July 21, 2019

Sermon – The Fifth Sunday of Matthew 2019

Pastor’s Sermon
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
July 21, 2019

Each time we pray The Lord’s Prayer we conclude saying, “…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” “Evil” is correctly translated: “The Evil One.”

The most important thing concerning today’s Gospel lesson is not the focus upon the presence or the power of evil in this world. Instead, our attention must be upon our choice to acknowledge 1) God’s presence in our life, 2) know how He has equipped us with all that is necessary to be protected form evil, and 3) to be prepared with: discernment and good judgment against all the forces of evil.

In our day and age what was once “common sense,” is now uncommon. Today, what is sensible is no longer common.

In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul writes: Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness… (Ephesians 5:8b-11a). He then continues in saying, Be very careful then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:15-17). It is significant to note that this passage immediately precedes our epistle reading in the Wedding Sacrament where a man and a woman is instructed to submit to each other “out of the reverence of Christ;” for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her.

We are empowered and protected by the sign Cross. It is the means by which we guard ourselves from all forms of evil. We do not speak of these things in terms of superstition. We regard them as spiritual realities and must be cautious about what we find enticing, being very aware of what can become controlling of our will to the degree that we become callous about evil and eventually disregard all that we know in our right mind to be good.

The perpetuation of a wrong “systemic behavior” can be difficult to
overcome. This is because change is a struggle from the familiarity with what a person is accustomed to, or grown comfortable with. Very often, this leads to an acceptance of the conditions and behavior. “Well, that’s just the way I am!” becomes the rationale.

Notice that in the Gospel account of the demoniac in the “country of the Gergesenes,” after the men were freed from demonic possession there was fear among the herdsmen of the region. The gospel records: “They fled, and going into the city they told everything, and what had happened to the demoniacs… The city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their neighborhood.” It was very apparent from this account that the forces of evil had pervaded and prevailed in the lives of the people of the region.

What are the ways that we can protect ourselves from becoming callous and God forbid, reprobate in our lives: our way of thinking, and our behavior?

Our concern should be in guarding and protecting ourselves from all evil. This involves our vigilance in spiritual preventive care. We must remain alert by avoiding what are mentioned in the church’s prayers of exorcisms:

“the spirit of error” (lies, untruths, distortions, delusion, fraud)
“the spirit of guile” (devious and cunning behavior)
“the spirit of idolatry” (anything that replaces God in one’s life)
“of every uncleanness” (physical, intellectual and emotional)

One other aspect in the church’s prayers of exorcisms concerns evil “of every concupiscence”: In its broadest definition, concupiscence is any yearning of the soul for good. In its strict and specific meaning that pertains to the prayers of deliverance, concupiscence is a desire of one’s lower appetite contrary to reason. The object of the “appetite” is the gratification of the senses; whereas, the object of the concupiscence with regards to good aspirations pertains to the entire human nature and consists in the subordination of reason to God, its supreme good and ultimate end.

On the other hand the lower appetite is of itself unrestrained, so as to pursue sensuous gratifications independently of the understanding and without regard to the good of the higher faculties. Hence desires contrary to the real good and order of reason may, and often do, rise in it, previous to the attention of the mind, and once raised, dispose the bodily organs to the pursuit and solicit the will to consent, while they more or less hinder reason from considering their lawfulness or unlawfulness. This is concupiscence in its strict and specific sense [definition from: A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy].

On the contrary: truth, honesty, good company, a clean and spiritually edifying environment atmosphere, being mindful and reminded of God’s presence and positive reinforcement is the antidote to what is mentioned above and is the means of preventive spiritual care from harmful and averse behavior.

Prayer

O Master, Lord the Father of compassions and the God of all comfort, bless, sanctify, guard, strengthen, fortify, Thy servants from the Evil One and keep us vigilant in good works. Guide our President, all civil authorities, our armed forces and the leaders of all peace loving nations; protecting this nation, and every sovereign nation from all foreign invasions, and treasonous acts, granting us all peaceful times that we in their tranquility may lead a calm and peaceful life in all godliness and sanctity; for blessed is Thy Name and glorified is Thy Kingdom: of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; now and ever and unto ages of ages. A-men.

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