November 5, 2023

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Luke (St. Luke of Simferopol)

Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Luke

It's Too Late to Find Faith Beyond the Grave

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on November 13, 1949)

Denouncing the money-loving Pharisees, Jesus Christ told the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day” (Luke 16:19). They fawn on such people, they are considered great, they are envied, they themselves want to dress as magnificently and beautifully as possible and feast every day, not realizing how harmful this is and how vile it is in the eyes of God, for Christ said: “God knows your hearts, for what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

No, you don't have to envy the rich. They should either be pitied, as befits Christians, or despised, as the poor do. To be pitied that their luxury, magnificent clothes and brilliant feasts destroy their souls. After all, we know that the children of the rich, drowning in gold, are moral degenerates, unlike humans. They fulfill what the holy Apostle Paul said about wealth and the love of money: “Having food and clothing, we will be content with that. But those who desire to get rich fall into temptation, into a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts, which plunge people into disaster and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:8-9). How many misfortunes do these unfortunate people experience, living in satiety: they suffer from diseases of the stomach and intestines, suffer from gout, their hearts become overgrown with fat and become unable to work.

No, it is not for us, Christians, to follow in their footsteps, it is not for us to overeat and get drunk on wine. We should be content with the fact that we have food and clothing, because “the love of money is the root of all evil, to which some have abandoned the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10).

From the Gospel parable we learn that “there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores” (Luke 16:20–21). The rich man had no pity. He cared only about feeding the bellies of his insatiable guests, but he had nothing for the poor man of God. Only dogs pitied and consoled the unfortunate Lazarus. The Lord shows us such a striking contrast not only because He saw it during the days of His earthly life. He knew that this injustice would torment much more strongly every person who loves goodness and strives for truth, even in our time. If the rich man and the poor man Lazarus were so opposed in ancient times, then the gap between the poor and people living in luxury is even greater today. Now we are talking not about individuals, but about entire groups of people.

We know that in the centers of the richest, largest cities in America and England there live millionaires like the rich man of the Gospel. And all around are endless slums, inhabited by the poor, the sick, dying in poverty. How did the poor Lazarus feel about his situation? He did not murmur against God, did not call upon the rich man the thunder of heaven, but suffered and endured without complaint, bearing his heavy cross. Is this how the current unemployed feel? No, they are embittered, their hearts are full of hatred and enmity against injustice. They commit crimes, rob the rich, rebel against them. The Lord Jesus Christ foresaw this terrible contrast between the poverty of some and the immeasurable wealth of others when he spoke the Parable of Lazarus.

The rich man died and was buried magnificently and with honors. The beggar whom people despised also died and was buried without any honor. But this is what happens with people, but with God it’s the other way around - the Angels buried him and transferred him from the vale of grief to eternal joy. What happened to the rich man? He went to hades and there suffered unspeakable torment. Suffering, he “raised his eyes and saw Abraham in the distance and Lazarus in his bosom” and exclaimed: “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24). That’s when he remembered Lazarus and realized how great he was in the eyes of God. Now he only dreams of Lazarus dipping the tip of his finger in water and cooling his tongue. But it's too late, too late! And “Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented” (Luke 16:25). Isn't that fair? Isn't this the great justice of God? Shouldn't we receive reward from God in eternal life? Do not people who strive for good, who loved Christ, who followed Him along the path of terrible suffering, deserve eternal peace? Eternal holy truth lies in God's Judgment.

“And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us” (Luke 16:26). Now we have the right to say that an impassable gulf lies between Seraphim of Sarov and the bandits who kill small children and exterminate entire families. If already in this life we see such an abyss, then it will be even more confirmed by God in eternal life, when the Judge of the world places some on the right and says to them: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). And others, the unfortunate ones, placed on the left, will hear from Him: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

Further, in the Parable of Lazarus, the rich man said: “I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:27–28). This means that damnation has already somewhat corrected the heart of this man: he is no longer worried only about himself, but shows concern for his brothers, wants to save them from the hell that befell him. Abraham answered him: “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them” (Luke 16:29). The same one objected: “No, Father Abraham, but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent” (Luke 16:30). But Abraham said: “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, then even if someone were raised from the dead, they will not believe” (Luke 16:31).

Gain an understanding of the great vital truth of Abraham's answer. It lies in the fact that people who are exalted in their minds believe only in what suits their desires and lusts. Let what they hear be a complete fable, but if it corresponds to their spiritual structure, they will certainly believe it. After all, such people are not looking for the truth, but for what flatters them. Those who deny the existence of the spiritual do not recognize anything that testifies to the spirit. All miracles are disgusting to them: no matter how obvious miracles may be, people do not accept them into their minds, into their souls. No matter what manifestations of higher spirituality they see with their own eyes, they still won’t believe it, because they don’t want to believe, having rejected everything in advance. So, even if the dead are resurrected, and come, and tell them something, they will not believe anyone, they will drive them away so as not to hear what is unpleasant for them.

And all of you who have sincere faith, deep love for the Lord, for the Holy Trinity, do you really need the dead to rise and appear to testify to the truth of Christ’s words? No, it is enough for you that you heard them from Himself. From this parable we derive the belief that there is an afterlife, for Christ Himself spoke about it, preaching about how the heartless rich man was punished and how the unfortunate Lazarus was consoled.

The Lord showed us the Christian path, narrow and thorny, which alone leads to the kingdom of God. If grief and need befall you, to some extent similar to the troubles of the beggar Lazarus, bear them meekly and humbly, as Lazarus carried them. Don't envy the rich, be happy with what you have. And if you live like this, despising the love of money, gold, if you decide to take the difficult path, then the Lord Jesus Christ will help you, for He loves and pities us, He supports the cross of those who bear it patiently, with submission to God. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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