December 3, 2023

Homily One for the Epistle Reading on the Twenty-Sixth Sunday After Pentecost (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 Be a Light Among the Darkness

Ephesians 5:1-21

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on October 3, 1947)

The Apostle Paul tells us: “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:1–2). You will probably ask: “How will we, unfortunate, pitiful creatures, imitate the All-Holy, Great God?” Of course, we cannot do much, but in mercy, boundless love for everyone, and long-suffering, we must follow His example. Is it so difficult for us to tolerate those who offend and insult us, and will it not be possible, like Christ, to do only righteousness at all times and in all places? We can and must do this in everything, because the Lord loved us and redeemed us from the power of the devil with His most pure Blood.

“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints” (Eph. 5:3). Not only should you not do these terrible deeds, you cannot even talk about them. “Likewise, foul language, and idle talk, and ridicule do not become you, but, on the contrary, give thanks” (Eph. 5:4). There were many saints who never laughed and remained silent, but there are unfortunate people who always laugh and set themselves the task of making others laugh. There is such a strange profession which is called an Entertainer. This is a jester who goes on stage and makes people laugh with his witty remarks. This is completely indecent for us, those whom the apostle calls saints. Where they ridicule and mock people, you need to leave from there. It is much more fitting for us to thank God absolutely for everything that happens to us in life.

All Christians need to firmly remember “that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater,” since the love of wealth is also idolatry, for people erect a golden image for themselves, “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (Eph. 5:5; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).

“Let no one deceive you with empty words,” meanwhile you are often seduced by empty words, seemingly fair and intelligent, but in reality far from the truth, and by false teachings, scientific and philosophical, which seem deep and worthy of attention to many. Remember that in the eyes of God all this is empty talk, and for this “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6), who deny the truth of our one correct faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching of the gospel. “Do not be partakers with them” (Eph. 5:7). Do not listen when they want to seduce you from the Christian path.

“You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). The apostle says this about all those who, not knowing Christ, did not follow Him. Having recognized Him, they begin to behave accordingly: be filled with love for your neighbors, follow the truth, and then you will be sons of light. This light will come from you when you are worthy to become partakers of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, because “the fruit of the Spirit consists of all goodness, righteousness and truth” (Eph. 5:9).

“Follow what is pleasing to God, and do not participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, but rebuke them” (Eph. 5:10–11). We must test everything, apply the gospel measure of Christ to everything, and if it does not fit this standard, we must resolutely reject it, following only what is pleasing to God. And He is pleased only with mercy and truth.

Not only do we not have the right to participate “in the unfruitful works of darkness,” but we must not remain silent when lawless deeds are being done, when we hear blasphemies and outrages against our faith. The Apostle Paul commands not to remain silent, but to rebuke. There were great people who were not afraid to rebuke the most powerful people. The holy Metropolitan Philip was not afraid to rebuke Tsar Ivan the Terrible, and the holy fool Nicholas of Novgorod was not afraid to offer him a piece of raw meat. And when the Tsar said: “I am Orthodox, I don’t eat meat during Lent,” the Saint replied: “You are doing worse - you drink human blood.” But our tongue does not dare to move when the Lord is reviled in our presence.

“Everything that is rebuked is made manifest by the light; for whatever is made manifest is light” (Eph. 5:13). Light comes from those who live in Christ, because their deeds do not require the cover of darkness required by thieves and robbers. “Awake, you who sleep, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph. 5:14). Arise, you who do not hear the words of Jesus Christ, who are in spiritual sleep! Get up, hurry, “and Christ will give you light,” and you will be a true light for everyone who sees and hears you.

“Take heed therefore, and walk carefully, not as fools, but as wise, making use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15–16). The path of Christ is difficult and hard. Those who follow this path do not need to follow the first impulse, passionate desire; each step must be assessed by the highest standard of holiness and truth. We always need to value time, because “the days are evil”, and we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Perhaps soon we will no longer be able to walk as freely as we walk today. “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what is the will of God” (Eph. 5:17). You cannot set goals for yourself frivolously, but you must carefully outline your paths in this short life, recognizing the will of God in everything.

“Do not get drunk with wine, which causes debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), - this is how the holy Apostle Paul warns us against the drunkenness that is rampant around us. Remember his words: “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking among yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord” (Eph. 5:18, 19). This is what the ancient Christians did. Who now constantly sings spiritual songs? This is how far we are from fulfilling the holy words, although we clearly feel that they are saving and we must follow them. Do not be hesitant by the environment that surrounds you, follow the precepts of the apostle and you will be a light among the darkness. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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