St. Silouan the Athonite Mission Parish

Sermons

30 October 2011
by Fr Roberto Ubertino

I will confess to you that I had initially prepared a sermon for the wrong gospel. When I discovered that the Gospel for this Sunday was about a man possessed by demons I felt a certain dread. As I was meditating on it, it dawned on me why. In this Gospel, I was looking at the last few weeks at the Mission.

 

Just this Friday before closing the mission we faced again such a reality. I don’t see the presence of demons everywhere but there are times when you just know it by its effects. It agitates your soul, it is contagious, the whole room feels the presence and it does not leave you untouched; it exposes your sinfulness without mercy.

 

The Gospel today illustrates where the desert practice of talking back to the demons comes from. During Bridges we looked at Evagrius’ famous book called "Antirrheticus" where every possible thought demons suggest to us has an answer from scripture.

 

But this Gospel is more than just talking back to demons. The Gospel is really a harrowing of hell, the Lord descends to meet the possessed man in his tomb and gives him back his life, the towns people find the man sitting at the feet of Jesus clothed in the grace and light of the Resurrection. The demons that attack us from inside through thoughts are to be fought with the simple scripture verse of “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” while the demons that oppress us exteriorly need to be talked back to with the words of the Resurrection, “Christ is Risen,” as orthodox Christians we literally stand daily in front of the power of death. As I told you at the beginning I would have many stories to share in just these last few weeks of confrontation with this power of death, a power that tries personally to seduce us; if Christ is not Risen, then it would be easy to despair.

 

It’s also easy to think that all it’s about is providing more social services like the political response to the growing reality of suicide is getting a new bill passed and hiring more social workers.

 

I would also say that demons can come at you quoting the Scriptures and the fathers of the Church and even wearing business suits!

 

In the Gospel the “sane people” of the area wanted Jesus to go away. He disturbed the order of things, pigs drowning in the sea is not good for the local economy things may not be good but at least they are familiar.

 

But the whole reason for the Church to exist is to proclaim that Christ is Risen! For sure at Pascha in the dazzling beauty of the night service, but also to proclaim the Resurrection by standing up to death in all its ways of seducing us.

 

We proclaim the harrowing of hell by:

 

- Supporting a pregnant teenager to carry the baby to full term.

- Refusing to demonize other people who have hurt us.

- Struggling against addictions of all kinds.

- Not gossiping about people in your office, or listening to gossip.

- Being a hearing heart, forgiving a parent,

-refusing the logic of violence as a way to peace and life. Maybe we should begin by rethinking of why we have  chaplains in the military?

- When we pray here early in the morning or in the middle of the night for all those tempted by despair.

 

Everything in this building is for this one reason to live the resurrection , to greet every one as St Seraphim would my joy Christ is risen

 

A street person taught me this. One hot summer day I was hiding in this chapel. I was hiding from the people outside and struggling with many despairing thoughts. Carol Anne walked in to pray and on her way out shouted at me: Father Roberto, remember Christ is risen. I remembered at that moment what St Seraphim once said they will sing Christ is risen in the summer.

 

Standing up to death can mean serving neighbourhood supper at 5 p.m. on a weekday. One Wednesday evening a few years ago a woman passed by in a wheelchair, on her way to committing suicide. She was lonely and suffering from addictions. As she went by our front steps, someone called out from the doorway of the Mission: “Hi Laura! Are you coming in for supper?” She stopped, astonished not only to be invited in, but that someone remembered meeting her and knew her name. She turned aside from her purpose and came in to supper, did not commit suicide, and sometime later received her one-year-sober medal.

 

What we experience at Pascha and at each liturgy needs to take flesh in us and we must be willing to pay the price by living the resurrection of Christ in every aspect of our life having no fear of those who live among the tombs. Each parish is a place where the resurrection is lived and where we learn to stand up to death. We must have the courage to name and unmask who is behind all the legions of demons that seduce so many through their infernal logic. In return we hold out hope to others attracting them by living a way of life that is beautiful, because oh my joy, Christ is Risen!

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