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September 27, 2020

Homily on the First Sunday of Saint Luke (St. John of Kronstadt)

By Saint John of Kronstadt
“And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake” (Luke 5:6).
My beloved brethren, today the Gospel according to Luke was read concerning the Lord Jesus Christ’s preaching of the word of God from the ship on the lake of Gennesaret; then concerning the Lord’s command that the fisherman Peter cast his nets into the deep, and the unusually large catch of fish, from which the nets broke and the ships began to sink; concerning the fishermen’s terror at such a miraculous catch, Peter’s perception of Christ’s divine might, and his profound sense of his own weakness; and Peter’s calling from fisherman to fisher of men, and his speedy following after Him (Luke 5:1-11). Peter’s following is a miracle of Christ. 
We congratulate the simple, humble, and hardworking fisherman, Peter, for being raised to the rank of Apostle and fisher of men; as well as the other fishermen – James, John, and Andrew – for they all followed Christ and became His disciples and Apostles at the same time, marvelously accomplishing their saving work by catching the race of man from the depths of his sinful deception and vanity, each according to his measure.
But let us turn to the divine image of the Saviour: I am amazed and astounded by the most luminous, wonderous image of Christ’s divine might, as Creator of all creation and Saviour of mankind; His human form is also perfectly beautiful, and alien to all imperfection, for His whole life was perfect also in His humanity, but now I draw special attention to His Divinity. Here I see the mute fish submitting to Him and, beckoned by His Might, filling the fishermen’s nets; here I also see His speech-endowed creation, man, submitting unquestioningly to His might and, at His word, leaving everything – homes, relatives, and their honorable and joyful trade – to follow Christ, not having a place to lay their head, which is itself a very great miracle. Here I also see another instance in which He knows the whole heart of man, and all our thoughts, intentions, and deeds, and in which He has perfect knowledge of everything past, present, and future. There I see Him as King of the angelic hosts, who submissively hymned His Incarnation and ministered to Him as Creator at His birth and during His earthly life; here I see Him as the formidable, omnipotent expeller of evil spirits, who tremble at His might and come forth from possessed men at a single word from Him or a word from the Apostles to whom He gave power over demons; here I see His divine power over water and air: for the water bears Him dryly on its ridge, the waves abate instantly at a single word from Him, and the storm is likewise instantly calmed by His word; here He forbids the fire raging in a living organism, and the fire immediately ceases; here by His power He shakes the whole earth like the leaf of a tree, and destroys centuries-old cliffs of stone; there He extinguishes the sun in the middle of the day, and deep darkness covers the whole earth; there He reveals His divine power over every disease, decisively healing every affliction and every infirmity in men, either with a word and the touch of His life-giving hand or with a word alone; here I see Him as the Master of life and death, for instance when I see the four-day-dead, stinking corpse Lazarus come forth from the tomb at His word, perfectly healthy and strong, or a dead youth rising from his tomb; there I see Him Who resurrects the whole race of man from the dead, the righteous Judge of the living and the dead, the Father of the unending age to come, and the King of the unending Kingdom; everywhere from His words and deeds I see that all creation, both animate and inanimate, obeys Him; I see His dominion over the entire universe, over the living and the dead, over all-consuming Hades itself. But what most pleasantly astonishes me is that He delivers sinners, if they believe and sincerely repent, from countless transgressions: such as the harlot, the publican, and the thief, setting and establishing them upon the path of salvation, the path leading to eternal life, saving them from the righteous curse and eternal torment, and transforming sinners into the righteous.
This is loftier and greater than all other miracles, since it was for the salvation of sinners that He came into the world, became man, and labored upon His most pure feet, teaching, working miracles, suffering, dying, and rising from the dead. It was for this that He chose the Apostles, sending them into the world to catch men from the abyss of perdi-tion, clothing them in His whole self, making them wise, girding them with strength from above, and granting them the Holy Spirit and power to perform innumerable miracles and cast out demons, destroying all their schemes and plans. It was for this that He established His Church on earth, entrusting it with His divine word, and granting it His saving laws, sacred hierarchy, divine services, Mysteries, “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), and all its rites. Glory and thanks-giving to the Lord for His saving, wondrous, and all-good Providence!
This is what I wanted to tell you today about the Gospel now being read: that is, to present to you, according to my strength and on the basis of the Gospel, the marvelous light and magnitude of the divine, wondrous, most wise, almighty, and all-saving might of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to inspire and strengthen, in myself and in you, faith in Him, hope in Him, and ardent love, reverence, and gratitude to Him, as the pre-eternal God; and in order to inspire zeal for the salvation of your souls and reverence and devotion towards the Holy Church and its ministers, who have been called by Him and clothed with His authority, and for the saving rules of the Church, for the divine services, and for the whole divinely-instituted order.
Now I draw your attention to the words spoken by the Lord to Peter after he, astonished by the unusually large catch of fish and the Saviour’s creative might, said to Him: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” How did the Lord reply to this? He said: “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” What do these words mean? They mean this: “Do not fear Me, Peter, though I am the beginningless and almighty Creator and God, Who created and uphold the entire universe by My word; I came neither to frighten nor destroy you, My rational sheep who have been carried off by the noetic wolf, but rather to have mercy on you and save you. That serpent of the abyss, the devil, caught my beloved creation, created in My image and likeness, in his pernicious nets. I came to catch men, like mute fish, with My saving, grace-filled nets out from the depths of sin and perdition and into My grace-filled and glorious Kingdom. Go: I make you My fellow-workers; be fishers of men; preach to them the word of God’s Kingdom, of throwing off the yoke of sin through repentance, of mercy and forgiveness for the repentant, of reconciliation with God.”
This is the meaning of the Saviour’s words to Peter! From here arises the lofty rank of the Apostles and the rank of the successors to the Apostles: hierarchs, priests, and deacons. They are your shepherds and teachers, fellow-workers with God; their primary work is saving the souls of men from sin and eternal perdition, enlightening them with the light of Christ’s Gospel, instructing them on the path of virtue, and guiding them to the eternal homeland. Respect them and pray for them, that they might rightly uphold the word of truth, and that the Lord would clothe them in righteousness and holiness. Accord them special love on account of their work. A cooling of affection for the shepherds is now noticeable; this is an ominous sign for our present age, when faith is in decline in the majority of people, when Christian morals have become exceedingly relaxed and corrupted, when zeal for the salvation of the soul has been extinguished in many, and when the exclusive love for this fleeting life and the passions has become the foundation of all actions and all life. 
Through the prayers of Thy Holy Apostles, O Lord, have mercy and save us all. Amen.  
Source: Translation Copyright Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Brookline, MA.