Thursday, November 4, 2010

Met. Ephrem's Sermon for October 24, 2010

This sermon was given in the village of Kfarhazir. The Arabic text can be found here.

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

Beloved, today you heard this passage from the Gospel that talks about demons and their effect on people and even on animals, and how the Lord Jesus Christ came to warn people about them, that is about evil spirits.

There are many questions that can be asked about evil spirits. What we know is that God, from the beginning, created man from earth and blew into him a living spirit. This spirit gives us life in this body that we carry. Life does not come from earth, true life comes from God in the spirit which He blows in us.

Likewise we know about man's sin and his fall. We know that there are evil, fallen spirits. These evil spirits are from among the angels that God made and that refused His dominion over them and so no longer obey Him. These angels which did not obey God we call demons, or evil or unclean spirits.

From the beginning, the Spirit of God struggles with these evil spirits in man. Man is caught in a struggle, and the Lord Jesus Christ came to us to save us from this struggle which, as you heard in the Gospel, can lead to madness! Naturally, through His death on the Cross the Lord Jesus defeated the evil spirits and their power. For this reason one who lives with Christ, a baptized Christian, in whom dwells the Holy Spirit, who lives in accordance with the commandments of Christ, no longer fears these evil spirits and is no longer in need of any psychological treatment! But how can a Christian, how can any of us, distinguish between the Spirit of God and the spirit of evil, the spirit of the world, the spirit of the devil?

Many people ask questions like: last night I had a dream-- should I believe this dream? Is it from God or from the Evil One? This question is posed not only about dreams, but also about our everyday life-- how can we discern if we are walking in the right path, the good path, or in the path of evil, the path of error? Naturally, one who prays, who lives in the fear of God can discern this to a great degree. The gift of discernment is one of the greatest gifts a Christian can acquire, and it is acquired by the saints. We call them saints because they lived with the Lord. They knew what is good and what is evil. They were able to discern and to be like sheep. They did not go along with what television or what other people say. They followed what the Gospel says. Those are the saints.

All of us, if we are faithful, become saints. For example, Saint James, the Brother of the Lord, the patron of this church whom we celebrate today, this saint was the first bishop of Jerusalem when the disciples gathered to discuss an important matter of that time, how to distinguish between Christianity and Judaism, since the Christians were of Jewish origin, and practiced circumcision and ritual purification. After the apostles gathered, Saint James came and said that those who become Christian do not need to be circumcised and do not need ritual purification. This is something in the past. What is important is faith. This is how he discerned and said that a Christian must only avoid idols, strangled meat and carrion, and that otherwise he can eat anything.

This is what we need today, in this struggle that exists in the world. How do we raise our children? How do we guide them so that they are not harmed by the media, by books, by television programs and websites? How do we guide them and how do we give them the Spirit of God so that the spirit of evil does not harm them? This requires discernment, and discernment comes from God. When we Christians rely on the Church and in the Gospel, we find refuge in the Church and who is in the Church? The Church is where we all pray and we all support each other. Man does not live alone, he his brother, his brothers; this is the Church. The most important thing is that each person is in need of a guide.

We rely on the priest, who is our guide. We rely on the experienced spiritual father who is able to help us discern between the spirit of God and the spirit of the devil. He helps us with how to live in our home, in our work, in our country.

This is our faith, beloved, that the Lord Jesus, as is mentioned in this Gospel passage, the Lord Jesus alone saves man from every error, from the demons.

Today more than ever, contemporary man is beset by psychological and nervous problems. We are in desperate need to return to our Church in order to obtain to obtain calm, to obtain inner peace.

This world does not give true peace! Only the Lord Jesus and His holy word give us peace for the whole world, amen.