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December 4, 2022

Homily Two for the Tenth Sunday of Luke (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on November 29, 1958)

Our Lord Jesus Christ once entered the synagogue and saw a woman there who had been suffering severely for 18 years: she was crouched, low bent and could not straighten up.

He commanded her to come to the middle and with one word of His, with one Divine command, he healed her - the woman suddenly straightened up to her full height and praised God.

The people rejoiced at seeing such a miracle, but the leader of the synagogue and the Pharisees did not rejoice like everyone else, but became indignant and turned to the people with a sharp remark: "Not on the Sabbath" (Luke 13:14).

The Lord Jesus Christ said to him: “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound — think of it — for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”

The Pharisees angrily fell silent and held their malice.

It happened more than once, and it happened when our Lord Jesus Christ in the synagogue also healed a man who had a withered hand on the Sabbath day. He ordered him to come out into the middle and, turning to the Pharisees, He asked them: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4).

They were silent, wickedly silent, and watched what Jesus would do. Jesus commanded the one who had a dry hand to stretch it out, and he was suddenly healed. The poor man stretched it out freely.

The people were surprised, in indescribable joy, seeing such a miracle. But the leaders of the people, the Pharisees and scribes, did not rejoice: they were furious. They were infuriated by the miracle of the Lord Jesus Christ. What does it mean? How to explain it?

Why were they furious? Why, after every miracle performed by the Lord Jesus on Saturday, they deliberated how to kill Him - to kill Him because He works miracles; kill Him for doing good deeds to the unfortunate cripples.

Kill... Do you think it's fair, to be furious?

What does this mean? How to explain this frenzy of the Pharisees, elders and scribes? How to explain their desire to kill the Savior for miracles, healing on Saturday?

There were twofold reasons for this, one might suppose: firstly, their fanaticism. What does the word fanaticism mean?

Fanaticism is a frantic, unstoppable, self-forgetful devotion to some doctrine, some rule, the violation of which fanatics consider a mortal sin.

Fanaticism moved the hearts of those Pharisees who were furious at the miracles of Christ. Fanaticism prompted them to plot the murder of this great miracle worker: they considered the Lord Jesus to be a serious sinner, a violator of the law of Moses, for this law contained the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; six days you shall work, and do all your works in them, but not the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Lord your God.”

This commandment was established by God through Moses in remembrance of how, after the six-day creation of the world, God rested from His labors on the seventh day.

This commandment commands to keep oneself from all work, to be at rest on the seventh day, when God rested from the labors of creating the world.

This commandment was considered especially important by the Jews, and especially by their elders, the Pharisees and Sadducees; they were fanatical about the fulfillment of this commandment.

They, as always, understood only the letter of the law, and not its spirit; in all the law only the letter was served, and not the spirit, as here.

The divine law, which forbade all work on the Sabbath day, was taken to such an extreme that they considered the Lord Jesus Christ a grave sinner when He healed the blind man in Bethsaida: He brought the blind man out of the city, spat on the ground, made clay and anointed the eyes of the blind man with this clay - and he was healed.

This task, absolutely insignificant in its difficulty - anointing the eyes of a blind man with clay - was considered by the accursed enemies of Christ to be the gravest sin. They taught the people that the Lord did this not by the power of God, but by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons, by the power of the devil.

This is what their fanaticism, the fanatical understanding of the fourth commandment, has brought them to: it has brought them to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.

He was crucified, as they said, precisely because He allegedly destroys the law of Moses, and He did not violate, but only filled it with His new Divine commandments.

Here's what you need to know about fanaticism.

Know that fanaticism did not die with the murder of Christ, fanaticism continues to exist and still exists - even in the Christian world.

There have been many manifestations of wild, sinful fanaticism in the history of the Church, and the most striking manifestation is the Spanish Inquisition.

The Inquisition is a court established in the Middle Ages against the so-called heretics. This court was established in Spain; Inquisitors were appointed, headed by the Grand Inquisitor from among the highest spiritual persons.

Every unfortunate person who not only revealed a clear heresy, but even one who only showed free-thinking, was brought to this court of the Inquisition, to this Inquisition tribunal. And the trial was accompanied by terrible tortures of unfortunate people, and ended with a sentence to be burned at the stake. And many, many people were burned at the stake by this accursed Spanish Inquisition. There have been other manifestations of fanaticism in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. There were crusades, the participants of which committed unbearable atrocities.

The pagans who inhabited Latvia and Estonia were converted to Christianity by fire and sword by the crusader knights.

But do not think that only then, that only at that time did fanaticism manifest itself: it manifested itself in another form, and some of you also manifest it, for some, striving only to follow the letter of the law, do not properly understand how to fulfill this commandment.

There were among our people sectarians - Subbotniks - who, together with the Jews, still honor Saturday instead of Sunday. On Saturday they will not do even the smallest work, and on Sunday they do the most difficult, dirtiest work.

But let us leave the unfortunate sectarians. They do not understand that Apostolic Christians already replaced the Sabbath day with the day of Sunday, and applied the commandment to Sunday.

So it was under the apostles. Many Fathers of the Church testify to this.

But the Sabbatarian sectarians still did not understand this. We understand that it is more important to honor Christ on Sunday, for the greatest event in the history of the world, than to honor the ancient Sabbath, on which God rested from the works of the creation of the world. What Christ accomplished with His cross and resurrection is higher and more important than what He created as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity with the Father and the Spirit - the creation of the world.

We will, of course, honor not the Sabbath day, but the Sunday. How shall we honor it? How will we behave? Will we think that it is not a sin if we do not dedicate this day to serving God, if we do not dedicate this day to prayer - church prayer, the deeds of philanthropy and mercy that God commanded, but instead we will only spend it in idleness, instead of the temple we will go to the theater and cinema? Shall we consider the slightest work as a sin, like sewing on a button, as the Pharisees and scribes believed?

I know that among you there are truly merciful people who deeply understand the question that the Lord asked the scribes and Pharisees: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”

And understanding these words well, remember that you need to honor Sunday in order to abandon, to leave behind all your daily vain deeds, and to indulge in prayer, reading Holy Scripture.

I know that there are some among you who understand this well, who, and not only on this day, do great works of mercy.

I know a kind woman who touchingly cares for an unfortunate old woman who is dying of breast cancer in severe suffering. This old woman is abandoned, there is no one to help her, and this woman constantly goes to her, washes her, feeds her.

This is how to honor Sunday, this is how to fulfill the fourth commandment of Christ: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; six days you shall work, and do all your works in them, but not the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Lord your God."

I told you in the beginning that two reasons led the scribes and Pharisees to hate the Lord Jesus Christ, persecute Him, and eventually crucify Him.

The first reason is their fanaticism; the second reason is their selfishness, their egoism.

With fear and trembling they saw what a tremendous impression the Lord Jesus Christ made with His teaching and, above all, with His innumerable miracles. They saw that the people were following Him.

When Jesus Christ was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, and at night they brought Him to the Sanhedrin, the leaders deliberated what to do with Christ, and Caiaphas stood up and said: “You know nothing at all! ... it’s better for us that one person died for the people than so that all the people perish” (John 11:49-50).

This was the decisive word, and Christ was condemned to death.

What led the Pharisees, scribes and priests in this terrible deed? Their fear is that the Lord will become the king of Israel, that, thanks to His miracles and teachings, they will lose their significance in the eyes of the people as teachers and leaders of the people, leaders to salvation by the fulfillment of the law.

They heard the formidable accusatory speech of the Lord Jesus Christ, set forth in the 23rd chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. They were afraid for their power, they were afraid of losing their importance, and therefore they did not stop before crucifying our Lord Jesus Christ.

And we, who love the Lord Jesus with all our hearts, and we, striving with all our hearts with great joy to become children of God, we will strive to fulfill all the commandments - both the ancient commandments, given by God through Moses, and the new commandments, given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.