January 29, 2023

Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday of Matthew (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us: "Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you" (John 12:35). You still have the light of Christ, you still have the possibility to go to the temple, to listen to the commandments, to listen to the Gospel. Walk in this light. Because when death comes, that light will go out for you. Beyond the grave there is no repentance and you will be repaid according to what you have done in your life.
Therefore walk in the light while you have the light, so that the darkness, the eternal darkness, the darkness of death does not overtake you. The holy apostle Paul says: "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). Now, while we live, is for us the accepted time, a time of salvation. Now we must think about our salvation and prepare for eternal life. This is what all Christians do, all who love Christ.

70 years ago there lived in St. Petersburg a doctor named Gaaz. He served in prisons and had a good heart, a heart full of mercy and love for people. From his position, the prison doctor, he tried as much as he could to help the unfortunate people held there. He saw that they were sending chained convicts to the galleys, he knew that they would walk thousands of versts until they reached Siberia, and his heart clenched with pain. In order to feel their pain, he once put chains on his legs and walked with them for hours in the yard of his house.

When he was on his deathbed, this holy man and physician said to the people gathered around him the following wonderful words, which we must keep in mind: "Make haste to do good for others." Make haste because death awaits us all. Be not frivolous, be faithful unto death, and God will give you the crown of life.

The prophet Isaiah said a word, which we should also remember well and which should be deeply imprinted on our hearts: "Tremble, you women who are at ease; be troubled, you complacent ones; strip yourselves, make yourselves bare, and gird sackcloth on your waists" (Is. 32:11). Tremble, you who are carefree, remember death, always think of the time when you will leave this life and never forget it.

And in order not to forget it, to be able to follow the way of Christ and not be afraid of death, we need help from Almighty God. Without this help we will not overcome the devil's temptations, so we must ask God to send us his grace. Lord, have mercy on us sinners, Lord, help us!

We must beg Him as the idolatrous woman begged Him, about whom you heard today in the Gospel reading (Mt. 15:21-28). She was a Canaanite and when she saw Christ with his disciples she began to cry out loudly and beg Him: "Have mercy on me, Lord, son of David; my daughter is badly possessed." But the Lord paid no attention to her and silently continued on his way. The woman continued to plead with Him, but He did not answer. At the end His disciples said to Him: "Send her away, for she is crying after us." And the Lord answered: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

But the woman continued to beg Him. What did the Lord say to her then? "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." And He heard an answer amazing for its humility and meekness: "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table" - Give me, Lord, a crumb of your mercy! The Lord stopped when He heard it, and said to her: "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Many of us have lives that are not fitting for Christians. Many are burdened with various sins, many have forgotten the word of God: "The sting of death is sin" (1 Cor. 15:56). Death wounds him who is a slave to sin. Then, if we are so weak, if the garment of our soul is all black with our sins, are we not like dogs, should we not cry out to God, as that Canaanite woman cried? "Lord, I am like a dog, but have mercy on me!"

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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