April 12, 2024

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

Homily Nine on the Passion

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on March 19, 1950)

Your hearts trembled when I read to you the terrible tale of the Savior’s death on the cross. This is necessary, it is useful for you: it is necessary that you always shudder when you look at the cross of Christ or remember it.

We need you to remember the vile and terrible images of the God-killers: high priests, scribes and elders (about which I told you last Sunday). It is necessary that you reject with your heart, as the most vile, the most unbearable for the human heart, the most terrible thing that has ever happened in the world, the accursed betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ by His own disciple.

Oh my God! Oh God, how frightening this is! The disciple, the apostle, betrayed his Lord to death . More than once, probably, the question has arisen in your mind: why did the Lord Jesus, the Omniscient God, choose Judas to be one of the twelve apostles? After all, He knew, He knew what kind of person this was, He knew that he would betray Him!

He knew, He knew, being Omniscient, He knew everything; but what Judas did was foretold by the Prophet David more than a thousand years before the birth of Christ, for in his 68th Psalm he says this: “'Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it;' and, 'Let another take his office.'” (Acts 1:20).

And in another Psalm he speaks on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.

This was, like everything that happened in the life of the Lord Jesus on earth, even before the creation of the world, it was provided for in the Covenant of God, the fall of Adam and Eve was provided for, the deep depravity of the human race was provided for. A decision was made that amazes us with the abyss of love that gave birth to this decision, love for the perishing human race: it was predetermined that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Word, would become incarnate, descend to earth, and with His preaching and His death on the cross would save the perishing human race. So, everything was foreseen in advance, everything was foretold by the prophets.

The suffering of Christ was described by the holy prophet Isaiah so clearly, so strongly, as if he himself was present at these sufferings, which is why he is called the Old Testament Evangelist.

Why was Judas chosen as a disciple? It what was ordained in God’s eternal Covenant and foretold by the prophets to be fulfilled.

Perhaps this surprises you? You may ask – couldn’t it have been otherwise?

It’s not for us, it’s not for us to reason! It was God’s will, God ordained it, so it had to happen!

About Judas the traitor at the Secret Supper, the Lord said a dreaded word: “... one of you will betray Me... it would be better for this man had he not to be born” (Matthew 26, 21, 24), - his sin is so terrible.

To understand why Judas was needed as an instrument of betrayal in the death of the Lord, I will tell you that God more than once in ancient times chose people mired in sins, hopeless for the truth, as vessels of His wrath, and chose them as instruments of His Divine actions. Such was the Pharaoh who did not want to let the people of Israel leave Egypt; such was the terrible king Nebuchadnezzar, such was Judas.

But again I ask why God allows such evil people to be born, and if they are born, why would they rather die.

Again criticism of God's ways, again reasoning about what you do not understand. You need to understand that God does not create anyone evil. People are not born evil, evil people are evil because they themselves choose the path of evil; they could have been kind, avoided the terrible fate of Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Judas, if they had wanted to.

Remember, remember the basic and most important truth - the truth that God does not force anyone to Himself, does not force anyone to obey Him with fear and trembling. Remember that only pure free love for God pleases Him.

Submission out of fear has no moral value.

Judas, if he had wanted, could not have become the terrible traitor he became.

Oh how many good, great things he saw and heard from his Teacher! Oh, how meekly the Savior treated him even at that terrible hour of the Secret Supper, when he was ready to leave to betray the Lord to the scribes, Pharisees and high priests.

See how He spoke about His betrayer. He could have harshly and angrily denounced Judas in front of everyone. He didn't. He tells His disciples with deep sadness: “One of you will betray Me.”

He does not name the traitor. He is waiting to see if the terrible thought of betrayal in the heart of Judas will go away, if at the last moment he will not repent of the atrocity that he is planning, if he will not give up his intention to betray the Lord.

But the evil in Judas’s heart had already reached such enormous strength that he was not ashamed even to ask, together with the other disciples: “Is it I, Lord?”

After all, the cursed one knew that it was he, he knew that he was betraying, and he dared to ask if it was him.

The Lord did not denounce the traitor in front of all the disciples. He said quietly, “You said it.” This meant: you admitted it yourself - you will betray Me. And He gave him the holy bread. “And after this piece Satan entered into him,” as the Apostle John says (John 13:27).

Oh, how frightening it is: Satan himself has entered the human heart, even that of Judas...

How is this possible, you might ask? What does it mean? How is it possible that after Judas had just received from the hands of the Lord the holy bread, which became His Body, that immediately after this Satan entered his heart?

And if the Evangelist said so, then it was so, it means that Satan really entered the heart of Judas. Satan made his abode in the heart of Judas, just as the Holy Spirit makes the heart of pure and righteous people his abode. Judas became the dwelling place of Satan.

How can we comprehend this, that the devil can completely take possession of the human heart, that Satan can enter into man?

Here's how it's possible. Satan does not immediately enter the heart of a person; he does not have the power to enter him, especially if this heart is sanctified by the great mysteries of repentance and communion. Satan cannot directly, boldly, forcibly enter the heart if the Holy Spirit lives in it, for Satan cannot dwell together with the Holy Spirit: there is no place for Belial where God is.

Satan did not immediately enter the heart of Judas. He had seduced Judas before into evil and betrayal, and continued to seduce for a long time, probably throughout Judas' apostolic years, and perhaps even earlier. For we read from the Evangelist John that Judas was a thief: he carried a box into which donations were placed, and stole from it. This means that both before and during the apostleship he was a thief and a lover of money.

When did Satan completely take possession of the heart of Judas? When Judas’ decision to betray the Savior had finally matured, the Holy Spirit left him, and he became the house of Satan. Remember this. But do not think that Judas alone was the dwelling place of Satan: there were many people who were so mired in evil, in lies, in murder, in theft, that they were also possessed by evil spirits. With them was what the Lord Jesus Christ told us about: “When the unclean spirit comes out of a person; then he journeys through waterless places, looking for peace, and does not find it. then he says: 'I will return to my house from where I came;' and when he arrives he finds it unoccupied, swept and tidied up. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and live there; and for that person the last thing is worse than the first. So it will be with this evil generation" (Matthew 12:43-45).

The evil race becomes a playground and the abode of evil spirits.

And we, Christians, what conclusion will we draw for ourselves from all this?

Let us think that this horror of the invasion of an evil spirit threatens each of us, although we pray, although we partake of the Holy Mysteries, for the Body and Blood of Christ is not a talisman, is not something that mechanically protects us from all evil, from all the slander of the devil and his angels.

This is only God’s great, immeasurable help in our struggle against temptations from evil spirits, if our hearts are pure, if we do not constantly sin, day after day.

Let us keep in our hearts the great word of the Savior: “The Kingdom of God is taken by violence, and the violent take it by force.” Let us wage a constant struggle against our vices and passions and not condemn anyone, remembering that there are many traitors among us; of course, not as terrible as Judas, but still traitors.

In our efforts to attain the Kingdom of God, may our Lord and God Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory and power with His Beginningless Father and the Most Holy Spirit, give us His all-powerful help forever. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos. 

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