- Fr. Athanasius Oweis
Who Controls You? - April 3rd 2022
Link to Gospel Reading: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
At that time, a man came to Jesus kneeling and saying: "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able." And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me." And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, "How long has he had this?" And he said, "From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us." And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!" And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again." And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" And he said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting." They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he would not have any one know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
Today’s Gospel highlights the most continuous of fights. It is always the fight between what we see and what we don’t see. Between what seems true, and what is actually true. The fact of believing ourselves, and our senses, and believing what is higher than our senses, believing in Him who gave us the senses. Today I will discuss three main themes (of many) in today’s Gospel. The state of the Father, and the state of the son, and the relationship between them.
State of the Father
This man was in torture, because no one can bear seeing his son being tortured. He tried everything you can think of. He even went to the disciples of Him whom all the people follow and they say that He does miracles, Jesus. And nothing worked. This man is in a classic case of despair. Can you blame him?
Despair is a reality of the fallen world that we live in. All people at one point in their life face the reality that they are helpless, they can do nothing by themselves. They want to change their situation, but it is beyond their power or their means. It happens to the people who are away from God, and it happens even to the people of God and the highest of saints. The Bible is filled with stories of men of God who were depressed from despair. Jacob suffered from despair after he thought his son Joseph was dead. David suffered from despair during his flee from Saul. However, when somebody who is away from God faces this, this turns into a slippery slope of hopelessness and depression that leads even to suicide. As for the people of God, Saint Paul who knows what despair is, puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 1: (8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.”
Do you see how much despaired he felt, now, what was his response as someone who is a child of God ” 9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us “
The father was suffering from despair… The father was the one who was really healed… Because his faith was restored, and now he can live his life again.
The State of the Son
Demonic Possession does not happen overnight, it is gradual, and in life we are either going in one of two directions, right or left.
The Right Direction
Right is where we are gradually living a life of repentance and healing from our sicknesses through the liturgical life of the Church. In this direction, the love of Christ in our hearts keeps growing, and every step in the way we surrender a room in our heart to Christ, until we have nothing in our hearts that does not belong to Christ, we are more and more obsessed by the love of Christ, and this is the level that the saints reach. Which the psalmist summed up as: “With you, I need nothing on earth”, “Taste and see how the lord is good”
The Left Direction
The other direction is left where someone is more and more possessed by their own passions that are provoked by the evil one, and slowly they are surrendering all of the rooms in their heart to the evil one until he takes over and possesses the person completely, as in the case of this son.
What are we possessed with
However, the Gospel today is serving a severe warning to us: Demonic possession is not a binary process, somebody is either possessed or not possessed, but if we do not fight against our own passions, they possess us. They control us. They through us on the ground helpless, they make words that come out of our mouth that we have no control of. They throw us in the fire of anger, and in the water of selfishness..
The Big Question
Today’s Gospel is asking you: What are you possessed with in your life that you feel helpless towards? What controls you? If you tried over and over and over again, do not despair, because Christ will heal you. He might not heal you immediately, but he will heal you. He might allow you to suffer for a long time, but you are being healed in the process. Do not allow a place in despair in your heart, because everything is in His hands, everything in His power, He is the only one who can command, not you, not anyone else. Only He can say the words: “ I command you”. Believe in Him, and He will heal your senses, and strengthen your spiritual senses, which the fathers of the Church call “The Nous”, and will shatter the despair, and fill you with hope, so you might believe and live a true life with Christ towards true victory, where all passions are gone.
May God restore to our hearts all the hope that we need to continue in our spiritual fight through the intercessions of the Theotokos and of Saint Basil and all the saints. Amen.