March 24, 2019

Sermon – The Second Sunday of Lent 2019


Pastoral Sermon
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
The Second Sunday of Great Lent
March 24, 2019

In the reading of today’s Epistle we hear St. Paul say: We must pay more
careful attention, therefore to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
There are many distractions in our lives today that can very easily cause us to
“drift away” from our focus upon God. Preserving and cultivating the values that
are important to our spiritual life are increasingly difficult in our day. These
distractions pertain to what consumes our time and resources; what preoccupies
our thoughts, our vision and hearing.

One of the reasons why the Church presents Great Lent to us as a discipline
is to prevent us from being misguided by any notion of presumption and
complacency. Presumption leads to pride, arrogance; being judgmental.
Complacency leads one to slothfulness, neglect and procrastination. A humble
person is not presumptuous and prayer is not a substitute for complacency.
Humility is not exhibited in flamboyance but is practiced with modesty.

With this in mind, Great Lent also helps us to recognize that God calls us to
act responsibly. Being honest and responsible; accepting responsibility for our
choices and actions is the first step to a healthy spiritual life; not to mention the
practice of good health.

St. James’ Epistle can be very helpful with our discipline. In the first
chapter (verse 19) we hear – “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone
should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s
anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:26 – “If
anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his
tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”

Do you fast? Is fasting difficult? Have you considered self control, silence
or “biting your tongue” as a kind of fast?

The verse of the Epistle of St. James continues: “Religion that God our
Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in
their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Doing what we can to help others – when it is within our ability and our
means to do so is sound religion that is without hypocrisy. St. Gregory Palamas
(who is among later Saints of our church) is commemorated on this, the second
Sunday of Great Lent. He along with many other Church Fathers (and Mothers)
teach us a tradition of prayer that is neither stagnant nor passive. For example, he
says, “Union with God is achieved by the practice of virtues and communication
with Him through prayer.” We tend to forget that the practice of prayer does not
mean inaction or being passive. St. Gregory clearly states: “When we sit down,
when we walk, when we eat, we can always pray inwardly…”

Today’s reading of the Gospel illustrates the faith of the men who carried
the paralytic, to extent of even making an opening in the roof in order for the man
to be healed by the Lord. It was the action and faith of those who assisted the
paralytic who did what was within their power to help the man who needed
healing. They contributed to the paralytic’s healing. In a sense, they were
intercessors. They participated in helping him to get well. They did what they
could to assist in his recovery.

Moreover, we tend to think of learning as something that is achieved in
classrooms. Well, even educators today know that repetition; interaction,
participation and involvement are among the best means of learning. This was
always a part of our didactic tradition.

Conditioning ourselves through the various means provided by the
discipline of our church are among the most successful ways of learning. Our
Biblical prayer language helps us to make what we read in scripture something
that becomes more than a way of thinking; it becomes a way of life. It helps us to
form a healthy attitude. It shapes our hearts and minds and restructures our way of
communicating. We guard ourselves from being hypocritical if our words of the
prayers we address to God are inconsistent with the words and ways of
communicating with others.

Let us work with the body and pray with the soul. Let the outer person perform
bodily tasks, and let the inner person be entirely dedicated to the service of God,
never abandoning spiritual prayer… This practice of inner prayer tames passions as
Daniel tamed the wild beasts. By it the dew of the Holy Spirit is brought down upon
the heart, as Elijah brought down rain on Mount Carmel. This mental prayer reaches
to the very throne of God and is the light, which illuminates man’s soul and inflames
the heart with the fire of the love of God (St. Gregory Palamas; On Prayer and Purity
of Heart).