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November 20, 2022

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

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on December 11, 1949)

Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ (Luke 12:16–20).

A small short parable of Christ, but what depth, bottomless depth of thought and truth in these short words!

Our Lord Jesus Christ always spoke in short words. He taught us not to be verbose, and we are all prone to verbosity, this is because it is incomparably more difficult to speak briefly, vividly and strongly than verbosely.

In this short parable, everything that is necessary for us is said: it is said about the two paths that people follow, it is said about those whom Holy Scripture calls carnal people, who are the vast majority among people; it is also said about those who are incomparably fewer: it is said about spiritual people.

Two paths of life are indicated: the path of serving one's flesh, one's lusts, and the path of serving the spirit.

Delve into this parable, amazing in its power, depth and brevity. What did this unfortunate rich man think when a huge amount of crops was yielded? He was thinking: “What should I do? I have nowhere to gather my fruits." And he said, "This is what I will do."

O cursed one! O fool! You have nowhere to gather your crops? You don't know what to do? Don't you see how many hungry and poor people around you have nothing?

You did not think about them, you thought only about yourself, you decided to do something wise in your eyes: to break down the barns and build new, much larger ones, to collect all your goods there. For what, why? To say to your soul absurd, insane words: “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."

O unfortunate one! He did not know anything better than to overeat and get drunk with wine, he did not know anything higher than joy, insignificant, empty, earthly joy. He directs all the powers of the soul to collecting more wealth, securing contentment, a luxurious, well-fed life. O unfortunate one!

He probably never heard other words of Christ, did not hear what the Lord said to all of us: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19-20).

How often the treasures we have collected perish, how often they are destroyed unexpectedly, completely unexpectedly for us, and then the soul of a person, full of covetousness, plunges into despair, gloomy, black despair.

And once again the Lord spoke a great and deep word about the same: “Whoever is not with me is against me; and whoever does not gather with Me, he squanders” (Matt. 12:30).

O Lord, You command us not to gather earthly goods, You command us to gather together with You and not squander. What does it mean to be with you? What does it mean not to squander, but to gather with You?

To be with You means to be close to You, to be among those whom You called Your friends, it means to think as You thought, to want what You wanted and taught us to want.

You wanted us to gather, not squander. When do we squander?

When we act like this mad rich man, who directed all the powers of his soul, all his life, towards this, and only towards gathering as many earthly blessings as possible.

Why, why?!

So that on the same night his soul was taken away, and no one knows who got what he gathered.

When a person gathers wealth, often in unclean ways, does he not squander it?

He squanders what is dearest of all, what constitutes the only true treasure of the soul, he squanders all the good that was in his soul.

For when a person devotes himself wholly to the care of wealth, about ample food, about living in luxury and bliss, then they fall asleep, and not only fall asleep, but all deep, spiritual, pure aspirations completely disappear in his soul, for they are supplanted by base aspirations.

If a person has collected wealth and says to his soul: “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry” - then what, isn’t this a carnal person? Does he not serve his lusts, his passions, his belly? Does he rise much above all foolish creatures, above animals that know no other pleasures than the delight of the stomach?

Oh, how insignificant, oh how unfortunate is this man!

And the more base passions grow in his soul, the desire to please his flesh, the more he squanders all the spiritual, all high aspirations that have ever been in him.

For spiritual treasures are incompatible with what a person who serves entirely his flesh does: he squanders, he loses the good that he ever had, that the Lord Jesus Christ taught us to gather.

This is what the words of Christ mean about those who squander.

And what is the meaning of the words about those who gather together with Him? Who gathers what needs to be gathered in order to be with Him?

We must be laborers of the highest order: we must gather what is precious in the eyes of God, and not waste it.

It is necessary to gather the fruits of the fulfillment of the commandments of Christ; one must become poor in spirit, humble, weeping, one must acquire the great gift of tears, which is characteristic of so few; it is necessary to acquire meekness instead of pride, rudeness and self-exaltation; one must hunger and thirst with all one's heart for the truth of God; one must acquire the treasures of mercy, become pure in heart, be peacemakers; one must be persecuted for faith in Christ; if the Lord sends such blessing, it is necessary that the words of the last commandment of beatitude apply to us: “Blessed are you, when they reproach you and deceive you, and they say all kinds of evil words against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven."

Now, if a person directs all his aspirations, all the strength of his soul to purify his heart, to become in everything pleasing to God, then these great treasures of spiritual goodness will accumulate in his heart more and more, then he will gather with Christ. And when his death hour comes, then the angels of God will carry ahead of him on golden platters all the good that he has done: all deeds of love, deeds of mercy, all good words, words of truth, high and pure aspirations - they will carry, they will carry.

And it will be good for such a person. He will not be in the position of the unfortunate rich man to whom God said: “Fool! this night your soul will be required of you.”

Oh, how we must remember these last words of Christ!

After all, this applies to each of us. Don't you know how often people die quite unexpectedly?

I have just received a notice of the death of my old comrade in medical work. He was healthy and cheerful, went to bed - and never woke up again.

When you enter a railroad car or on the deck of a steamship, are you sure that you will be alive, that you will not perish along the way, that what is not waiting for you, instead of further life, is the bottom of the sea or blood on the rails?

And if so, shouldn't we remember, always remember the words of Christ: "Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning"?

When people go on a long journey or to hard work, they gird themselves tightly. When people walk in darkness, they take lamps with them and make sure that they are always burning.

Thus, throughout your life, you must gird your spiritual loins tightly, you must always be ready, you must carry your lamps always burning, you must be careful not to be left without oil for them, like the five foolish virgins in the parable of the Gospel.

We must always be ready for death. It is necessary to go to bed and get up from sleep to think, will this not be my last night, my last day? Will I fall under a tram on the street today? Will I die in some other way?

If we are so disposed, then these words of God will not apply to us: “Fool! this night your soul will be required of you."

Let us gather, gather with Christ, gather only what is pleasing to Him!

And most people gather what is not at all pleasing to Him.

I told you that the majority of people are carnal people, thirsting only for earthly comforts, earthly pleasures. There are few spiritual people, few who devote their whole lives to serving God, who spend their whole lives purifying their hearts, watching it, always striving to increase love in themselves, increase faith, and increase humility.

But there are people of a much higher order than those who are like this unfortunate man about to build new granaries.

There are people who live by spiritual demands, often deep ones. They devote their entire lives to the study of human wisdom, they endlessly read books, read one after another and acquire great knowledge and sometimes great thought.

What shall we say about them: shall we count them among those who gather together with Christ? No, we will not call them carnal, but we will not count them among those who gather with Christ, because one can gather human wisdom without Christ, without calling on His help, without even believing in Him.

Such people live by their mind, their will, their understanding of life. They set themselves their life tasks, despising those set by the Lord Jesus Christ. They seek perfection in human wisdom. But are there sources of love in the books of human wisdom? They are not there; there are no sources of faith, humility, meekness, mercy.

This means that the one who does this does not gather these spiritual treasures.

And we, the humble sheep of Christ's flock, may we always remember this short parable of Christ about the foolish rich man who placed all his hope in himself and in his wealth.

Let us strive to be with Christ, for whoever is not with Him is against Him.

Is it possible that such a terrible misfortune will happen to any of us, so that the angels of heaven call us enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ?!

Let it not be! Let it not be! Let it not be!

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.