Fourth Sunday of Lent - Sunday of St. John of the Ladder
March 29, 2020
GOSPEL READING: Mark 9:17–31
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” 19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” 20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” 23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. 28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” 30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” *** ЧЕТВРТА НЕДЕЛА НА ВЕЛИКИОТ ПОСТ – Свети Јован Лествичник ЕВАНГЕЛИЕ: Марко 9, 17-31 17. Тогаш еден од народот одговори и рече: „Учителе, го доведов при Тебе сина ми, во кого има нем дух; 18. и секогаш, каде и да го фати, го кутнува, и тој се запенува, и крцка со забите, и се здрвува. И им кажав на учениците Твои да го изгонат, но тие не можеа.” 19. А Исус одговори и рече: „О, роде неверен, до кога ќе бидам со вас? До кога ќе ве трпам? Доведете го при Мене!” 20. И кога го доведоа кај Него – штом го виде, веднаш духот го стресе; и тој падна наземи и се валкаше запенет. 21. Го праша Исус татка му: „Колку време има откако станува тоа со него?” Тој одговори: „Од детинство; 22. и многупати духот го фрлал во оган, и во вода, за да го погуби; но, ако можеш, смили се над нас и помогни ни!” 23. А Исус му рече: „Ако можеш да поверуваш? Сè е можно за оној што верува!” 24. И одеднаш таткото на момчето извика и со солзи рече: „Верувам, Господи, помогни му на моето неверие!” 25. А Исус, штом виде дека се собра многу народ, му забрани на нечистиот дух и му рече „Дух нем и глув, Јас ти заповедам: излези од него, и не влегувај веќе во него!” 26. И кога извика, силно го стресе и излезе; а момчето беше како мртво – така што мнозина велеа дека умрело. 27. Исус, пак, откако го фати за рака, го исправи; и тоа стана. 28. И кога влезе Исус во една куќа, учениците Негови Го прашаа насамо: „Зошто ние не можевме да го истераме?” 29. Им одговори: „Тој род си ништо не може да се истера, освен со молитва и пост.” 30. И кога излегоа оттаму, минеа преку Галилеја; и Он не сакаше некој да разбере. 31. Оти ги учеше учениците Свои и им велеше дека Синот Човечки ќе биде предаден во човечки раце, и ќе Го убијат, и на третиот ден по убивањето ќе воскресне.
Sermon on the 4th Sunday of Lent
(Mark 9: 17-31)
In today’s Gospel reading, we heard the story of a father, who pleaded with the Disciples to free his son from the demonic spirit that tortured him, but they could do nothing. Later when Jesus came close to them, Jesus performed the miracle, and saved the child from Satan. After that, the Disciples asked their Master: “Why could we not cast out this demonic spirit?” And Jesus replied: “This kind cannot come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28-29).
These words of the Lord emphasize how much power prayer has in connection with fasting, so that even the most powerful demons can be cast out. Fasting and prayer are two powerful weapons for the spiritual struggle of every Orthodox believer. First, the weapon of fasting was used by our Lord Himself. As we know, the Lord fasted for 40 days without eating anything, and at the end of this fasting, He fought with Satan and defeated him. He also gave us instructions on how to fast, so that our fasting could be effective (see Matthew 6: 16-18). That is why the Church has established days of Fasting for all believers, such as Wednesday and Friday of each week and the Great Lent, which we are presently going through.
Unceasing prayer and fasting were exercised by the Saints of our Church, such as St. John of the Ladder, Abbot of the Holy Monastery of Mount Sinai, whose memory we celebrate today.
The Church has wisely defined how fasting should be done, so that it would not harm anyone’s health. (Our ecclesiastical Calendar mentions the days of fasting from meat or dairy products, etc.). It is necessary to clarify here that fasting is not an end in itself, for example, such as love is, but it is a means of fulfilling certain goals. One may ask: “What are the goals of fasting?” Here is the reply:
Obedience to God. Adam and Eve did not obey God and ate the forbidden fruit, and as a result, they lost Paradise. We obey the voice of God, we fast and gain Paradise.
By depriving ourselves from some delicious food, we strengthen our will not to do what we are attracted to, yet they are not in accordance with the will of God.
By limiting the amount of daily food and avoiding animal foodstuff, physical passions weaken and pure prayer is assisted. The Fathers of our Church say that fasting gives wings to prayer!
By avoiding expensive food, drinks, sweets etc., and limiting ourselves to the simple food we need, we save money, which in turn we give as alms to others who cannot meet their necessities.
Avoidance of food is also accompanied by avoidance of drinks, entertainment, and other events, so there is more time for spiritual meditation, prayer, study of the Holy Bible, reading Orthodox books that feed us spiritually.
Finally, let us also add the advice of St. Basil the Great: “Let us fast a kind of fasting which is pleasant to God. True fasting means alienation from evil, self-restrain of the tongue, abstinence from anger, separation of desires, gossip, lies and perjury. The lack of these is true fasting” (Homily on Fasting).
My dear brothers and sisters, fasting and prayer are characterized as heavenly gifts in the hymnology of our Church. Through these gifts, the believer becomes sanctified, he is victorious against evil spirits and remains immune to Satan’s arrows. Therefore, let us continue our fasting with more willingness and with the certainty of having a double benefit, spiritual as well as physical, according to Saint John Chrysostom. Thus, we will be worthy to worship the Holy Passion and Resurrection of our Lord with purified souls. Amen.