August 20, 2023

Homily One for the Eleventh Sunday of Matthew - Seeing Our Own Sins in the Lives of Others (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on September 9, 1945)

The Lord Jesus Christ often shakes our hearts with His words and parables, showing us the limits of human wickedness and sinfulness. The behavior of an immensely hard-hearted debtor, to whom the good king forgave a huge debt of ten thousand talents, is deeply outrageous. And what does he do when he receives this grace? Having met a poor man who owes him an insignificant amount of one hundred denarii, he grabs him by the throat and strangles him, despite the fact that from the mouth of the unfortunate man he hears the same words that he himself spoke before the king: “Be patient with me, and I will give everything to you.” But he does not want to endure and puts his debtor in prison (see Matt. 18:23–35). What could be more outrageous?

This is an extreme degree of ingratitude, a complete lack of mercy, the ability and desire to forgive your neighbors their debts. This is a complete forgetfulness of what we pray to God every day: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

What dark properties of the soul did this ruthless man display in relation to his unfortunate neighbor? What prompted him to such cruelty, to such a violation of the truth? First and foremost, his ego, his selfishness; he thought only of himself, he wished well only for himself, and he did not want to think of others. In addition, he was an extreme lover of money. All his thoughts were directed to getting as much as possible. It was not enough for him that he received ten thousand talents. To such an extent was he greedy for money that he could not forget the hundred denarii that was owed him.

Thus, he showed gross selfishness and extreme avarice. What else? Still the most outrageous ingratitude and lack of pity and love for one's neighbor. This is what the Lord showed us in this merciless debtor.

Whose heart will remain calm when talking about this godless man! Our hearts tremble when we see the sharp manifestations of human passions. Tell me, what should every person, even those far from Christian love, have to experience when he hears about the greatest atrocity, the villain who slaughtered an entire family?

Our hearts will burst into indignation, but then we will gradually forget about it. This always happens to us: we do not know how to deeply experience what we should feel with pain and spiritual sorrow. We do not know how to think for a long time about the horrors that we see and hear about. We will be outraged, we will be indignant, but then we cool down rather quickly and again plunge into our everyday affairs, forgetting about the atrocity that was supposed to shake our hearts forever.

It is terrible to hear about such an exceptional crime as the murder of an entire family. We will say: “Glory to God, we are not like that, none of us killed people, it is only a servant of Satan who is capable of such terrible cruelty” - and we will calm down in the consciousness of our righteousness.

But what did the psalmist David say about villains and murderers: “My soul is among lions; I lie among the sons of men who are set on fire, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword" (Ps. 56:5)? No, the prophet speaks about ordinary people surrounding him, which means he calls us a group of lions, comparing our tongue with a sharp sword - a weapon of murder. It turns out that we, too, can kill people with a tongue as with a sharp sword. And we do this often, without being indignant with ourselves, not considering ourselves to be murderers. We ruthlessly pierce the heart of our neighbor with gross slander, insult his human dignity, shake his heart with evil words. Isn't this spiritual murder?

If we hear that someone known to us has committed adultery, then our hearts are filled with deep indignation. It's easy to judge others, it's harder to judge yourself. Do we have the right to be so indignant when we ourselves are infinitely far from the height of chastity required by the commandments of Christ? How many of us have never been guilty of lustfully looking at a woman and a woman at a man? Not many. And the Lord calls an impure look adultery; it makes no difference whether it is done or not, what matters is that it was done in the heart.

And so it is in everything. May each of us always keep in our hearts the deeply true words of the great saint Tikhon of Zadonsk: "What sins we see in people, they are in us." Seeing the manifestation of evil in our neighbors, let us remember these words, look into ourselves and ask: “Am I completely pure in this respect, is there in me the sin that I see in my brother?” Let us delve into our hearts, let us look for the love of money, is there not hardness of heart in us? How many among us are those who sincerely despise money, do not at all strive for wealth? There are very few. The love of money is the sin of most people. Indignant at the extreme love of money of the forgiven debtor from the Gospel parable, we must humbly admit that we, too, are guilty of this sin.

We will have to say the same about self-love, because don’t we love ourselves more than our neighbors, do we fulfill the commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), do we care about people?

The Gospel debtor was immeasurably cruel, but are we fulfilling Christ's demand: "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36)? We often do not show mercy to those who have sinned against us in some way, offended us. And the holy apostle James warned that "he who has not been merciful" will face "judgment without mercy" (James 2:13). Let us be afraid of these apostolic words, for the Judgment awaits us too, it will fall on us, as on this ruthless debtor, whom the king, angry, handed over to the torturers until he repaid all the debt to him.

Jesus warns us: "Unless you forgive people their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses" (Matthew 6:15). That is why we cannot, seeing the gross manifestations of an evil heart, confine ourselves only to indignation; we must remember the covenant: "Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart." Always pay attention to what is happening in your heart, always observe deeply and honestly the smallest sinful movements in it. And remember the holy words of the Apostle Paul: “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgive one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).

Moreover, we must forgive as Christ requires - from the bottom of our hearts, for we often forgive only in words: we bow to our offender, but in our heart there is still a large amount of irritation and dislike for him. And then, having forgiven ourselves, we will receive forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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