April 12, 2023

Remember Your End, and You Will Never Sin (A Homily of St. Luke of Simferopol)

 Remember Your End, and You Will Never Sin

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

Homily for the Thursday of the Week of the Last Judgment

Mark 13:33–37

(Delivered on February 4, 1948/February 17, 1949)

Blessed are those whom the Son of God, coming to earth for the second time, will find awake, for He warned: “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming — in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning — lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:33-37).

Great honor and joy await those who are awake at that hour: the Lord will come and serve them, give glory and honor to His faithful servants who feel like travelers walking along the short path of life with lamps in their hands, according to what was said: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning" (Luke 12:35).

After all, “The Bridegroom is coming in the middle of the night, and blessed is the servant, whom he will find vigilant, but unworthy is the one, whom he will find in idleness; watch, then, my soul, lest you be weighed down with sleep, lest you be given over to death and be shut outside of the Kingdom, but rise up, crying out: Holy, holy, holy are You, O God, through the Theotokos have mercy on us."

May we not be like those foolish five virgins who remained behind the door of the bridal chamber, because their lamps went out when the Bridegroom came and the doors were closed. We must not be lazy, all the more so we must not be like the unfortunate ones who never raise their gaze to heaven, to the Throne of God. They live like pigs, who dig the ground all day long in search of food, and when they are satisfied, lie down in the mud and sleep.

Those who embarked on the path of good should remember the words of the Apostle Paul: “I die every day” (1 Cor. 15:31), that is, he was ready for death every day. And we need every day, getting out of bed in the morning, to ask ourselves: “Will I live this day? Will it be the last in my life?" In the evening, before going to bed, you should think: “Another day has passed, another day has approached my death. Maybe I won’t wake up, I’ll fall asleep now with an eternal dream.” It happens that people are found dead in the morning.

It is very important that we feel condemned to death, for the Scripture says: “Remember your end, and you will never sin” (Sir. 7:39). After all, is it possible that a person who always thinks that his death may be very close, would start complex commercial enterprises, take care of wealth, luxury, indulge in passions and lusts, engage in empty talk, gossip, slander? He would leave everything and take care of only the most necessary things for a person who is dying. And if we do not care about vain pastimes, then our whole life will change dramatically. All our thoughts and feelings will be directed to the depths of the heart. The fear of death will take possession of us, because we will know that we will soon stand before the Judgment of God, and, knowing this, we will try to free ourselves from vanity, fornication, envy, anger - from every sin.

Perhaps someone will have a thought: "What will happen if everyone starts thinking only about their death?" Do not be afraid of this, for people who follow the path of good will not engage in empty and bad deeds. Moreover, they are not at all required to stop their labors, but their work will simply receive a new direction - holy and pure.

We must work, but if we do not always work for God, then we will perish, for, according to Saint Isaac the Syrian, “peace and idleness are the death of the soul, and more demons can harm it.” It is also said: “Just as flowing waters, having turned into stagnant waters, spoil, so the human soul and body deteriorate from idleness.” You need to know that the soul is terribly disfigured by spiritual idleness and negligence for salvation, for concern for the salvation of the soul throughout life should be the first, main and most important concern.

The main thing that is necessary for salvation is Communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. After deep repentance and confession of your sins before a priest, with trembling and reverence, partake of the Body and Blood of Christ in the great Mystery of the Eucharist. May He help you in this, Who began His earthly ministry with a sermon about repentance and shed His Most Holy Blood for us on the terrible Cross of Golgotha.

Remember that life is short. May we acquire virtue, and may the memory of death change our being in the way that pleases God, and then God will bless our life and our deeds. May our Lord and God Jesus Christ find you all awake on the terrible day, on the day of Judgment, to Him be glory and praise forever with His Beginningless Father and the Most Holy Spirit. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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