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June 18, 2023

Homily for the Epistle Reading of the Second Sunday After Pentecost - On the Conscience (St. Luke of Simferopol)

Homily for the Epistle Reading of the Second Sunday After Pentecost

Romans 2:9-11

On the Conscience

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1954)

I want you to delve deeper into the apostolic reading from the 2nd chapter of Paul's epistle to the Romans: “Tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:9-11).

Oh, how it is necessary for us to remember these words of blessed Paul: after all, he reminds us that punishment awaits us for every evil deed, and for a life full of evil deeds, eternal anguish and sorrow awaits in the kingdom of darkness; and for all the good that we do - eternal glory and honor in the kingdom of eternal light, for God will reward everyone according to his deeds.

But why does the apostle add that the reward for a sinful life with eternal condemnation awaits first of all the Jew, and then the Greek, that is, the one who does not know the true God?

Then, of course, God will exact more from one who knows the law of God and the commandments, and is enlightened by true theology, than from a pagan who is in darkness, who has not been taught the law of the true God.

Let this be a small consolation to those of you who grieve and weep over your children and young men who know nothing about God and His law.

And for a life full of good deeds and mercy, the All-Just God will reward with glory, honor and peace even in this life, and, above all, the Jew, that is, one who knows God's law, for his fidelity to this law and fulfillment of it. For the fulfillment of the law is an incomparably greater matter than the natural goodness and mercy of the unbeliever.

And Saint Paul added another word, not immediately clear: "For there is no partiality with God."

Why did he add it? So that you know that the Lord is all-just, and, rewarding people according to their deeds, creates only pure and great, impartial truth. Be afraid of this: be afraid of the impartial truth of God.

“When the Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what is lawful, then, having no law, they are their own law.”

How are they "their own law"? What replaces the commandments of God for them? How do they know the will of God?

God did not leave anyone without the revelation of His will, and to those who did not believe in Him, who did not know Him, He gave the conscience instead of the law.

What is conscience? Conscience is the quiet voice of God, felt by everyone in their heart. This is a gracious voice that approves every good deed and word, condemns every manifestation of malice and hatred, every lie and untruth.

I said that we perceive the voice of conscience with our hearts, and this is important for you to understand. It is important to know that the heart is not only the central organ of blood circulation, as physiologists think, but, above all, a great organ of feeling and higher knowledge, because we know not only with the mind and brain, but perhaps even more with feeling.

There are many strings in the heart, even the thinnest, sensitively catching everything good and true, sounding like a protest against the evil and untrue. It is with the heart, with its finest strings, that we have communion with God Himself in prayers and revelations, and through our many-stringed heart the quiet voice of conscience speaks to us.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself spoke to you about this quiet voice, as we read at the end of the third chapter of the Apocalypse of the Apostle John the Theologian: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

What amazing words! Why is the great Word of God, who can command threateningly, reducing himself like a beggar, and quietly asking us to open the door? Because He does not want obedience out of fear, but only the fulfillment of His will through deep faith and love for Him.

However, the voice of conscience is not always quiet and meek. It can reach great and formidable strength and incessantly torment the grave criminal with its denunciations and remorse. You yourself know examples of this. You know how the murderers are tormented and overwhelmed by unbearable fear.

They probably read in Pushkin how Tsar Boris Godunov was tormented by his conscience for the murder of Tsar Dimitri, how his vision of bloody boys pursued him everywhere. Let us be afraid of this and give God great praise for His precious gift - the conscience.

This praise, of course, will not be joined by those who do not believe in God and do not think about His voice in our hearts.

Conscience, in their opinion, is excited only by the voice of public opinion, which condemns evil and encourages good.

O God! How primitive is this explanation, how devoid of any profound thought!

Is it really not clear that the voice of public opinion can only evoke apprehension and fear, and, of course, cannot touch all the grace-filled and subtle strings of our hearts that sound in response to reproaches of conscience.

And our conscience will be an inexorable judge at the Last Judgment of Christ. Then all unbelievers will understand what conscience is.

So, as far as I could, I explained to you what conscience is.

But you may ask: Are there not people who have no principles? Does everyone have a conscience? Yes, there are many dishonorable people.

Conscience is given by God to everyone, but it depends on the person whether to listen to the voice of conscience and follow it, or to drown out this voice.

People who have chosen the path of evil, from day to day in every possible way drown out this voice of God, force their conscience to be silent. And then God, seeing the hopelessness of man for the truth, leaves him to perish, and he becomes shameless.

But conscience cannot only be silenced, but its voice can also be strengthened.

If a person of a good life listens sensitively even to very slight reproaches of conscience, then its voice becomes more and more clear and guides all the behavior of even a person who does not know the law.

This is the meaning of Paul's words, that the pagans, who do not know the law, are "their own law."

And we will turn our hearts to the great apostle Paul and say: “O blessed and holy one, receive great thanksgiving from us sinners for what you have told us about the pagans and unbelievers, that the Law of God is written in their dark hearts. May our Lord Jesus Christ, who sent you, help us always to listen attentively to the voice of conscience, which corrects all our deviations from His great Law.” Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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