October 30, 2022

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Luke - Inequality and Prophecy (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Luke

Inequality and Prophecy

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

There was a rich man ... a poor man named Lazarus" (Luke 16:19-20).
Beloved brethren,

In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus that we heard today, Christ expressively presented the abysmal difference between two people. The rich man had daily gluttony, while the poor man lived on the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. The rich man was physically healthy, while the poor man had "sores". The rich man lived in a mansion and had fun there with his friends, while the poor man begged at the door of the rich man's house, keeping company with the dogs. The rich man wore "purple and fine linen" every day, while the poor man was raggedy and naked. Christ depicted in the best way the great disparity between wealth and poverty.

This parable shows the drama of man in all eras and of course in our era as well. We see the perfect application of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in our Country and in the whole of humanity. Some are hungry and others are drunk.

Many systems are dedicated to solving this huge problem. We do not ignore their contribution, but we cannot fail to note their great weaknesses. Because all human systems cannot escape the temptation of subjecting man to the system sand organizations that abolish his freedom.

The Church regenerates man and thus the reborn man freely transforms social institutions. He helps effectively in the solution of social problems. In the Church we live the brotherhood in Christ, which transcends any inequality.

However, we should make two necessary clarifications on the great issue of the contrast between the rich and the poor.

Firstly, the salvation of the poor Lazarus and the condemnation of the rich man does not mean that in order to be saved one must be poor or that every rich person is condemned. The Orthodox Church does not look at the issue of wealth from the outside, but tries to get to the bottom of the problem. That is, it seeks to free man from the great passion of avarice, which can exist in all people, regardless of whether they are rich or poor. The rich man, out of greed, keeps all material goods and is possessed by anxiety to increase them. And the poor man complains daily because of avarice and aims at the acquisition of material goods. Thus, one must get rid of the passion of avarice and become merciful to others.

Secondly, the issue of the rich and the poor is seen by the Church from a spiritual side. Rich is not the one who has money and possessions, but the one who has Christ, Who is the only good. Poor is not the one who lacks material goods, but the one who lacks the presence of Christ.

This is how Basil the Great interprets the passage "The rich became impoverished and starved, but those who seek the Lord do not lack any good thing." Material goods, he says, are not really good things, since they are acquired with effort and retained with effort. The only ultimate good is God.

After all, the Apostle Paul, describing the characteristics of the apostolic life, says: "We are poor, yet enriching many, as having nothing and possessing everything" (2 Cor. 6:10). What can be underlined is that with Christ one is rich, since he has eternity. Without Christ he is most poor, even if he has the whole world in his power.

For this matter, as in other matters that preoccupy contemporary people, the prophetic word is needed. To the request of the rich man, as seen in today's parable, for Abraham to send Lazarus to his house so that his brothers would repent, Abraham replied: "They have Moses and the prophets; to them they should listen" (Lk. 16:29). That is, they have the words of the Prophets, the Holy Scriptures, which they must apply in order to avoid hell fire.

Prophets didn't exist only in the past. They always exist. A prophet is the one who in Christ deciphers all the historical events, which for the rest of the people are shrouded in darkness; he is the one who under every event sees the actions of God. The Prophets, who together with the Prophetic gift combine the Royal and the Priestly, are the judges of history, who analyze the events, speak prophetically so that people will repent. Therefore, the dead do not need to be resurrected to speak, since there are saints who have already been resurrected and can guide the people of God.

For this reason, every transformed preacher and every transformed believer, as a Prophet, should not move among and analyze the surface, cannot "give into compromises." He must speak about social injustice and the exploitation of God's people. The prophetic sermon, as a sermon of man's freedom from all tyranny, must take its place in today's ecclesiastical life. Today we need Prophets who will peacefully and calmly, with love, i.e. sacrificially, judge history and open ways for experiencing the Kingdom of God. Thus, the Church will peacefully take a stand on the burning problems that plague human societies, it will show its interest in the restoration of justice and the orientation of man towards Christ.

Such Prophets who proclaim the prophetic sermon and liberate man still exist today, who work calmly and quietly. They move beyond the surface, but from the depth where they work they will dissolve every human surface and reveal the Kingdom of God. That is, they will not abolish the inequality of the will, but they will transform people by freeing them from passions and they will lead them to freedom in Christ.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.