December 11, 2023

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

Homily for the 26th Sunday After pentecost

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on December 16, 1951)
I will not preach to you today, but the greatest preacher of the doctrine of Christ will preach, the Holy Apostle Paul.

And I will only try to ensure that his words are imprinted in your hearts.

“Therefore be imitators of God as beloved 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).

Saint Paul commands us to imitate God, the great and awesome God, but you might think: how can we, pitiful, insignificant and sinful, imitate the great God Himself?

Is this possible for us?

Well, of course, it is completely impossible, but there is much in God that we can and should imitate.

We can imitate His truth, His long-suffering, His mercy - at least a little, at least weakly, but still imitate.

We will imitate His truth when in all our deeds, in all relationships with our neighbors we adhere to holy truth, when there will never be lies either in our words or in our deeds.

Can't we imitate mercy? After all, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

Where and how should we be merciful as our Heavenly Father, but in works of mercy we can show great diligence, great effort, we can always be merciful to the unfortunate, the hungry, the naked, the sick, the despondent, the discouraged – we can, we can be merciful.

Let us remember that at the Last Judgment the Lord, the Judge of the universe, will judge us precisely for whether we have done deeds of mercy or not.

And we must imitate the love of God, great and all-encompassing, with which He loved all creation: not to be evil, not to be hateful, to treat all our neighbors with love, with affection, with greetings, with meekness, without offending anyone either with a word or deed - can't we do this?

“Therefore be imitators of God as beloved children,” as children whom God loves.

Shouldn't your children, who love you, whom you love, imitate you in everything - of course, in good and not evil.

Likewise, we must imitate God in everything in which we can imitate.

The Lord Jesus Christ loved us so much that He gave Himself as a sacrifice for the human race when He ascended the terrible cross of Golgotha.

“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints” (Eph. 5:3).

The Apostle Paul calls us all saints - he calls all Christians saints, and that is why among us, among the saints, among the pure, among those purified and sanctified by the great Christian mysteries, such vile uncleanness as fornication should never even be mentioned.

And you know, everyone knows how much uncleanness there is in people, you know that people full of dirt talk to each other every now and then about the basest matters: adultery, larceny, murder, theft.

Among God's beloved children, His saints, these vile deeds not only done but should not even be remembered.

To forget, to forget forever, not to remember them not only in deeds but even in words.

“Also, foul language and idle talk and mockery are not becoming for you, but rather giving of thanks” (Eph. 5:4).

How much foul language, and empty talk, and idle talk, and unclean words we have, all of us.

How your tongue has been defiled - many of you - by these rotten and vile words.

And the Apostle Paul in the same letter to the Ephesians says this: “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Eph. 5:6).

And our Lord Jesus Christ told us terrible words: “I tell you that for every idle word that people say, they will give an answer on the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

Oh, Lord, not only for rotten, vile, disgusting and deceitful words, but even for idle words, for empty ones, we will give a severe answer before God.

Joking is also indecent for you.

But there are many people who do nothing but joke, who laugh themselves and try to make others laugh. There are even jesters whose profession is to make others laugh, always to sneer, always to speak empty words. But many righteous and venerable people never laughed: they remained in silence. Their speech and their entire being were imprinted with deep seriousness.

So, remember that you need to leave the place where people are engaged in mocking, laughing, where they mock their neighbors. Leave, leave when you find yourself in such an unclean environment. Shut your ears and get away from these unfortunate scoffers and laughers, for “know that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5:5).

Aren't these words scary?!

Let me remind you of other similar words of the great Apostle Paul, words that you should always have in your heart. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor wicked people, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

Oh, let us, let us remember who does not inherit the Kingdom of God, let us fear the words of Paul, this reminder of his. Let us not be even a little like these unfortunates.

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

Oh, how often, how often do they deceive you and all people in general with empty words, which seem to many of you, when you hear them, to be serious, truthful, deserving of deep attention, and your ears bow to these words, bow to a teaching that is not at all similar to the great and the one true teaching of Christ.

How often you are seduced by various apparent truths, philosophical and pseudoscientific. How often, carried away by these empty words, do you abandon the one truth, Christ’s great truth.

Take heed, see that no one deceives you with empty words.

Do not be their accomplices, accomplices of the enemies of Christ. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord: walk as children of light...” (Eph. 5:8).

When were you darkness? Then, when you did not know the teachings of Christ, when the commandments of Christ, when the great words of Christ did not penetrate deep into your hearts and did not leave there forever a good trace that cleanses and sanctifies us.

“...but now you are light in the Lord: walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth...” (Eph. 5:9).

In whose hearts does the gracious, divine fruit of the Spirit grow? Only in the hearts of those who are full of love for Christ, those whose all aspirations are to live according to the will of God, according to His eternal commandments.

These are the people in whose hearts such fruits grow — the fruits of the Spirit, the fruits of righteousness.

“...finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather rebuke them” (Eph. 5:10-11).

We must be careful, we must test everything, what they offer us, what they want to convince us of.

And how will we test it, by what yardstick – the yardstick of God’s will, God’s truth. Everyone must be tested by this divine standard and follow only that, only choose what is justified by this holy standard.

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather rebuke them” - the unfruitful deeds of darkness - that darkness with which the hearts of people mired in grave sins are full: the hearts of thieves, bandits, murderers, adulterers, debauchees.

We must not participate, not participate in these affairs of theirs, "for it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret" (Eph. 5:12).

“But all things that are rebuked are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light” (Eph. 5:13).

We must do such things as those who seek the light, who are not afraid of the light, but the dark workers of the night: all thieves and robbers, fornicators and adulterers are not afraid of darkness, but seek it.

And our Christian deeds, the deeds of God’s beloved children, must be so pure that no darkness will ever cover them. They should be a light for those who seek light and are not afraid of it.

“Therefore it is said: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph. 5:14).

Who is this sleeper? This is the one who sleeps in spiritual sleep, into whose ears the words of Christ have not penetrated.

“See then that you walk carefully, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15).

We need caution, caution, walking the narrow, difficult path of Christ, on which there are so many obstacles, so many sorrows, so many disasters and griefs - we need caution, prudence, the desire to think everything over, not to be foolish, but wise, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil."

The time of our life is short, we must cherish it, remembering that the days are evil, that what we haven’t done today we may not be able to do tomorrow, for “the days are evil.”

I forgot to tell you about an important word, covetousness, which according to Paul, is idolatry.

Who are those who erect a golden idol for themselves, for whom gold and money are the god they worship?

Only gold, only money is their god, these unfortunates, whom Saint Paul rightly called true idolaters, for the deeds of the covetous are just as unrighteous, just as sinful, as the deeds of all idolaters.

Before our eyes, terrible deeds are now being done by covetous idolaters, countless streams of human blood are being shed both in unfortunate Korea and in many other countries, by idolaters who have created a golden idol for themselves, who are committing monstrous, indescribable atrocities - and these are Christians!

Fear covetousness, remember that parable of Christ that you heard in the current Gospel reading - the parable of the rich man who had a bountiful harvest in the field. So, did he think about how many starving people were in need of bread? No, this covetous man only thought that he needed to destroy the old granaries and instead build new ones that could accommodate a rich harvest, and then say to his soul: “Soul! You have a lot of goods lying around for many years; rest, eat, drink, be merry."

And the Lord said to him: “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided? (Luke 12:20).

You see how terrible covetousness is, you see that it is idolatry.

The holy Apostle Paul also said that we must not only not participate in the sinful deeds of darkness, but also denounce them. And remember this, for many of you do not understand this and are afraid to rebuke, and do not rebuke, no matter how necessary it is.

There are many among us who are faint-hearted and cowardly, who, when blasphemy is committed in their presence, are silent and do not dare to move their tongues: they are afraid, they are afraid.

And there were brave people who were not afraid to rebuke even the most terrible people. There was the great Saint Philip of Moscow, who in the Dormition Cathedral, in front of all the people, denounced Tsar Ivan the Terrible himself.

There was a holy fool in Pskov, Nikolai, who, when Ivan the Terrible arrived there, gave him a piece of raw meat. The king said: “I am Orthodox, I don’t eat meat during Lent.” And the holy fool answered him: “You are doing worse - you are drinking human blood.”

Here are examples of how one should rebuke the deeds of darkness.

You see how many demands, great and holy, and pure, and righteous, are presented to us by Saint Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians. He demands that we be righteous and pure, that we not participate in any stinking, vile deeds of darkness; he demands from us that we be the fragrance of Christ.

Remember, remember: renounce all works of darkness.

Remember that all of us, Christians, must be light, bearers of light, preachers of light and purity, a fragrance of Christ before God. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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