The Power and Meaning of the Gospel

His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios was the homelist at the Ecumenical Celebration of the Word during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, held at the St. John Chrysostom Roman Catholic Church in West Roxbury, MA on January 24, 2007. Following is Metropolitan Methodios’ message:

The particular miracle story from the life of our Lord which we read from the Gospel according to St. Mark for this Ecumenical Vesper Service reveals to us the basic meaning and power of the Holy Gospel.

According to St. John the Evangelist, this story together with all the others in the Evangellion which are similar to it and which constitute the earthly ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, are “signs” which point to the two basic perspectives of the Gospel. “They are written,” he says, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, you may have life in his name” (John 20:30).

The Gospel, then, which lies at the root of our Christian faith, has to do with the supreme miracle of the revelation of the Son of God in true human form in the midst of human history. It is primarily the miracle of the Incarnation, through which God has been united with us human beings forever.

But to this miracle there is an upshot, an implication, a purpose. It is the “healing” of our humanity. It is the restoration of its wholeness and integrity. It is the fact that the Incarnate Lord is our Savior. It is the fact that “for us and for our salvation,” as the Creed declares, “the Son of God came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.” As the Fathers of the Church put it, “He became human that we may become divine”. Therefore, by sharing in our Creator’s human life and perfections, we can become “perfect and holy as he is perfect and holy.”

It is precisely in this upshot of the supreme miracle of Christ’s presence with us, (the healing of humanity and restoration of the God-designed human integrity), that we see the power of the Gospel. It is the power of salvation.

The healing of the deaf mute is a sign of the restoration of the integrity of our senses. Not only of those of the body, but also of those of our spirit and inner self. This is very clearly revealed, as St. Ambrose of Milan explains in his profound writing “On the Mysteries”, in our baptism into Christ.

When we were baptized, our ears and nostrils and the rest of the members of our body were anointed with blessed oil and washed with blessed water. In this way---indeed in a more profound manner---the same miracle of the healing of the deaf mute is repeated in each of us as the power of God’s grace embraces us and grants us rebirth, birth from above.

According to St. Ambrose, “the grace of the sacraments has opened our ears to enjoy the good odor of eternal life which has been breathed upon us.” And he adds, “Christ celebrated this mystery when he healed the one who was deaf and dumb”!

All that I have said so far, is, so to speak, the objective perspective of the Gospel, that is, the Incarnate Son of God and our Savior, present in our midst and endowed with the power to heal. But the Gospel also includes us. What we do in response to what Christ did for us. This is the subjective, so to speak, perspective. It is by what we do, or do not do, that the Gospel is understood or misunderstood, proclaimed or silenced.

The story of the healing of the deaf mute speaks about this subjective aspect very eloquently. It has to do with a caring community which believes in Christ, puts its trust in Him, and acts accordingly.

We read that the healing miracle took place after some people brought the problem to the Lord. The text says: “They brought to Him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged Him to lay His hand on him” (verse 32). This implies a caring, believing and trusting community. It also implies that without it, the healing might not have happened. It is important to stress here the fact that caring, believing, and trusting was not just an individual act, but a communal one. The problem of the deaf mute was not just his own, but the entire community’s as well.

The Gospel text also says: that “the people who witnessed the miracle ‘were astounded beyond measure’ and so proclaimed it zealously.” So, we have two important subjective points here: 1) the faith of the community that brings their problem to Christ and 2) the acknowledgement of the healing that Christ grants to it, by proclaiming it to those who had not witnessed it.

Both points relate to the mystery of the Church as the community of believers. The Gospel, then, is not only Christ with us, but we with Christ. It has very much to do with our turning to Him with faith as human communities to lay before Him the brokenness of humanity, asking Him for His healing power and grace. It is also our proclaiming and bringing the treasure of His grace which has been entrusted to us as His people and ministers, to people in need for the salvation of all humanity. It is obvious that we cannot fulfill this task unless we are united with Him and with one another.

Part of this brokenness is also the divisions among us who call upon the name of Christ, a brokenness which our generation has inherited from the past. Hence our gathering together this evening, in order to pray for healing and unity, and for strengthening our resolve to follow the Gospel and to do the will of Christ.

The Church which the Lord established through His Incarnation and the offering of His human life is, according to St. John Chrysostom, “the Flesh of Christ.” As such, it can only be One and undivided. St. John also said, that “the name Church is the name of unity” and, therefore, our first task is to recover it if we are to enjoy the healing and joy of salvation.

All the Saints sought to serve, and many sacrificed themselves for the unity of the Church, because they knew that this is the way to claim the healing and salvation of the Gospel for us and our fellow human beings. May the 1600th anniversary of St. John Chrysostom’s martyrdom, which we celebrate this year, both in the Eastern and Western Christian Traditions, inspire all to do what that community in the Gospel text of the healing of the deaf mute did and experienced.

May this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity inspire us all to pray that our Lord may bless our efforts towards the unity of His Holy Church. May we all be moved to respond to the human need and suffering we encounter in our neighborhoods, in our city, in our Commonwealth, in our nation and every corner of the world. Let us work towards healing the wounds of division which exist in the Church, and let us attend to those who are suffering. May our ears be opened to hear the lamentation of their sorrow, and may we share with them the comfort of the Divine Healer.