Sunday, December 28, 2008

Homily 8

Acts 3:1-11

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.

And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple;

who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms.

And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, "Look at us."

So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.

Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."

And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.

So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them-- walking, leaping, and praising God.

And all the people saw him walking and praising God.

Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to them.

Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomon's, greatly amazed.


I'm really struck by the statement, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you." Peter didn't say, "I'm not going to give you money," or "I have something for you better than money." He didn't have money. And it was his poverty that pushed him beyond the mere and common gift of money. His poverty forced him to reach more deeply to find something that he did have to give. And all he had to give was the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Just a name, nothing more.

Again, it isn't that Peter chose to give the name of Christ instead of money. He didn't have money. His poverty compelled him into evangelism.

If we have money, why should we withhold it from those who ask? And when we have no money, why should we withhold that which we do have?


Chrysostom notes that Peter and John were again together, and throughout the sermon emphasizes that Peter is the one who does the talking.

After Peter told the lame man to look at him and John, Chrysostom notes that his thoughts were not elevated, "but he persisted in his importunity. For such is poverty; upon a refusal, it compels people still to persist. Let this put us to shame who fall back in our prayers." (50)

The healing of the lame man "made manifest the Resurrection, for it was an image of the Resurrection." (50)

Upon being healed, the lame man follows the apostles into the temple-- not because they urge him to do so, but of his own accord. "The man was grateful." (51)

When Peter declares his poverty, "He does not say, I have none here, as we are wont to speak, but absolutely, I have none... but of what I have, receive thou." (51)

Chrysostom notes that the lame man does not ask for healing; he asks only for money:

Such sort of persons were the Jews; lame, and the right thing being to ask for health, these same ask for money, grovelling on the ground. (51)

Peter and John went to the temple to pray, and accomplished another object entirely-- when we embark upon prayer, we do not know where we will be taken.

The rest of the sermon is an appeal to the congregation for reformation:

He who has effected some little reformation thereby receives encouragement to approach greater things. (52)

Chrysostom asks his congregation to start small, by laying off swearing by God. He admonishes them that their blasphemy falls on his own head, whereas "my glory is your good report." (53) He knows that those who cease swearing by God will be mocked and laughed at in the city, but "it is better to be laughed at now, than wept for hereafter." (53) And he warns the congregation, that if any man refuses

to conform to this order, that man I... do prohibit to set foot over the Church's threshold, be he prince, be he even the crowned head. Either depose me from this station, or if I am to remain, expose me not to danger [of taking the blame for the congregation's obstinacy]. (53)

Chrysostom criticizes the love of quantity over quality, saying that he prefers a few real Christians to a multitude of halfhearted people:

After the fashion of the Theatre we desire numbers, not a select number... it is the saints, not the numbers, which make the multitude... Do you not see, that it is better to possess one precious stone, than ten thousand farthing pieces?... For no one will urge it as a point in our favor that we are many; we shall be blamed for being unprofitable. (54)

And again Chrysostom warns his congregation that he "will exclude and punish the disobedient; and as long as I sit on this throne, I will give up not one of its rights. If any one depose me from it, then I am no longer responsible; as long as I am responsible, I cannot disregard them; on account not of my own punishment, but your salvation." (54)

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