April 20, 2024

Homily Fourteen on the Passion (St. Luke of Simferopol)

Homily Fourteen on the Passion

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on March 23, 1952)

The narrative about the last days and hours of the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ, which you have just heard, is full of the deepest edifications for us.

You must think deeply about every word of this terrible story and keep it in your heart.

I know that these holy words shake you. I know that you listened with amazement to the words of the thief crucified with Jesus: “Remember me, Lord, when You come in Your Kingdom.”

And the answer of the Lord Jesus amazed you even more: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

How! For one confession of the crucified Christ, the Lord will grant him the Kingdom of Heaven! Yes, for one confession, for it was amazing in the mouth of a thief, for Christ knew what happened in his heart.

Let's try to understand this too. Who was this thief? We don’t know this for sure, but what is important for us is that both in the Gospels and in the Prophet Isaiah he is called a villain, and this deprives us of the right to idealize him.

The hearts of villains are dark, full of desires for evil and crime. Such was probably the heart of this amazing confessor of the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the narratives of Matthew and Mark we read that both thieves, crucified with Him, blasphemed and mocked Him, and only Saint Luke revealed to us the heart of this man, who amazingly converted by Jesus Christ.

Saint John Chrysostom believes that both thieves really blasphemed Christ at the beginning, but then a deep change occurred in the heart of one of them, and he began to reproach the other who slandered, and said: “Do you not fear God, when you yourself are condemned to the same thing? And we are condemned justly, because we have received what is worthy of our deeds; but He did nothing wrong” ( Luke 23:40-41 ).

How can we explain this amazing sudden change in the disposition of his heart, in the flow of his thoughts?

Let us explain by saying that he heard the prayer of Jesus to His Father for forgiveness of those who crucified Him, which amazed and shocked him.

Before his eyes, what the great prophet Isaiah predicted 700 years before Christ in the greatest 53rd chapter of his book was fulfilled: “He was tortured, but he suffered voluntarily and did not open His mouth; like a sheep He was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”

The thief had never seen anything like this in his life, and the behavior of the Meekest Jesus, hanging on the terrible cross, amazed and shocked him.

The invisible light of Christ, which shone upon the whole world from His terrible cross, penetrated in a mighty wave into the heart of the thief and instantly drove away all his darkness: it brightly illuminated the barely smoldering spark of the image and likeness of God, which was already ready to go out from his atrocities.

In a mighty wave, immeasurably more powerful than the great Niagara Falls, His divine love for the perishing human race poured out from the cross of the Lord, prompting Him to voluntarily ascend the cross and take upon Himself the sins of the whole world.

From this suddenly illuminated heart poured out amazing words of confession, recognition of the crucified Lord: “Remember me, Lord, when you come in Your Kingdom.”

I think that we have the right to interpret these words of the thief and the gracious answer to him from the Divine Heart-Knower Jesus in this way.

Therefore, we have this right, because in the lives of the saints and in the history of the Church we find many examples of the same sudden turn to repentance and confession of Christ by harlots, debaucherers and terrible robbers.

The Venerable Taisia, who had fallen into gross debauchery, was shocked to the depths of her soul by the words of pity and tears for her of the Venerable John Kolovos, followed him where he led her, and at the very first night in the open air the Venerable John, suddenly waking up, saw a great light ascending to heaven from the recently deceased Taisia, who was honored with the Kingdom of Heaven for the briefest repentance.

One of the great fathers and teachers of the Church, Blessed Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, was a pagan in his youth and led a very depraved life. A conversion as sudden and complete as that of the Venerable Taisia occurred in him when he accidentally heard the sermon of another great saint, Ambrose of Milan.

May the sudden illumination of the soul of the thief crucified with Christ and the love that flared up in his heart for the Son of God crucified with him be a stunning example for us.

For, of course, without fiery love for what he confessed to the Lord, he could not say his blessed words: “Remember me, Lord, when you come in Your Kingdom.”

We have been asked more than once how to find faith. Remember, all of you, that faith in God is born in the human heart when it is inflamed with love for our Savior, who endured the indescribable torment of the cross for us.

First, love Christ, cleave to Him with all your heart, and then your heart will be filled with faith, with shame for your sins, for which Christ ascended to the cross, it will be fulfilled and moved to cries of repentance, and will exclaim along with the converted thief: “Remember me, Lord, when You come in Your Kingdom." Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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