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Monday, November 28, 2022

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

 
 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on December 20, 1953)

Listen again to the Gospel reading that was read today, let us delve into it, for I want to explain it to you.

Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" So Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he became very sorrowful, He said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And those who heard it said, “Who then can be saved?” But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Lk. 18:18–27).

I think that many of you were surprised by the answer of our Lord Jesus Christ to a young man who questioned Him and called Him a Good Teacher: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God."

These words sound as if the Lord was instructing people that He is not God, that there is no need to give Him Divine honors.

But if we think like this, then we will talk about another passage in the Gospel, in which the Lord Jesus Christ did not forbid His apostles to call Him the Son of God, i.e. God?

When He called His future apostle Nathanael and in a conversation with him showed Divine omniscience, Nathanael, shocked by this, exclaimed: “Rabbi! You are the Son of God, You are the King of Israel!” and Christ did not forbid him to call Him the Son of God.

When the Lord Jesus Christ asked His disciples who they considered Him to be, Peter answered: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." And Christ not only did not forbid him to call Himself that way, but said: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonas, because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

But even more than that, we read in the Gospel that the Lord, in the presence of all the people in the synagogue, more than once called Himself directly God. There, when one day the scribes and Pharisees surrounded Him and demanded that He reveal who He was, He answered: "The same that spoke unto you from the beginning."

Who, then, exists from the beginning, if not only God? With this answer, He called Himself God.

And another time he said even more definitely to those who asked Him: “I and the Father are One.” Is this not declaring Himself to be God? I am one with My Heavenly Father. This answer so angered those who listened that they seized stones to throw at Him for blasphemy. But Jesus said to them, "Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (John 10:34-36), and the hands that held the stones dropped.

How can one explain that the Lord Jesus Christ allowed His disciples to call Him the Son of God, that He Himself openly called Himself God, One with the Father, from the beginning Existing, and this young man who questioned Him and turned to Him with the words “Good Teacher”, He stopped, saying: “No one is good but One, that is, God,” as if directly denying His Divinity, forbidding to call oneself God, even to call oneself good.

How do we explain this? From my poor mind I will try to explain it to you.

This means that it is one thing to allow His disciples, His apostles, and moreover in private, to call Him the Son of God; another thing is to call Himself one God with the Father, from the beginning Existing; and another thing is to allow everyone to call Him by the Divine name.

What would happen if the Lord Jesus Christ unhindered allowed every person from the crowd, like this young man who turned to the Lord, to call Him by that name that belongs only to God?

What would be? It would be very stupid. His numerous enemies and all those who did not believe in Him would immediately accuse Him, from the very beginning, of allowing Himself to be called God. This would stir up the hatred and bitterness of His enemies; this would have prevented many from following Him, being enlightened by His miracles, and believing in Him. This would be a heavy, essential handicap in the great work of Christ. What was permissible and might have borne good fruit at one time might be harmful at another time and under other circumstances.

At the beginning of His ministry, the Lord Himself did not call Himself God, and if He did not object when the apostles called Him the Son of God, it was only among the apostles, only between Him and the twelve apostles, not among the people; this was unknown to the people and could not tempt anyone.

The Lord Jesus openly called Himself from the beginning Eternal, and at the end of His ministry One with the Heavenly Father, when the time for this came.

Here is how to understand the answer of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is, God."

You have just heard the conversation with the young man. In response to his question, the Lord reminded him of the commandments given through Moses on Mount Sinai. The young man replied that he kept all these commandments from a very early age, fulfilled everything. What else am I missing? When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

The young man bowed his head low and left, for he was very rich, and did not want and could not fulfill this command of Christ.

Then the Lord, addressing the disciples and the people, said: “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

This answer startled and surprised all those who listened, even the apostles, and they asked: “Who then can be saved? But He said: "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."

How to explain the question of the apostles? Only by the fact that the ancient Jews considered wealth to be God's blessing, and people who were worthy of wealth, this blessing of God, were considered pleasing to God and righteous - and suddenly the Lord says that the rich cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Lord replied that "the things which are impossible with men are possible with God."

How can we explain these words of Christ: why did He say that the rich cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven, just as a camel cannot pass through an eye of a needle?

I think that the only explanation can be found in the fact that a rich man who does not part with his wealth amid the poverty and disasters surrounding him, who does not squander his wealth to help the perishing, is disgusted by God for his mercilessness and therefore access to the Kingdom of God is closed to him. And if, Christ added, that what is impossible for people is possible with God, then this means that God can correct even an unmerciful heart with one word of His, for we know many examples of how the word of God shook the hearts of people and radically changed their whole life. There are many vivid examples of this in the lives of the saints. I will cite only the legend of Saint Anthony the Great.

Once in the temple he heard the current Gospel reading, and hearing the demand to sell and give away his estate to the poor - and he was the son of very rich parents who gave him an extremely high education and left their huge estate as a legacy - and yet, without reasoning at all and not hesitating, he carried out the order of Christ and, having distributed everything to the poor, he himself went into the wild African desert, where he labored for many decades. He fought with demons, with the devil himself, achieved the greatest spiritual perfection and became one of those who should be called an angel in the flesh.

This will serve as an example for us. Although there are no rich among us, we have only a small income, but this cannot be an excuse. We must remember about Anthony the Great and, as far as we can, fulfill the requirement of Christ, distributing what we have to the poor.

In this, may our Lord and God Jesus Christ help you all. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.
 
 
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