47 - Faith Like A Mustard Seed, Aug 17, 2014

I Corinthians 4:9-16

Matthew 17:14-23

When the disciples could not heal the boy in this morning’s Gospel, the LORD said, “Bring him here to me!” They obey, and the boy is promptly healed. The demon is driven out.

In the beginning, the world obeyed the LORD’s word and it came to be. “The LORD spoke, and the world came to be. He commanded, and the world stood forth!” (Ps 33:9) The LORD called out to Lazarus who was already dead in the tomb for four days: “Lazarus, Come forth!” Even in death Lazarus obeyed the Word of the LORD and he came forth, raised to life. (Jn 11:43)

The Word of the LORD is all powerful. The LORD speaks and the world comes to be, demons are driven out, the sick are made well, the dead are raised to life. The Word of the LORD is life-creating, healing, liberating. It makes things exist from non-existence. It destroys death and makes alive. To obey the Word of the LORD is to come to life and to be made well in soul and body. Much more than that: it is to be glorified (Jn 17:22) it is to become a child of God (Jn 1:12), it is to become one with God (Jn 17:23). Christ Himself comes to abide in us (Jn 15:7). He becomes our very life (Gal 2:20) and we are made to become partakers of the divine nature. (II Pt 1:4)

This – to be one with God, to abide in Him and He in us, to eat and drink God Himself as our very food and drink so that He Himself is the life we live – this, in fact, is what our ‘deep heart’ yearns for. It’s what we were made for; for, we were made in the very Image and Likeness of God. We were created in the Image of God the Father, which is Christ (Col 1:15); we were clothed in the Glory of God, which is the Holy Spirit. We ourselves were made to be each one of us a Theophany, revealing in ourselves the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God is love. He is love that abides forever precisely because He is Holy Trinity. If we were each one of us created as a Theophany, we were created to show forth this love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that abides forever.

When we therefore obey the word of the LORD, the LORD Himself comes to abide in us, and we abide in Him. We become holy temples of God. On the altar of our ‘deep heart’ we offer a sacrifice of praise continually in thanksgiving, in Holy Eucharist to Him who first loved us and who offered Himself for us that we may live. In this love of God that abides forever, we can ask whatever we will and it shall be done for us, says the LORD. (Jn 15:7)

But if the LORD abides in us and we abide in Him, our food is to do the will of Him who created us, viz., to perfect the work He gave us to do. (Jn 4:34) What might that work be? I think it is the work He gave Adam to do when He placed him in the Garden in order to keep it and to work it. (Gn 2:15) It was the work of being fruitful: (Gn 1:28) that is, bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit in the love of God that abides forever, and in that love to subdue the earth and to have dominion over it so that the earth is filled with the steadfast love of the LORD (Psa 33:5)and exist forever (Wisd of Sol 1:14), ascending from its original goodness to its perfection in the love of God that abides forever.

Of course, Adam did not obey the word of the LORD. The work given him to do in the Garden was not done, and death entered the world. (Wisd of Sol 1:16) Man became fruitful, nonetheless; but in the flesh that passes away, not in the Spirit that is eternal. Perhaps we could say he became fruitful in “carnal desire” (epiqumia) and in the “wisdom of the world that does not know God” (I Cor 1:21) He lived, not in the Life of the Spirit that is centered in the heart (Prov 4:23) and opens onto God. He lived in the desire of the flesh that is centered in the dust and opens onto the darkness of hell.

It was the Second Adam, the LORD Jesus Christ, who in these last days accomplished the work given Adam to do. Like, the first Adam, Christ the Second Adam, too, was “placed in the Garden.” He was placed in the Garden when He finished the work given Adam to do on the Cross and was buried in a new tomb where no man had been laid. (Jn 19:41) He finished the work given Adam to do. He subdued not just the earth but even hell. Hell has now been filled with the light of divine love, which those who hate God experience as the fires of hell. Now, hell no longer has dominion over the Second Adam, (Rom 6:9) and His tomb has become the “font of our Resurrection.”

Those, then, who keep His words and work them so that He abides in them and they in Him subdue not just the earth but hell. Abiding in Christ, they gain dominion even over death. Even if their faith is like a mustard seed, it is of the “finger of God” that casts out demons (Lk 11:20); it is of the weakness of God that is stronger than men, it is of the foolishness of God that is wiser than men, (I Cor 1:25) it is of the Resurrection of Christ because it is of His Cross. With this faith, even if it is small, foolish and weak, they can say to this mountain, be moved, and it will be moved. Nothing will be impossible to them because this faith that is even like a mustard seed is of the LORD Jesus Christ who has destroyed death by His death and given life to those in the tombs. They will ask whatever they will and it will be done for them. But, note well; it will be done for them. It will be done not by them but by the LORD who abides in them because, through their obedience to the word of the LORD’s command, they abide in Him who has subdued the earth by His Holy Cross and gained dominion over death and hell by His Holy Resurrection.

Beloved faithful, the Church is the Body of this Christ who has subdued hell and gained dominion over death. In the doctrines of the Church we come upon the mind of Christ that is wiser than the wisdom of the world; in the prayers and liturgical texts of the Church we come upon the soul of Christ that is stronger than the world; in the sacramental and liturgical structure of the Church we come upon the Body of Christ that has been raised from the dead and ascended to heaven in glory.

Even if we who are disciples of the LORD are not able to cast out demons or move mountains – for example, if the infirmities that beset us in body, or if the dysfunctions, passions and addictions that have taken possession of our soul and enslaved us are beyond our competence – even so we can bring ourselves to the LORD in obedience to His command by bringing ourselves to His Holy Church. For, here in the Church, His crucified, risen and glorified Body, we come into His presence. Christ is in our midst. If we would but obey the word of the LORD given us in His Holy Church, we would put on Christ as a mystical garment, and we would be healed. For, in the Church, our dying for the sake of Christ, i.e. in love for Christ, is the beginning of our coming to life.

If we come to Church and are not delivered from the enslavement of our passions or our addictions that have taken possession of our souls, it’s because our faith is little or not at all, says the LORD.

Faith, says St Maxmios the Confessor, is expressed in obedience to the LORD’s commandments. Little or no faith, then, means little or no obedience to the LORD’s commandments. It is obedience that makes our faith like a mustard seed; powerful even if it is small because it wags, if you will, in obedience to the ‘finger of God’ by which the LORD casts out demons. The LORD says, if you would follow Me, deny yourself, lose your life for love of Me, and take up your Cross. Christ gives us our cross to take up in the ascetic disciplines of prayer and fasting – the flowers of abstinence that grow from the wood of the Cross. “This kind comes out only by prayer and fasting,” means, therefore that it comes out by taking up our Cross.”

Let us work to keep obedience to the LORD’s command and attain to faith like a mustard seed. Let us take up our cross, i.e., pray and fast with our stomachs, but also with our eyes and ears, our hands and feet and our minds, bringing ourselves to the LORD every day, every hour, every minute, so that we would abide in Him and He in us, raising us to life and making us whole in the joy of God’s love that abides forever. Amen.