October 1, 2023

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

 Homily for the Second Sunday of Luke

What Prevents Us From Loving?

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on October 15, 1944)

The Lord said, "As you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:31-36)    

What amazingly simple words! They are so simple, so natural that when a person first hears that he should do this, he even becomes ashamed. “How come I didn’t think of this myself before?” - he exclaims. But everything great is simple and all the teachings of Christ are extremely simple. It was addressed to people with simple hearts; it was perceived by the simplest Galilean fishermen, who became lights of the whole world.

First of all, the simplest people followed Christ, for every word of Christ is simple and amazingly intelligible. All His teaching seems to be self-explanatory, but, nevertheless, how far our lives are from fulfilling these simple words, these great commandments of Christ!

How rarely does it happen that we treat people the way we would like them to treat us! We expect respect from people, but we humiliate them ourselves. We want to be helped when we are in need, but we ourselves never think about helping our neighbors when we are prosperous.

What does it mean? Why is this so? After all, we do not behave this way towards all people. In relation to those closest to us, to those whom we dearly love: to our beloved wife, children, father, mother - we act according to the commandments of Christ; we love them as ourselves, and do not do to them what we do not want to done to ourselves. What mother, who loves her child with all her heart, will not give all her love, all her affection to him, and will not even sacrifice her life? After all, by doing this she fulfills the law of Christ.

But in relation to those whom we call neighbors, but in fact consider distant and strangers, we do not act this way. What prevents us from treating them as we treat our loved ones? Our egoism, our selfishness gets in the way, because we love only ourselves. We take care of ourselves, we love ourselves, but we don’t love the people around us, we often offend and insult them. And the Lord presents us with such a fair, such a pure, such a holy demand.

But He requires us to love our enemies too. Is it easy? No, it's extremely difficult. Those who have a pure heart, who love God with all their hearts and follow His commandments, who are infused with the Holy Spirit, the spirit of humility, who become imbued with the spirit of love, learn to love enemies.

Only those who learned to love those who hated, to love their enemies, defeated them with love and kindness. With this goodness, this love, they heaped like hot coals on the heads of their enemies, burned their hearts, and they bowed before them and from enemies became friends.

What is the root of mercy? In pity, in compassion. Pity and compassion are the basic properties, the basic qualities of love. Whoever has love has pity and compassion, for it is impossible to love and not have compassion. Such a person cannot help but do good to those who need it, and he does it without expecting gratitude, without expecting to receive the same in return.

From pure love flows mercy, from pure love they fulfill these commandments of Christ: they give loans to those from whom they do not hope to receive back, they do all sorts of good deeds. The Lord demands that we do not expect anything for the good done, and promises a great reward of eternal joy, says that we will be sons of the Most High. You know what the Lord Jesus Christ said about the Last Judgment and about what the righteous will be justified for - only for love, only for deeds of love. They will be called the sons of the Most High and will shine like stars in the sky. And those who did not have love, who did not do deeds of mercy, will be called sons of the devil and will suffer with him forever.

"Love is the fulfillment of the whole law" (Rom. 13:10). Mercy is also the whole law of Christ, for it stems from love. What should we do to gain love? This is a great, huge thing, this is the purpose of our existence, the purpose of our entire life. We were created by God to draw closer to Him spiritually. We live in order to become sons of the Almighty, to improve ourselves and strive for Him.

Which way should you go?

Go through the narrow gates, the rocky and thorny path, without fear of suffering, for they give birth to good. The sufferer is freed from evil, freed from selfishness, becomes quiet, meek, full of love. We must follow the path of sorrows, fulfilling all the commandments of Christ. Through tireless prayer and fasting one must enter into communion with God. Those who acquired love were those who, like Saint Seraphim of Sarov, prayed day and night and fasted strictly. The Lord cleanses their hearts from all impurity, for the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love, can only dwell in a meek, humble heart. We must acquire meekness and humility, and then holy love will come.

We must pray for many things, repenting of our countless sins. But the constant and fundamental prayer should be that the Lord cleanse our hearts from malice and give us the great Christian virtues - meekness, humility, holy love. Never forget the most important prayer for love. Pray as God puts it on your heart. For example, like this: “Lord, give me holy love, teach me to love all people: those near and far, both the faithful and the wicked, just as You, Lord, love all of us, sinners and damned.” Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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