Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, December 4, 2016 at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Cambridge, MA.
“Unless we look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him. One does not help a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone he met, at the prostitute, at the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty none the less, and what he did was to call out this beauty.”
* Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
So, today, Jesus looks at an infirm woman and sees her beauty. It was hidden under her infirmity and Jesus knew that her infirmity could not and had not marred her essence. So it is with all of us. Whatever infirmities, whatever sins, whatever suffering, our essence, the truth of who we are, is untouched by them. We are, underneath the rubble of our lives, beautiful.
Who knows what the people in the synagogue who had no doubt seen her many times over her long life, thought of her. But we know what Jesus thought. He was willing to break the law for her, to risk the insults of the super-religious to heal her. That is love. Love takes risks. I love what the Dalai Lama said about laws. We need to learn them well so that we can break them well.
This is our task: to hear his voice, his call to our inner and true self, and allow the beauty that we are to rise and take its rightful place as guide and mentor; to allow the Spirit to transform our pain and make our suffering into joy.
“All great spirituality,” writes Richard Rohr, “is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit to those around us.”
I heard this morning on the radio part of an interview with Fr. James Martin. He entered the Jesuits as a religious and was told by his novice master that “that if people don’t fall in love with you, then there is something wrong.”
I dare to say that “that something wrong” is that instead of transmitting love and joy from lives transfigured by Christ into something beautiful, we are projecting something that is not beautiful, that has not been transfigured and the untransfigured pain we insist on carrying with us is the very thing that people sense in our presence.
The prerequisite to the transformation of pain is first to stop running from it. We need to reach in and touch it, hold it with compassion, bringing the light of Christ into our own darkness. And when we dare to touch our own suffering, healing begins, transformation begins and the fruit of the process will be the manifestation of our true, open and loving self. “By their fruit, you shall know them,” Jesus taught.
The fruit is what people see. “It is what they are interested in.” Not our words. Not our fancy rituals. What is the fruit of our lives?
So, look at the fruit and you will know everything you need to know.