July 9, 2023

Homily One for the Epistle Reading on the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homily for the 5th Sunday of Pentecost

"For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, 
but not according to knowledge" (Romans 10:2)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou
The Apostle Paul was an Israelite by birth, but after his conversion to Christ he acquired another dimension, since Christianity has a pananthropic and ecumenical character. Of course, the Apostle Paul does not forget his origin, but this national origin does not come at the expense of ecclesiastical life, since above the Fatherland of each one of us is the Church and our real homeland which is the Kingdom of God.

In the excerpt from the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans that was read today in the church, we see that the Apostle has great love for his fellow Israelites, but this does not prevent him from presenting their great spiritual sickness. He writes: "For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge" (Rom. 10:2). The Israelites of their day were very zealous for God, as is shown in their worship and daily conversion, yet this zeal is not zeal with knowledge. This is shown by the fact that while they are ignorant of God's righteousness they struggle to establish their own righteousness and do not submit to God's righteousness. It is terrible to fight for justice to prevail on earth and in the end it is not God's justice, but human justice, which is often associated with injustices.

Zeal for God is a necessary element for spiritual life, because if man is not distinguished by his fervent willingness to obey God's will, then he cannot progress in its implementation. A prerequisite for every success is zeal, the fervent disposition to realize every goal in our life. The same is true of spiritual things. He needs philotimo, spiritual levendia, a fervent disposition.

But this zeal is liable to turn into fanaticism, when it is not expressed with knowledge and love. It is love that gives the right direction to zeal, inspiration. Without love, zeal turns into fanaticism, an intolerance that kills both the zealot himself and his fellow human beings.

When we study the whole life of the Apostle Paul we will find that he had this excellent combination between zeal and love, precisely for this reason he traveled all over the then known world, founded many Churches, guided the Christians with great effort, but at the same time he had great and infinite love for God and people.

On the contrary, his fellow Jews had only zeal, without truth and love, they had zeal without knowledge and therefore they persecuted him, just as Christians are persecuted today. However, the Apostle Paul with this fulfilled faith and life escaped from the cord of his national origin and lived in another perspective, since he was a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

The Apostle Paul was neither a Jew nor a Greek, but a universal man, the man of God. This is also the case with genuine and true Christians. We know that Christ was born in a certain time and place and had a nationality. He wanted to be born in Palestine, not for racist reasons, but because the Prophets and the Righteous of the Old Testament were well prepared and in a better spiritual condition to receive the revealed word, they experienced purification and illumination, and some of them even arrived at deification, but ultimately the work of Christ is pananthropic and ecumenical. Today we need a lot of zeal, but also a lot of love to be real Christians.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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