter in today’s Gospel event), is about destruction. When our Lord released this man from the demons, we see that they go into a herd of swine. What happens immediately to the pigs ? They kill themselves. They go absolutely crazy, and they drown themselves. Let us go back to the beginning of the Gospel passage for a moment. Let us remember that God is love, and that the Lord is always acting in love with us. When our Lord is approaching him, the man is crying out : “'What have You to do with me?'” Why does he ask this ? It is because our Saviour had already started to tell the demons to come out. They were resisting. However, our Lord, in His love, without even being asked, has already begun to release this man.

This is how our Lord is with us. He is not waiting for us to beg Him for this and for that. He is already present. He is already there waiting, in His love, in your life and in my life, to release us from the power of darkness, to heal us, and to bring us back into unity and harmony. At the end of this episode today, we see the man who was healed, clothed, peaceful, all in order in the presence of our Saviour, and asking if he could go away with Him, as He was leaving the place of the Gadarenes. However, our Saviour replies : “No”. (It would have been a real blessing for this man to be constantly in the presence of the Lord, with the disciples and apostles.) Why does our Saviour say no ? It is because the whole healing of this man has to occur, and that would not happen if the physical separation from his family were to continue. Instead, the man has to go back to the city, to live amongst the people whom he loves, and who love him. He has to be a concrete, physical, living sign of God’s healing love and what this love accomplishes.

His family, his friends, the people of the city, could in no way pretend that he had not been absolutely (as the British used to say) “stark, staring bonkers”. Now, he is completely whole. He is a regular human being, a “regular chap” – a man capable of being with other people, of being in harmony with other people, in the bosom of his family, reconciled and re-united with them. No-one can deny the contrast. No-one can deny that the Lord, in His love, has acted, and has freed this man from the bond of slavery. The physical chains that were broken by the enslaved man were nothing compared to the chains of slavery and fear that had, in fact, been binding this man. He was held tightly, in a deadly grip, by the power of darkness and the power of death. Our Lord, in His love, now has released him, has set him free, and has reunited him with his family, with his friends, with himself, and most particularly with the Lord. Our Lord has put the man back together.

The Lord is always doing that for you and me, too. It is important for us to remember this. The Lord is Love. He is always present, waiting for us. He is always present, releasing us from our bonds of fear. He is also protecting us and making us whole, as He has made the Gadarene man whole, today. It is crucial that we hold on to this, that we accept this healing love, and that we not let ourselves be driven by fear. Therefore, whenever any of us perceives any hint of suspicion about anyone else (without absolutely concrete proof that there is something wrong between me and another person), it is important that none of us accept that as the truth. These suspicions and these question marks between us that arise from time to time are not from God. They are insinuations brought from below in order to divide us one from another.

How many times in my life have I been hearing one person or another speak about how he or she thinks that someone does not like them any more because of the look on that person’s face this morning. I have had it said about me, too : “What is the matter with you ? Do you not like me any more, Vladyka ?” So I say : “Why ?” They say : “Well, you are looking quite angry”. I have always been surprised at that sort of accusation. I would think to myself : “What was I doing ? All right, my mind was somewhere else, and my face must have gone slack, somehow. Maybe I was staring somewhere”. It looked like an angry look to someone but I had not the faintest notion what they were talking about. I have had much concrete experience of that, and I have heard human beings talk like that. However, sometimes people have an aching foot or hip or knee. Perhaps someone has hurt them, or perhaps someone has died. Perhaps they do not feel well ; they do not communicate normally ; their eyes are not as bright as usual for some reason. All this has nothing necessarily to with me. Rather, it has to do with their interior pain or their physical pain or their sorrow.

If you see someone not looking at you in the right way or not communicating in the usual way, then the thing to do is to pray, and to ask the Lord to protect the person from whatever is making the person look like this. Most likely, it has nothing at all to do with me. Even if it does have something to do with me, it is still not my place to say : “Oh, poor me, he or she does not like me any more”. The right thing to do is to pray, and to say : “I am sorry” (for whatever it is that I did or did not do). We do not habitually say this because we are Canadians, but rather because we are truly and sincerely sorry. We are sorry, even though we may not know specifically what is amiss.

Let us be reconciled with our brother or our sister. That is the way we have to be as Orthodox Christians, because the way of the Orthodox Christian is the way of Christ. The way of Christ is the way of love. It is the way of unity, harmony, and oneness. We here today are not all physically related to each other. However, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. As in every family, sometimes there are occasional things that irritate, such as how a person may squeeze the toothpaste-tube, for instance, or how a person may eat. When someone gets on our nerves for one reason or another, it is important for us to let nothing negative get between us, and to make sure that only the Lord is between us. When we say to each other : “Christ is in our midst”, we actually could say : “Christ is between us”. Then we must always be able to say with our whole heart : “He is, and always shall be”. The way of the Lord is healing, uniting, life-giving love. It is important for us always to guard and protect that healing, life-giving, uniting love in our hearts, always turning to the Lord for His help and protection.

Brothers and sisters, giving thanks for the release of this demon-possessed man, let us also give thanks for the true freedom that the Lord gives to us in His love, and for the true freedom that we have with each other in His love. Let us make sure that we follow the words and exhortation of our holy Father, Elder and Wonder-worker Herman of Alaska, who said, and says always : “From this day, from this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all, and do His holy will”. In doing that we will glorify the all-holy Trinity in every part of our lives : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.