Homily by Fr. Oleh Stefanyshyn on the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 13, 2023
Beloved in Christ! Let us strive to pray not only with our minds but also with our hearts, for ‘a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise’ (Psalm 51:19). Let us not fall into despair or complain, even when the Lord does not haste in fulfilling our requests.
“Lord, have mercy on my son…” (Matt. 17:15)
Dear brothers and sisters! In today’s Divine Word, we witness a distressed father, weak in faith, and a son tormented by suffering, who was possessed by an unclean spirit of malice. However, God’s mercy stirred a profound faith within the father’s heart, and his son recovered. According to the father, his son had been ill since childhood and frequently experienced fits of rage, indicating that he suffered from severe seizures.
Saint John Chrysostom writes that evil spirits inflict much harm upon people. They cunningly seek to conceal their destructive actions from humans, so that people attribute this evil not to evil spirits, but to God’s creation, thereby despising our Creator — Almighty God. How can we resist these spirits of malice?
First and foremost, we need faith — faith in Christ the Savior, who overcame the power of the devil through His death on the cross. Our spiritual strength is fortified through the Holy Mysteries of the Church, especially through the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion. Prayer and fasting are also essential. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself told His apostles, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ And concerning this kind of demon, He said, ‘But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting’ (Matt. 17:20–21).
The Holy Church, aware of the power of this spiritual weaponry, calls us to observe fasting. Fasting is not only about abstaining from food, but also involves acts of mercy, kindness, and renunciation of sinful habits that allure and tempt us in our daily lives. Only faith can counter disbelief, and faith is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. How can we receive this divine gift? Although we cannot compel the Holy Spirit to be present within us, to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we must lead a pious life, which is unattainable without fasting and prayer.
Saint John Chrysostom teaches that when someone prays and fasts, they possess ‘two wings’ lighter than the wind, for there is no one stronger than a person who sincerely fasts and prays. If fasting was necessary for the apostles, it is also necessary for us; if fasting was essential for miracle-workers, then we too, whose bodies often wage war against our souls, should not reject its assistance. Fasting and prayer strengthen our faith, hope, and love, and unite us with God. Prayer has the power to turn the impossible into the possible, the unprofitable into the beneficial, and the burdensome into the light. Apostle James teaches us, ‘The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power’ (Jam. 5:16). And the saints fathers of the Church call prayer the ‘mother of all good.’
Beloved in Christ! Let us strive to pray not only with our minds but also with our hearts, for ‘a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise’ (Psalm 51:19). Let us not fall into despair or complain, even when the Lord does not haste in fulfilling our requests, for the Lord, who knows the secrets of our hearts, knows better than us when to answer our prayers. During prayer, let us listen to ourselves and remember that prayers offered with unwavering faith and humility, stemming from the depths of our pure hearts, are pleasing to God. And for us, dear brothers and sisters, prayer is that saving path which leads to the Kingdom of Heaven, to a blissful eternity.