July 10, 2023

Homily Two for the Fifth Sunday of Matthew (St. Luke of Simferopol)

On the Healing of the Possessed Gadarene

5th Sunday of Matthew
By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on July 25, 1948)
“Having summoned the twelve, he them gave power and authority over all demons and to heal diseases, and sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and heal the sick” (Luke 9:1-2).

Have you ever thought about the fact that the Lord sent His disciples not only to preach, but also to heal the sick. If so, if along with preaching He set the great work of healing diseases, then this work is one of the most important human works. After all, he didn’t say: “Preach the Gospel and teach how to arrange state and public life,” not a word about this. He commanded them to heal the sick. He appointed two things for them: he put the medical business along with the great work of preaching the Gospel. Why is it so, why did our Lord Jesus Christ Himself give so much emphasis and attention to the healing of the sick and the demon possessed and the resurrection of the dead? Why did He command His disciples to heal the sick?

Because sickness is the greatest sorrow of mankind. There are many terrible and painful diseases that completely distort a person’s life, prevent him from living and acting, plunging him into boundless sorrow, into melancholy, tears and despondency. But God is merciful and commanded all of us, first of all, to do deeds of mercy, deeds of love. The healing of diseases is the first of such works of mercy: it is a manifestation of our love and compassion for unfortunate sick people.

Blessed is that doctor who takes up the study of medicine not for profit, not for a well-fed life, but out of love for the sick, out of compassion for them, out of a desire to alleviate their bitter lot. Blessed is he, for he does one of the two things to which the Lord sent his disciples.

How, however, could these simple people, the fishermen of Galilee, who had no learning in anything, did not know anything, heal the sick, even cast out demons? This is mysterious, incomprehensible, but the fact is that people who never studied healed all diseases. And our doctors, who have studied a lot, know a lot, are able to heal far, far from all diseases. How could they heal, how could they cast out demons from the possessed, how could they even raise the dead? This is difficult for non-believers to understand, and since it is difficult to understand, they dismiss the difficult question by saying that it is a fable. Yet it happened! The holy apostles healed all diseases, healed the possessed. How and by what means? They healed not with medicines, not with surgical operations - they healed the sick in the name of Christ.

How is it possible to heal the sick in the name of Christ? It is possible, quite possible. You need to know that modern medicine the more and more comes to the conclusion that the nervous system, controlled by the brain and spinal cord, not only manages the normal life of a person, but also his entire pathological life. And all our diseases are in the closest causal connection with our nervous system. Today's medicine is increasingly looking for and finding the roots of diseases in the nervous system, primarily in the brain.

This is very, very important: if the nervous system, if the brain is in charge of all disease processes, then it means recovery - from the nervous system, from the brain, from its perception and influences on it. This is the belief of modern scientific medicine.

And in the last century, the famous psychiatrist, French professor Charcot wrote a book about the role of faith in the healing of the sick. Striking facts are known even in our time, indicating that even the death of a person can be caused by an impulse from the brain, can be caused by self-hypnosis. A young woman decided to commit suicide. She poured a large dose of arsenic into a glass of water, drank this water and died instantly. Arsenic does not instantly kill. The study of the corpse did not give any indication of the objective causes of death: the body of the deceased was in perfect order, all organs were healthy. No cause for death was found in her body. Two glasses were found in the suicide's room: one with the remains of pure water, the other, full, with arsenic. She drank clean water by mistake and died.

Is this not an example of how our brain, by suggestion and self-hypnosis, can influence not only the course of the disease, but even cause death. And if so, if the influence coming from the brain could interrupt life, then such influences can also heal the sick, as is proved by countless miracles during the discovery of the relics of Seraphim of Sarov and many miracles at Lourdes. If so, then why not admit that the name of Christ, that the great power of Christ, the boundless faith in Christ could heal all diseases, when the holy apostles invoked on the sick and demon possessed the name of Christ?

The power of Christ is a very real power. You heard in the Gospel that once, when He was in a crowd of people, an unfortunate bleeding woman secretly approached Him and touched His clothes in deep confidence that one touch would heal her. Then the Lord stopped, looked back and asked, “Who touched Me?” The disciples were surprised: “How, Lord, do You ask who touched You: the people are pressing You from all sides?” “No, someone touched Me, for I felt the power that went out of Me” (Luke 8:42-46; Mark 5:24-31).

He felt the spiritual power that emanated from Him and healed the unfortunate bleeding woman. He also gave this Divine power, the power of His Holy Name, to His apostles, and with this power they worked miracles, with this power they cast out demons, with this power they resurrected the dead.

You have now heard the Gospel narration about the healing of the demon possessed Gadarene. What can we say about this story? Well, does it refer only to that ancient time when there were many demon possessed, when the people did not doubt the existence of demon possession, when Christ and His apostles cast out demons? And isn't this a fable, as all unbelievers think?

No, no, this is not a fable. And just as there were demon possessed during the earthly life of the Lord Jesus, so to this day there are many, many demon possessed among us. True, not as terrible as the possessed Gadarene was.

Who are the possessed? Why and for what purpose did the Lord perform an amazing miracle of healing a demon possessed man, in which a whole legion of demons lived, possessing inhuman strength, breaking iron chains? In order to show the most striking example of demon possession, to show that even this possessed one was healed by the power of Christ, although this was the most terrible manifestation of demon possession.

But you know that in nature in general, as in human life, along with bright manifestations of various physical and spiritual forces, there are many, many smaller, much smaller, barely noticeable manifestations of the same forces. You know that all natural phenomena are arranged in degrees. You know that grains of quartz and fragments of granite are the same as huge mountains, the same as the highest peaks of the Himalayas, the Cordillera and the Andes - this is the same granite, the same quartz, only in a small, small size. There are ciliates and bacteria that are invisible to the naked eye and detectable only with a microscope. Along with them there were huge, monstrous dinosaur lizards, Diplodocus.

Do you know people who always lie, lie endlessly, never say a word of the truth! Are they not possessed by an unclean spirit of lies, by the power of the one whom the Lord called the father of lies, the devil? And when you see a violently depraved harlot, will you not then say that she is possessed by a demon of fornication? Those robbers, bandits who kill dozens of people for the purpose of robbery, who are capable of slaughtering a baby, aren't these people possessed by the demons of bloodthirstiness, the demons of murder, the demons of violence? These are all demoniacs: there are many, many of them among us.

Are we far from them? No, not far. We are all infected with pride, ambition, vanity, envy. And what's that? This is also an obsession with demons of pride, ambition, envy. There are many demon possessed people to this day, and there are many among us, only not like the demon possessed Gadarenes, but still possessed by demons.

What to do, how to be? We must fight with all our might against the demons that live in us. Oh yes, we must, we need to fight, and the Lord showed us how to fight demons. He said: "This kind is driven out only by prayer and fasting" (Matt. 17:21). Remember this. The holy apostles cast out demons by prayer and fasting, they cast them out in the name of Christ.

What happened at the same time? The holy and great spirit of the apostles, burning with love for the Lord Jesus and faith in Him, instilled in the weak spirit of the sick and possessed. How did it move in? It can be quite simple, because the human spirit is similar to incorporeal spirits, it is only a spirit less powerful than these incorporeal spirits, but it is of the same nature and is related to them, akin: it is capable of communication and unity. And therefore the spirits of malice in heaven can inhabit the spirit of sinful people and take possession of them.

You know the phenomenon of hypnosis: the hypnotist, by his will, paralyzes the will of the lulled person and can force him to do whatever he pleases. And these decrees are executed exactly after suggestion in a state of hypnosis. In the same way, the will of demons enters into the hearts of sinners and controls and torments them. Then the sinners do the will of the demons.

We must defend ourselves against this, defend ourselves by the means that were indicated by Christ - fasting and prayer. But we must delve deeper into how to understand these words of Christ. Does this mean that it is enough to pray in the morning and in the evening, go to church and keep the fasts established by the Church in order to achieve the goal? No, it doesn't. Fasting must be understood immeasurably broader: fasting must be abstinence from all the passions and lusts of the flesh, from everything that pleases it, by which it opposes the spirit.

To fast means to renounce oneself, from the pleasures of the flesh and one's spirit, it means to be a servant of the will of God. And the prayer that can cast out demons must be bottomless, deep, uninterrupted prayer, as the saints prayed. It must be imbued with the deepest repentance. If a person denies himself, takes up his cross and follows Christ, if he constantly prays, then he will gain power over demons. Demons will not dare to inhabit his spirit: they can only inhabit an unclean place, they cannot inhabit a holy place.

Let us, who are far, far from the image of the saints, always be pure, let us always fast, always pray, and then there will be no access for demons in our hearts. And then all those demons that have hid in it for many years will be expelled from our heart.

Remember: the power of Christ cast out a legion of demons from the Gadarene possessed. Remember: the Lord sent His disciples into the world to cast out demons. Let us set ourselves the task of exorcising demons from our own hearts. We humbly acknowledge, first of all, that we are possessed by demons. If in this humble consciousness we begin with repentance, if we resort to God's all-powerful help, then we will receive God's grace. Then you too will cast out demons, cast them out not only from your own heart, but also from the hearts of the unfortunate demoniacs around you.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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