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Sunday, July 24, 2022

Homily for the Epistle Reading on the Sixth Sunday After Pentecost (St. Luke of Simferopol)


By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on July 5, 1953)

It is not I who will preach to you today - the great Apostle of Christ himself will preach, and my humble role will only be to explain these great words to you, to help you assimilate them, to put them into your hearts.

In the twelfth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, the reading of which you heard at the Divine Liturgy, the holy Apostle Paul speaks of how the life of the Church of Christ should be organized so that it is pleasing to God. These are the words you heard. I should have read them myself, but the Lord deprived me of this opportunity: I have to use the eyes of others, so Father Porfiry will read, and I will add something to the reading: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

This is where the holy apostle Paul says that we must present not only our hearts, not only our souls, but also all the strength of our body to God as an acceptable sacrifice.

How can this be done? In order to fulfill, one must first of all always remember the words of the same holy apostle in his other epistle: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Holy Spirit dwells in you?” He says in surprise: "Don't you know?" Therefore, know and remember that your bodies, the bodies of Christians, are temples of the Holy Spirit, or rather, should be temples of the Holy Spirit.

And if so, then all the bodies and all the members of these bodies must serve in order to fulfill the will of God for us. It is His will that we be holy and blameless.

How can we achieve this? We need to remember that our hands should do only deeds of piety, only deeds aimed at helping our brothers and sisters in need. We must keep our hands from all unclean, dead works. Our hands should never do those deeds that are done by people who are not afraid of God, sinful people, whose hands always do evil deeds, up to murder and theft.

Our feet should only go where the house of weeping is, not the house of joy and gladness. Our feet must hasten to the aid of our brothers in need.

Our ears and our eyes should always be directed to the one who is waiting for mercy and help.

If we act like this always and in everything, then we will be a sacrifice to God, a pleasing sacrifice.

The apostle says that we direct our whole life, all our deeds, all our words in such a way as is pleasing to the Holy Spirit, so that they do not conform to this age. These words mean that in our whole life we should not listen and adapt to the views, desires and aspirations of the people of this age, people who live not according to God, but according to the lusts of this age, for these lusts are very often from the evil one.

He does not order the deeds of the evil one to be done, he does not order to be conformed to his will, but to be conformed to the will of God, which is always good and righteous.

“Do not think more of yourself than you should think; rather think modestly, according to the faith that God has given to each.”

Remember these words too.

You will hear more words of the same meaning at the end of this chapter. “Be of one mind among yourselves; do not be arrogant, but follow the humble; don't dream about yourself. Do not think more of yourself than you should think."

And we all tend to think highly of ourselves. We have little or no humility; we think and dream about ourselves much more than we should.

But it is necessary that we think of ourselves only according to the extent of our faith, always remembering that it is weak and infinitely far from moving mountains.

We must humbly think that we are of little faith, that our piety is small and insignificant.

“We must measure ourselves by the measure of our faith. We should not listen to what the world wants, we should do what God wants. Think of yourself not highly, but according to the little faith that God has given you.

For just as we have many members in one body, but not all the members have the same work, so we who are many are one body in Christ, but one by one members of another. And since, according to the grace given to us, we have various gifts, if you have prophecy, prophesy according to the measure of faith; if you have service, stay in service; if a teacher, in teaching; if the exhorter - exhort; whether a distributor, distribute in simplicity; if leadership, lead with zeal; philanthropist, do good with cordiality.

Different gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to every Christian, but a gift is given to everyone, God leaves none of those who believe in Him, those who turn their hearts to Him, without the gifts of His grace, the grace of the Holy Spirit.

The Lord has determined for each of us one or another position in society, assigned to each one this or that activity, for the life of a Christian society is complex, and in order for its life to pass according to the will of God, it is necessary that each one fulfill his purpose, entrusted by God to him, it is necessary that he multiply in his heart the gift of grace that was given to him from God. And the gifts are different, just as different as the kinds of human activity are diverse.

Each person is assigned by God their place in life - in the life of the state and a place in the life of the Church.

Some were given higher appointments, very large, difficult tasks, others were given tasks that were less difficult, but just as necessary for society and the Church, while others were given small deeds, they were placed in a low position both in society and in the Church.

But whatever your purpose in life, whatever your role in the Church, you all must fulfill this God-appointed role with a deep, reverent consciousness that by fulfilling His purpose, we are fulfilling the will of God.

The holy apostle, enumerating the different forms of human activity, speaks of such lofty ones that we are not given to fulfill, and speaks of the lesser ones that we can fulfill.

Therefore, do not be embarrassed if it is not given to you to do great things in the Church, if the gift of healing, the gift of clairvoyance, is not given. Be content with the small position that God has given you as a member of the Church of Christ.

And, no matter how small this appointment, remember, remember that everyone from the smallest to the greatest should fulfill their appointment with deep reverence, and their hearts should be imbued with love for people.

Only when all the activity of people is imbued with sincere, deep love for people, only then will the Church of Christ fulfill its high purpose.

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor that which is evil. Cling to that which is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Your spirit must burn like a flame before God, must strive towards God, as fire strives upward.

Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. And how often we do not rejoice with those who rejoice, but envy them: how often, if our neighbor receives unexpected joy, we do not rejoice with his joy sent from God to him, how often it happens that with black envy we turn our faces away from him, we do not rejoice, but we envy him. It should not be so, we should rejoice with him.

“Do not repay evil for evil to anyone, but look after good in the presence of all people. If possible on your part, be at peace with all people” (Romans 12:18).

Never, never return evil for evil. Remember that if your malice is the answer to evil, then the evil done to you will flare up with a bright flame. And if we humbly accept the offense, if we ask for forgiveness from our offender, then we will extinguish the anger, and then it will be what the Apostle Paul says further: “Do not avenge yourself, beloved, but give place to the wrath of God. For it is written: Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

Remember this: revenge for all the evil that people do to you belongs only to God. His vengeance, He will repay, not you. Therefore, if your grief is great from the insult, from the insult that you received from people, if you are not able to forget them, then pray, fervently pray to God, say: “O Lord! Oh Lord! Protect me from my offender. I myself do not take revenge: I remember that vengeance is Yours, and You will repay."

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" ( Romans 12:21 ) .

You see, in this great twelfth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, the holy apostle Paul teaches us how the life of the Christian community, the life of the Church, should be arranged, how the life of the Church should be organized.

It should be based primarily on love, love for each other; there should be deep humility, according to which no one should be exalted above others, everyone should consider themselves worse and lower than others.

And only when these great testaments of the Apostle Paul lie at the basis of the life of the church community, of the entire Christian society, only then will the Church of Christ, the Christian society, be strong against all its enemies, against the devil himself and his angels.

May there be peace, love and humility at the heart of the life of the Holy Church and each of us. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.