March 29, 2020

Holy Trinity-Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
Staten Island, New York

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I have traveled today from the Archdiocese Headquarters in Manhattan to this amazing parish on Staten Island, the Holy Trinity-Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, in order to celebrate the Divine Liturgy with you – in the Spirit, through prayer, and through the medium of live-streaming.

We are still in a period of tremendous restriction, all for the sake of the health of our fellow citizens and our own health as well. My hope is that we will seize the opportunity that is literally being forced upon us, to become more altruistic, more compassionate toward others, more patient, and indeed more faithful.

I know that this is not easy. Many of us are facing serious consequences:

That affect our health,
That affect our families,
That affect our friends,
That affect our finances,
That affect our future.

As that great American Revolutionary Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”[1] In these days of anxiety and worry, we are not unlike the father of the boy that we hear of in today’s Gospel reading, who came to our Lord Jesus Christ, begging Him to heal his son.

His son was in danger. Our lives are in danger. The man went to Apostles for help, and we go to the Saints for help.

But in the moment when no results had happened, and the Lord challenged this father’s faith. This man—who was already on his knees before Christ—exclaimed with the pain of his soul:

Πιστεύω, Κύριε· βοήθει μου τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ!

I believe, Lord! Help my unbelief![2]

My beloved friends, this is where we are right now. We do believe in God. We do trust that He is a Loving and Merciful God. We do confess that the arc of His inscrutable will ultimately bend toward our benefit and to the good of all.

But we still have our doubts in our minds and pain in our hearts. We look around and we see the world paralyzed by this pandemic. We feel the collapse of many systems of our world upon which we have always depended: employment, finance, health, and even simple things like going to the grocery store or a pharmacy.

This is where we find ourselves, just like the father of this boy. Things are falling apart around us, and we are on our knees before the Lord.

In this moment, it is no sin to have a mind clouded with doubt and anxiety. It makes us no less Christian to question, and to wonder. It makes us human.

But in the fullness of our humanity, let us not despair. Let us not lose every hope. Let us cry with the father of this child:

Πιστεύω, Κύριε· βοήθει μου τῇ ἀπιστίᾳ!

I believe, Lord! Help my unbelief![3]

It is God Himself Who is the source of our faith, and He is able to increase our confidence in Him, when we create space within ourselves to accept Him. As the Psalmist says:

Ὁδὸν ἐντολῶν σου ἒδραμον, ὃταν ἐπλάτυνας τὴν καρδίαν μου.

I have run the way of Your commandments, when You have enlarged my heart.[4]

Therefore, let us open our hearts to God, and seek his will, and obey His commandments, the greatest of which is to love one another.[5] And it shall be for us as the saint we commemorate this day says, Saint John of the Ladder:

“The power of love is in hope, because by hope we await the reward of love.”[6]

Amen.


[1] Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, December 19, 1776.

[2] Mark 9:24.

[3] Mark 9:24.

[4] Psalm 118:32 (LXX).

[5] Cf. John 15:12.

[6] Ladder, Step 30:28.