Sunday, October 2, 2022

Homily for the Second Sunday of Luke (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 
 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on October 10/23, 1949)

Open your hearts, sharpen your hearing to the perception of the amazing, extraordinary, deepest words of Christ: “As you want people to do to you, so do you to them” (Luke 6:31).

When a person with a pure heart hears these words of Christ for the first time, he is embarrassed, he even becomes uncomfortable.

Oh my God! How could I not think of what You are telling us! How did I not think that I should treat people the way I want to be treated.

Simply, unusually simple is this word of Christ, and at the same time it is bottomlessly profound.

All the words of our Savior are simple, and all His teaching is simple, for it was addressed not to proud scholars who think of themselves that they know the truth, but to those who are humble, to those who know nothing, who are strangers to pride, who are easily imbued with any authentic truth shining with divine light.

Who more deeply than the fishermen of Galilee accepted the words of Christ, who more deeply understood them, who proclaimed them to the whole world?

The Lord spoke words to the humble, meek, who are not self-centered, words that were easy for them to understand. Listen to these words in the simplicity of your hearts, listen with the deepest trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What an amazing claim He makes of us!

The world had not heard such a demand before Christ. It never occurred to the world that we should treat people the way we want them to treat us. It never occurred to the world to do good to those who hate us and offend us.

The world would never have heard, if Christ had not come, that we must love our enemies.

Christ's words are simple, but they place the highest, most difficult demands on us. Tell me, is it easy to do what He requires of us?

Is it easy to love our enemies? Is it easy to do good to those who offend us? Is it easy to give without looking away to anyone who asks? Is it easy to lend to people without any thought of getting it back?

Oh, how difficult it is, how impossible, how it does not fit into the consciousness of the people of this world!

But the fact is that the Lord does not say this to the people of this world, but to us, Christians, about whom the holy apostle Peter said the words that all of you must remember, for they apply directly to each of you: “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people taken as an inheritance, to proclaim the perfections of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

He speaks to those who should be the people chosen by Christ, he makes these heavy demands on those who should be a holy people, taken as an inheritance, so that by their lives, deeds and words “proclaim the perfections of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.”

The perfections of Christ, the perfections of God, we must proclaim to people with our whole life: with our deeds, with all our actions, with our words.

If so, if we are a holy people, a royal priesthood, shouldn't the highest demands be placed on us, which the Lord Jesus Christ sets? Isn’t it necessary to demand that we understand the full depth and truth of these words of Christ: “As you want people to do to you, so do you to them.”

Long, long ago these Divine words were spoken.

What do we still see around us, what do we see even in ourselves? Do we treat people the way we want to be treated?

After all, we do not want people to humiliate and vilify us, and who does not vilify others, his neighbors, who does not humiliate them?

We want people to help us and take care of us in difficult circumstances of our life and our loved ones. And when we ourselves prosper, and we do not need anything, how often do we remember those who have nothing, who are waiting for our help? Oh no, not often. And the Lord requires that we always remember.

It is not difficult, not at all difficult, to love people who love us; it is not difficult, not at all difficult, to love a father, or a mother, or a wife, or one's children. But what is the price of this love?

Oh no, it has almost no price, because we love our loved ones, our children, according to the instinct of love, which is embedded in us by nature. What mother does not give all the affection, all the warmth of her heart to her child? Will she not even give her life if her child is threatened with death?

This, of course, is good; but does it have the highest moral value? Oh no, it doesn't.

We know that if we decide to destroy a bird's nest, then the mother of the chicks will fly in, hover over us, beat us in the face with her wings and squeak desperately.

It is the same love, love by instinct, invested in every living being. Don't a she-bear, a she-wolf protect her cubs, go against a man who comes with a weapon?

This is love by instinct, invested by nature in the heart of every living being, and it has no high moral value.

That is why our Lord Jesus Christ says: “If you love those who love you, what credit do you have for that? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:32-33) .

In the Russian translation, it sounds like this, but in the Slavonic it is better: “If you love those who love you, what grace is there for you; for even sinners who love them love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what grace is there for you, for even sinners do the same."

We do not deserve the grace of God with such love, such deeds.

Even those who do good to us and receive good from us in return have no special reason to thank us, for we repay them good for good; what grace do we have for this from the Lord? There is no moral merit in this.

“And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit do you have for that? For even sinners lend to sinners in order to get back the same amount” (Luke 6:34) .

The Lord requires of us that we lend without expecting to receive back, without requiring at all that we give. This is right, profoundly right: this is how we should act.

When an unfortunate person who has fallen into difficult circumstances comes and asks for material help, and although he knows that he will not be able to return, in embarrassment, in shame, he asks for a loan, only a loan, then if you know that this is so, do not reject his assurances, as if he was not hurt, and give what is asked with a pure heart, not expecting to receive it back.

Then there will be great grace to you from God, for what you have done is a great good deed.

The Lord further demands that the one who slapped him on the cheek turn the other one, and the one who took away his outer garment should not be prevented from taking his shirt.

Who does this, how many? Oh no, they extremely, extremely rarely do what Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk did. When he meekly and quietly tried to exhort the proud young landowner to improve his life and received a blow on the cheek in response, what did he do?

He fell at the feet of this insolent man, asking for forgiveness for having led him into anger, into irritation. And what was the result?

The result was amazing: the impudent young man was so amazed and shocked that he himself fell at the feet of the Saint and then completely changed his bad life and became an exemplary Christian.

When we meet thieves who begin to beat and rob us, how many act as the Lord Jesus Christ commanded?

I confessed an old man who was dying, who told the secret of his life, the secret of a great sin. He said that one night he was attacked on the street by two bandits who wanted to undress him. He, possessing great physical strength, grabbed one of them by the throat and strangled him, while the other fled in fear.

Because of his coat, because of his suit, he destroyed his soul, for we hear from the apostle that murderers have no place in the Kingdom of God. Wouldn't it be better to do this: calmly, without any irritation, give what the villains demanded. Wouldn't he buy himself another coat, another suit, but how will he redeem this grave sin, what will he give for his soul?

You see that this is not a fantastic demand at all, that it can be fulfilled if the heart is such that it is capable of fulfilling it.

But here many stop in confusion before the last demand of Christ: “To you who hear, I say: love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

Loving enemies - is it easy? Oh no, it's difficult, it's the highest requirement of Christ. And if He requires, it means that He knows what can be done, for He does not require anything impossible. It is difficult, I know it is difficult, but I will try to answer this difficult question.

Let's see who our enemies are. We have different enemies: these are all those who do dirty tricks to us, all who hate and offend us. Neighbors do a lot of dirty tricks to us: you hear a lot of insulting words from them, a lot of curses, a lot of curses.

But after all, you have heard in the current apostolic reading that the Apostle Paul himself had a dirty trick of the flesh, who constantly did dirty tricks on him. What was this dirty trick of the flesh? This is an evil man, the tinkerer Alexander, who pursued the Apostle Paul everywhere, doing dirty tricks, insults, annoyances everywhere. It was hard for the holy apostle, and he prayed three times to God to deliver him from this cruel man. And what answer did he get? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The Lord said: no need, let him continue to do dirty tricks, because His divine power is accomplished in weakness: when we are reviled, when we are persecuted, when we suffer, then we are strong by the power of God, the grace of God's help.

If the hour comes for us to endure from evil people, from the dirty tricks of the flesh, all sorts of dirty tricks, bullying, insults, how should we act then? As the ancient sage Solomon taught. His words were repeated by Saint Paul in Romans, great words, full of strength and truth: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him with bread; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for by doing this you are heaping burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Prov. 25:21-22).

These burning coals will burn, even his black heart will burn, it will be shocked by the fact that you respond to its dirty tricks with meekness.

Who else are our enemies? These are those evil people who envy our successes in life, successes in scientific work, successes in our worldly well-being; these are slanderers, false scammers - these are our true enemies.

But think about this: are such enemies scary for everyone? Oh no, not everyone.

There were many people who did not set themselves the goal of arranging earthly well-being. There were people who renounced everything, preferring poverty and, living in obscurity, did not arouse envy in others. Such were all the monks, all the hermits, ascetics: they had no enemies, for having rejected all the blessings of the earth, they disarmed the envious.

There are still enemies, terrible enemies who kill and rob us. How can they be treated with love, how is it possible to love robbers, murderers?

And there were saints for whom this was possible, who answered the villains with love; such was our God-bearing father Seraphim of Sarov. Several robbers attacked him when he lived in a remote wilderness, beat him half to death, broke his ribs, fractured his skull. He suffered for a long time and fell ill and suffered heavily, until the Most Holy Theotokos put an end to his suffering.

The robbers were caught - they turned out to be peasants of a nearby village; they had to stand trial, they faced hard labor. What does the Venerable Seraphim do? With all the strength, with all the ardor of his heart, he demanded that these villains not be punished, he even threatened that he would leave the monastery. At the request of Saint Seraphim, they left them alone, but the Lord punished them, for the fire burned their huts.

There were others who themselves helped the robbers to tie their property into bundles, they themselves put these bundles on their shoulders.

Here is an example of how you can fulfill the commandment of Christ even in relation to thieves, to villains, and not only to those little dirty tricks of the flesh who poison your life.

The Lord does not make such demands that exceed human strength. He makes the highest demands on those whom He has made His holy people, whom He has taken as an inheritance. He demands of them complete perfection, such perfection as is characteristic of God Himself, for you hear that of those who fulfill these difficult requirements of His, He says that they will be called the sons of the Most High, He says to them: “Be merciful, as your Father is merciful."

And the Evangelist Matthew conveys it in other words: "Be perfect, even as your Heavenly Father is perfect."

Do you hear, the Lord requires of us Christians that we be perfect, as He Himself is perfect; demands such immeasurably great mercy, which would be similar to the mercy of the Heavenly Father, Who "commands His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45).

It demands great immeasurable love, similar to the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, who became incarnate and gave Himself “over for the sake of salvation” for the sins of the whole world, in order to open the way to God-manhood for us Christians.

God-manhood is the goal of everyone's life. The goal of life is perfection in love, in righteousness, and for this you need to work tirelessly to purify your heart.

When a person cares about this for a long, long time, when he cleanses his heart from everything sinful, from everything impure, then his heart will become the abode of the Holy Spirit, it will become the temple of God. Then he will attain love, that love which will make it possible to fulfill all these lofty and perfect demands of Christ.

Set as your task the purification of your heart and the acquisition of love, set the task of your life to become the abode of the Holy Spirit within you.

And may Christ help you in this with His Divine grace. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
 
 
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