January 15, 2023

Homily One for the Twelfth Sunday of Luke (St. Luke of Simferopol)

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on December 17, 1950)

You heard in today's Gospel reading how our Lord Jesus Christ miraculously healed ten lepers, and how ungrateful nine of them turned out to be.

This Gospel is read at every thanksgiving service for our edification.

The miracle performed by the Lord Jesus Christ was the greatest blessing for the unfortunate lepers, for leprosy is one of the most terrible, most horrible diseases. Leprosy is a very contagious disease, people die from it, rotting alive, and therefore in ancient times lepers were expelled from cities and villages, and they did not dare to enter them, did not dare to come close to people, they asked for alms from afar. And now the unfortunate lepers are isolated from the healthy: they are placed in leper colonies, where they remain until death.

So, ten lepers received the greatest benefit from the Lord Jesus Christ, but only one, a Samaritan, returned to the Lord Jesus Christ, bowed at His feet and tearfully thanked for the healing. Notice that it was a Samaritan, it was not a Jew, but a Samaritan, a stranger to the people of Israel.

And in my long life I have long been convinced that many of the people who are alien to the Christian world are much more grateful than we Russians and even Orthodox. I have seen and continue to see the most touching gratitude for my medical healing from Jews and Muslims - much greater than the gratitude of Russians. It's hard to see.

It was hard for the Lord Jesus to see that only the Samaritan returned to give thanks to Him, and the nine Jews turned out to be ungrateful. But He only quietly and meekly reproached, saying: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? How did they not return to give glory to God, except for this foreigner?" - and to the Samaritan who gave thanks to Him, He said: - "Get up, go; your faith has saved you” (Luke 17:17-19).

He not only received healing from a terrible illness, he also received eternal salvation for his faith, for his piety.

And we, the people of this age, aren't we even more guilty before God of ingratitude? I dare say that if in that ancient time there was one in ten grateful, then in ours there will hardly be one in a thousand. For this is one of our spiritual ulcers.

And this ulcer is very heavy.

Why, why offend the Lord Jesus Christ, who shed His Divine Blood for us on the Cross, Who gave His most pure Body to us as food for our salvation? To offend Him with ingratitude - oh, how terrible it is!

The ancient prophet spoke of ingratitude, spoke in strong words, as strong as only prophets could speak. Here is what the prophet Jeremiah says: “O generation! hearken ye to the word of the Lord: Was I a wilderness unto Israel? Was I a land of darkness? Why then do My people say, “We are our own masters; We will not come to You any more?" (Jer. 2:31).

We won't come - we don't need You. We will not thank You, we will arrange our own life as we want, we do not even need Your law - leave us with Your law.

And the holy prophet Isaiah says this: “Listen, heavens, and listen, earth, because the Lord says: I brought up and raised up sons, but they rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey knows its master's manger; but Israel does not know Me, My people do not understand. Alas, a sinful people, a people burdened with iniquity, a tribe of villains, sons of perdition! They forsook the Lord, they despised the Holy One of Israel, they turned back” (Isaiah 1:2-4).

“The beasts of the field will glorify Me, jackals and ostriches, because I will give water in the deserts, rivers in the dry steppe, to water My chosen people. This people I formed for myself; they will proclaim my glory. But you, Jacob, did not cry out to Me, you, Israel, have been weary of Me” (Is. 43:20-22).

God will choose a new people for Himself, a people more worthy than a people that does not have gratitude to God, that does not honor God.

As an example to follow, the prophet sets us, to our greatest shame, an ox that knows its owner, a jackal and an ostrich, who are grateful that God gives them water and food in the wilderness. He chose this faithful people for Himself, but He rejected the unfaithful and ungrateful.

Isn't it terrible for you to hear that God Himself sets jackals and ostriches for you as an example? Therefore be horrified by this deserved heavy judgment of God - be horrified by ingratitude!

From the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy we know that the closer the time of the Last Judgment comes, the more and more ungrateful people will become, and not only ungrateful, but also wicked in every respect.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,..." (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

Do we not often see such people among us and around us? It’s scary to say, we see this a lot, but it shouldn’t be like this: we shouldn’t bring upon ourselves the terrible apostolic words about the ungrateful.

Where does ingratitude come from in people, what are its roots, what feeds it?

Look into this, think about who is grateful and who is ungrateful. Do you not know that every wretched one, unfortunate one, having nothing, and is defenseless and helpless bows low to you and gives thanks even for the small alms that you do to him. If a weak old woman falls in the street, will she not thank the one who helps her up? She will certainly thank you with a low bow. Thanks to the sick, suffering, unfortunate, whom we help, they are always grateful, because in their sufferings, in their misfortunes, they have become humble. And the root of gratitude is precisely in humility - only the humble are grateful.

And who is ungrateful? All the proud, devoid of humility. A rich man, a man of power, occupying a high position in society, is always set up in such a way that he is above all others, and therefore all the lower ones must serve him. He considers all good deeds rendered to him his due, only for his due, for his disposition is such that, as the highest of all those around him, everyone should serve him. Such proud ones, devoid of humility, exalted above all, never give thanks: they suffer the grave sin of ingratitude. Wealthy people, and especially those who are in any way high-ranking, believe that they have little, but should have much more and stand taller.

Saint Basil the Great speaks of this as follows :“Now many fall into the vice of evil-minded people, not respecting what they have, and desiring what they don’t have. For, not thinking about those who are lower than them, they do not express gratitude to the Benefactor for what they have, but on the contrary, when compared with what and who is higher than them, they calculate what they lack, and not having what belongs to others, they grieve and grumble as if they had lost their property. The slave resents the fact that he is not free; brought up in freedom, a noble complains that he is not very rich; the rich man mourns and laments that he is not the ruler of cities and nations; a general that he does not reign; a king that he does not possess all the authority, but that there are still peoples who have not bowed under his scepter. From all this it follows that the Benefactor does not receive gratitude for anything."

This is where the roots of ingratitude are in human gluttony; no matter how much a person receives, everything is not enough for him, he does not thank, but grumbles for not receiving more.

But do we get little from God? If jackals and ostriches thank God for the water He gave them in the wilderness, have we received less?

Oh immeasurably more! God has honored us with a mind that cattle do not have; God gave us His law, which shows the way of life. God cares about us, of course, more than about jackals and ostriches. The fruits of the earth grow for us, the earth gives us all the necessary grains. He helps us in everything. The sun shines on us, the rain falls on us, pouring out equally on the good and the evil.

But what is even infinitely more important is that God did not even regret sending His Only Begotten Son to earth to crucify Him on the cross, to humiliate and insult Him.

And for us this is not enough! We are all ungrateful. O our wretchedness, oh terrible wretchedness!

Even the ancient sage Jesus the son of Sirach said this: “Whatever happens to you, accept it willingly, and be patient in the vicissitudes of your humiliation ...” (Sir. 2:4).

Accept willingly, with gratitude, accept everything that God sends you, for everything is for our good: all our sorrows and griefs are sent to us from God for our salvation. Through them God leads us to goodness, and requires us to accept everything sent from Him not only resignedly, without blaspheming His holy will, but with gratitude.

Even when God takes away our neighbors from us - father and mother, brothers and sisters, our children - then we must humbly bow our heads before His will - always good, always saving, and for everything, even for the most difficult, thank Him.

How few among us are those who always and for everything thank God, who do not grumble when God visits us with sufferings and sorrows. But those few who are always grateful for everything will receive from God great glory and honor, great grace.

Know and remember that gratitude to God, offered by us in prayer, together with repentance brought to Him, deeply, radically changes our heart. If we are always grateful, if we confess our sins, then our spiritual gaze is gradually enlightened, and we gain the ability to see what is in our heart; we learn to take care of ourselves, to notice what morally dissolute people do not see, people of the flesh, and not spiritual ones, we gain the ability of deeper concentration. Complete cleansing of the heart and our gratitude to God gives us the great grace of God.

That is why it is so important, so necessary, to always thank God.

That is why the Apostle Paul says this in his epistle to the Colossians: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).

All deeds, all thoughts should be directed to the Lord Jesus Christ. The whole structure of our life should be such that it is a continuous unceasing glorification of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

You see how enormous is the significance of gratitude, you see how profoundly wicked and fatal it is to be ungrateful. Let us therefore always be grateful, let us remember the words of the Psalm of David: “What shall I repay the Lord for all His good deeds towards me?” (Ps. 115:3). May these holy words be inscribed in burning letters upon your hearts! Always repeat:

What shall I repay, the unfortunate one, the perishing one, to my Lord, who has repaid me so much?

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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