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July 4, 2023

Homily Four on the Holy Foremost Apostles Peter and Paul (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1957)

Great and extremely difficult is the task of preaching the gospel of Christ, for one must preach not only by word, but by one's whole life, by all one's being, by all one's deeds, by fulfilling all the commandments of God, even the smallest part, for thus said our Lord Jesus Christ: "Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches people to do so, he will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever does and teaches, he will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:19).

Not only with their great epistles, both universal and to individual churches, but with their whole lives, the holy foremost Apostles Peter and Paul preached to the world the great truth of Christ, and they showed us the most vivid example of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and love for Him.

The Apostle Peter showed us the deepest faith when he got out of the boat and went to Jesus Christ walking on the waves of the Sea of Galilee.

Let us also go as fearlessly to the Son of God, having no doubt that He will support us in all the difficulties of the path, just as He supported Peter, who had begun to drown.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter, who passionately loved Christ, was not afraid to draw his sword and strike one of the high priest's servants.

Let us remember this if they dare to humiliate and insult our Savior before us, and with bold and angry words we will expose the enemies of Christ.

Let us learn from the great Apostle to repent of our sins as passionately and relentlessly as he repented before his death of his grievous sin of threefold renunciation of Christ.

Let us bow down to the earth to the great Apostle Peter and turn our spiritual gaze to another great, foremost Apostle, Blessed Paul.

I have already told you more than once about the countless sufferings and persecutions that he endured for his preaching about Christ.

Much and for a long time one could talk about the greatest significance for our faith of his fourteen epistles to various churches. I will only say that with what great depth he understood the significance of Christian love as the basis of the whole law and all the commandments of Christ.

Hear what amazing words he says in his famous “Hymn of Love”: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Not only did the Apostle Paul speak about love, as no one else spoke, but he was ardent with it, like no one else.

The death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, the Cross drenched in the blood of the Savior of the world, shocked him to such an immense degree that he lost all interest in the whole world. He felt as if crucified together with Christ and said: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).

Love for the Lord Jesus Christ so completely possessed him that he said: “From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17).

We do not know whether the wounds of the Savior were really depicted on his hands and feet, like those of the great Saint Francis of Assisi. But if he did not have genuine bloody prints, then we do not doubt that he extremely painfully felt the marks and wounds of Christ.

May we, together with blessed Paul, deeply realize and feel the horror of the Cross of Christ.

May not a single day of our life pass without the remembrance of the Cross of Christ and without overshadowing ourselves with it. May we never forget that love for God and neighbor "is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:10).

And then the Cross of Christ will be depicted on our hearts, at least to a small extent, just as it burned with heavenly light on the hearts of the great foremost Apostles Peter and Paul.

To our God, Who raised up these lamps of goodness and truth before the sinful world, we ascribe great thanksgiving, honor and worship forever and ever. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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