April 29, 2024

Homily on Great Monday (St. John of Kronstadt)

By St. John of Kronstadt

Today, beloved brethren, at the morning service three parables were read: the first - about the barren fig tree, the second - about a father who had two sons: one, to the father’s request: "Child, go work in my vineyard today," answered: "I don’t want to," and then changed his mind and went; and the other, in response to the same request, said, “I will go,” but he didn’t go; and finally, the third parable is about a man who, having a vineyard, surrounded it with a fence, dug a winepress in it, built a tower, gave it to the workers and left, and then, when the time came for harvesting the fruits, he sent his servants to the workers of the vineyard to receive the fruit. The workers, in their bitterness, beat some of the slaves, killed others, and finally killed His Only Begotten Son (Matthew 21:18-43).

Let's talk at this time about the first parable. “Having spent the night in the village of Bethany, in the morning the Lord,” says the Evangelist Matthew, “returning to the city of Jerusalem, became hungry. And seeing a fig tree along the road, He approached it, and finding nothing on it except some leaves, He said to it: 'Let there be no fruit from you henceforth forever.' And the fig tree immediately withered. Seeing this, the disciples were surprised and said: 'How did the fig tree suddenly dry up?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea,” it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer in faith, you will receive'” (Matthew 21:17-22).

The barren fig tree by the road with only leaves is me and you, my beloved brothers and sisters. The Planter of our life, the Lord Jesus Christ, hungry for our salvation, often comes to you and me, early and late, to satisfy the hunger of our soul, to become the bread of life for it. And, alas, He almost always finds in us only worries about everyday things - only leaves. The fruits of faith, the all-powerful concern for the salvation of our souls, are non-existent. Meanwhile, each of us was planted on earth to bear spiritual fruit. What are these particular fruits that every person, especially a Christian, should bear? To this the holy Apostle answers this way: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Gal. 5:22). Here, brothers and sisters, are the fruits we must certainly bear to the Planter of our lives, the Lord Jesus Christ, every day.

Behold now, all of you: are you a fruitful fig tree or a barren one? If fertile, good, move forward; bring more and more fruits to the Lord, so that He will satisfy you with them in eternity; if barren: tremble; you are threatened by the curse of the Lord of your life, and perhaps very soon He will say to you: “Let there be no fruit from you henceforth forever.” And you will immediately dry up; all your spiritual powers will be extinguished; your faith, hope and love will completely dry up, and “every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into eternal fire” (Matthew 3:10). These words are true and clear as day. They will be fulfilled without fail: “For heaven and earth will pass away,” as days, months, years pass by, “but the words of the Lord will not pass away” (Mark 13:31).

Therefore, brothers and sisters, ask yourself: do you daily bring to the Lord of your life the fruits of good deeds, and above all, do you have the queen of virtues – love, ardent love for your Creator and love for your neighbor as for yourself? Do you want to know by what deeds love manifests itself? The holy Apostle Paul will answer you for me: “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away” (1 Cor. 13:4–8). Love is so necessary for a Christian that “though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Why do we need love so much? Because “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and we are created in His image, and God abides in the Christian. “Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified?” (2 Cor. 13:5). “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). He who has ardent love for God and his neighbor has in his soul other fruits enumerated by the Apostle, joy in the Holy Spirit, peace, long-suffering, kindness, mercy, faithfulness - for in love, as in a seed, all virtues are contained: for, where there is love, there is God, all-perfect perfection, eternal kindness, infinite goodness, infinite omnipotence. He who has ardent love for God also has such faith that he can move mountains, as the Lord said: “and whatever he asks in prayer with faith, he will receive” (Matthew 21:22).

Therefore, if we do not want to dry up like the fig tree cursed by the Lord, or like the grass, and be thrown into eternal fire, let us try, beloved brethren, to bring the fruits of good deeds to the Planter of our lives, while we have time, strength, means, and opportunity. Perhaps the time will come when you would like to do good, but it will be impossible. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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