Author: Fr George Dimopoulos
Source: Orthodox Sermons for all the Sundays of the Year – Volume I
Publisher: Christian Orthodox Editions
“Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, my son, your sins are forgiven’”. (Matthew 9:1-8)
Our modern era, dearly beloved, has been characterised as the atomic age, the era of splitting the atom. I think we will all agree that, in all fields of scientific achievement, no age has been more revolutionary than ours. Evidence of this is all around us. Sad to say, however, while human science dashes madly ahead, our morality, our time-honoured traditions, and everything we once held sacred, seem to be crumbling in ruins around us. Students rebel against all authority on campus, and we see incidents such as that which occurred at New York University, where militant student leaders took violent possession of the office of the president, overthrew the furniture, and sat atop the overturned files, eating sardines. I really fear that when the atom was split, man’s personality was split as well. In theory, the average American claims to be a Christian, a morally free spiritual entity. He theoretically respects the property of others, together with their honour, their reputation. In reality, however, he is a crass materialist, this modern American. He believes only in that which is material; and, when his interests are endangered, he is more than willing to react violently, even murderously. In short, man today is full of inconsistencies, of contradictions; he is often openly and unashamedly two-faced.
Are the student riots the fault of students alone? I don’t think so. Overnight, relations between teacher and student have been drastically altered. In many cases, the student feels that he is no more than a number in a computer. And no matter how perfect the computer, it remains a lifeless, soul-less machine. Furthermore, our teachers today are no longer philosophers. (Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule.) The teacher who can look beyond the material tools of science, beyond chemical reactions, to a Primal Cause which defies laboratory analysis – this is a rare teacher in today’s classrooms.
The Aristotelian concept of the Unmoved Mover is slowly being phased out, or so it would seem, from our educational programs. The other day I sat in a biology class at a church-related university, listening to the professor elaborate on the Darwinian Theory of man’s evolution from the ape. A few of the students protested on Scriptural grounds. The professor replied, “Gentlemen, I am here to teach you science. Your religious views are of no interest to me”. The sad result of students being taught that they evolved from apes is the fact that they revert to behaviour patterns of such prehistoric “forebears”.
As we all know from the various news media, our psychiatric hospitals today are overflowing with young people. The Scandinavian countries in particular seem to have an unusually high incidence of mental disturbances in youth. Is it perhaps just a simple coincidence that these countries are also notoriously well-known advocates of “free” sexual expression? Material wealth seems to add to the unhappiness of these young people, who apparently don’t know what to do with their affluence or their “sexual freedom”. Let us suppose, for just a moment, that Christ were to visit one of these psychiatric hospitals, and behold these poor young people lying there. Might His words upon encountering them not be identical with those He uttered to the paralytic in today’s Gospel Lesson: “My children, your sins are forgiven”? You see, we begin at the wrong end. We try to treat the symptoms, rather than the disease, which is sin. On the one hand we allow our youngsters to destroy themselves (sometimes helping them along ourselves) through immorality, gangsterism, alcohol, narcotics, and so forth, and then we analyse them clinically to try and detect what “made them go wrong”.
Is this not the very height of foolishness? It is like tenderly nurturing and caring for the leaves of a tree, while we allow worms to live in the trunk and at the roots. Our children are morally and spiritually ill They require moral and spiritual healing, which can come only from the Physician of Souls Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. St John Chrysostom agrees. He writes, “Most physical illness is induced by sinful and riotous living”. A dynamic encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ is what is needed to straighten out the lives of our young people, and the lives of some of their parents as well. Jesus invites us to come to Him. He has no office hours; He is always ready to receive us, to assure us that our sins are forgiven. Are we ready to receive Him?