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July 20, 2008

5th Sunday in MatthewFrgeorge

Just hearing a part of today's Gospel narrative, strikes us somewhat oddly; in that, the Lord has a dialogue with the demons, who had possessed two men, living in an empty tomb. Possessed by demonic spirits, these two men literally posed a threat to anyone, who was to pass by that way.

These demons, having control over the two men, upon seeing the Lord, they immediately sensed His power, and entreated Him not to torment them. If the Lord was to cast them out, or exorcise them from the unfortunate individuals, the demons requested, that they be allowed to enter the herd of swine, which was nearby.

The Lord gives His command: "Be gone you evil spirits!" Immediately, the herd of swine raged, and fell over the cliff into the deep waters, completely astonishing the swine herders. Overtaken by fear, they rushed into the city, to announce to their masters of their great financial loss, suffered so unexpectedly. The owners ventured out to the fields to tell Jesus that He was an unwanted Person and for Him to leave the area.

We can surmise, that the owners of the swine must have felt some unexpressed guilt, in that they were openly transgressing their religious law, which prohibited the Hebrews from eating pork.

Demonic possession may be a rare phenomenon in our day, but it exists, and the Church has a brief Ritual, containing relative prayers.

In fact, the first part of the Sacrament of the Holy Baptism, contains prayers of exorcism, composed by the inspired Holy Fathers of the undivided Christian Church. The Priest in this Sacrament prays, that the child being baptized will forever be free from all evil spirits, and from the machinations of the evil one.

Who can deny, that in our supposed great society today, we don't experience demons of a different nature, --- who by their selfish egocentric actions, bring nothing but catastrophe, not only to themselves, but to so many others, as well.

Tremendous suffering can befall an individual --- a family --- a group --- an organization, and yes, even a Church Community, as a result of people, who are possessed by the abominable "demon," which we recognize as blind ego!

Inflated, on simply stated, blind ego, can indeed become a monster, which can devour individuals, as well as worthy projects, simply because, the blind egotist refuses to listen to reason. When people are blinded by their ego, there cannot be any true dialogue, simply because, they think that their way is the only way, and it is only they, who know what's best. The blind egotist deafens his ears to the Lord's admonition: "He who humbles himself shall be exalted, and he who exalts himself will be humbled." Matthew 23:12.

Another very dangerous demon, or beast, is the sex mania promoted by the mass media under the guise of liberating society from the old antiquated taboos, as they proclaim. Thus, they justify their spurious and nefarious activities for personal gain. It appears, that this demon has even clouded the minds of the justices of the Supreme Court, whose mission is, not to legislate, as they have been doing, but to interpret the laws, based on the principles set down by the founding Fathers of our Country.

There is no question, that there has been a radical change in the norms, -- to the degree, that we are no longer shocked as we would have been years ago. It's unfortunate, that so many innocent people have been involuntarily brain-washed to the point that they almost do not recognize the line between morality and immorality.

As we know, our conscience is the Breath that God breathed in us, and it is His Voice, when our conscience reprimands us. Some people choose to nullify their conscience, by persisting in sin, while others trend to lullaby their conscience by capitulating to their base temptations.

However, there will be no escape on the Day of reckoning, when the realization will come, that bad choices were made, and consequently life was transformed into a barren and vast wasteland.

Unfortunately, there are so many demons, which seek to to possess us --- to dominate us, whether these demons are understood as egotism, -­anger, - avarice, - greed, - selfishness, -- slander, -- vainglory, and so many other plagues, which are never constructive, but most assuredly they are destructive.

All people, young and elder alike, must be ever so careful to always be on guard, lest we permit any type of demon, however small, or seemingly insignificant, to enter the domain of our life. It is within our power to stave off all the attacks of the evil one; and that power is forever energized by our faith and trust in God. It is God, Who gives us the strength to accomplish all things as St. Paul states.

The Lord wants us to be in the world, but not of the world! To live in the world, as He created it, and enriched it spiritually, but not to be a part of the world, which is so remote from Him. Our greatest examples are our countless Saints. We pay homage and we revere them, as having found favor with God, --- because for them, God was always their highest priority.

We know well, and we do recognize their sacrifices even unto death, and it is because of these very sacrifices, that we live, and are able to worship so freely as Christians.

St. Paul admonishes us "not to give any cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry may not be discredited." 2 Cor.6:3

Continuing his admonition, St. Paul says: "But in all things, approving ourselves as the ministers of God, with much endurance; -­in afflictions, -- in hardships, -- in distresses, -- in beatings, -- in imprisonments, -- in tumults, -- in labors, -- in sleeplessness, -- in hunger, -- in purity, -- in knowledge, -- in patience, - in kindness, -- in the Holy Spirit, -- in genuine love, -- in the word of truth, -- in the power of God!" 2nd Corinthians 6:4-7

How can we ever measure up to the stature of this exceptional Apostle, as well as to many, who imitated him by faithfully following his Christ-centered admonitions!

As Christians today, can we say, that we have suffered any of the incidents and trials, of the type, which were an every day occurrence for St. Paul, and his many followers? Surely not.

I personally think, that one of the great ills of our society today, where unhappiness and emptiness seem to abound, and the lack of personal fulfillment is rampant, -- I repeat, -- these great ills rest in the fact, that most of the age-old traditions and values have been plowed under the vast wasteland of our modern day presumed culture. Consequently, every day has become the same as any other day, Whether it is a Religious or National Holiday. These Great Holidays have degenerated into rampant commercialism, and an occasion for outings and frolicking.

It had to take a disastrous September 11th to re-awaken our National conscience. But, it wasn't long, that we once again fell into a deep slumber.

Is it any wonder then, that so many people fall victims of fhe demons we mentioned, and enraged they virtually rush over the cliff to fall and drown in the sea of self-destruction?

Yet, --- our Lord awaits for all people with great patience. He knocks on the door of our soul, in the hope that we will open, and let Him in. In John 14:6 He emphatically declares: "I am the Way, - I am the Truth, - I am the Life; and those, who would follow Me, shall never walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life! John 8:12
 
+ Fr. George Papadeas

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“Therefore brethren stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught whether by word or our epistle.” - Thessalonians 2:15