April 22, 2024

Homily One for the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent (St. John of Kronstadt)

By St. John of Kronstadt

Beloved brothers and sisters! I want to tell you today and somewhat explain today’s reading from the Apostle and the Gospel. From the Apostle - there was a reading of part of the epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to the Hebrews about the cleansing power of the blood of Christ the Savior, who offered Himself as a sacrifice to God the Father for the sins of the whole world (Heb. 9:11-14); and from the Gospel - the story of the Evangelist Mark was read about how the Lord Jesus Christ predicted in advance to His twelve apostles, including Judas the traitor, that He, our Lord, “will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again” (Mark 10:33–34). Further, in the Gospel it was read about the inappropriate request of two disciples, the brothers James and John, that they should take first places when Jesus Christ was glorified, and how the Lord meekly rebuked them, saying “that the way to His glory is the way of the cross, suffering and death"; about the indignation of the other disciples at the claims of James and John, and about the instruction that the Lord gave them all on this matter, namely, that “whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant; and whoever wants to be first among you must be slave of all,” as He Himself “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43–45).

Now let's return to the Apostle. So, the holy Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Hebrews says about Christ that He “came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:11-14). So, the meaning of the apostolic reading is that if the transformative blood of the Old Testament, the blood of sacrificial animals, sanctified the defiled, so that the body was pure, then how much more will the blood of Christ cleanse our conscience, our soul and body from all sin. And the Apostle John the Theologian says that “the blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). So, let no sinner lose heart, no matter how sinful he may be, but hope to receive forgiveness and cleansing of all his sins; for we have a Savior, by grace always present with us in His Church, especially in the Holy Mysteries, Who condescended to cleanse us from all sin, if only we would believe in Him, sincerely and irrevocably repent and partake with faith and love of His most pure body and blood.

Thus, Saint Mary of Egypt who we now commemorate was initially plunged into the abyss of evil, into the depths of depravity; but repentance, faith and love, feats of fasting and prayer, communion of the Holy Mysteries of Christ cleansed her, made her holy and equal to the angels. Let us also imitate her faith, zeal in repentance and prayer, and love for God, her thirst for communion of the body and blood of Christ, and the Lord will cleanse us from all sin: “For with the Lord is mercy, and with him is much deliverance, and he will deliver us from all our iniquities" (Ps. 129:7, 8).

In the Gospel of this day, our Lord Jesus Christ gives us the instruction that we should not seek primacy and superiority over others out of ambition and self-love, but should seek the only honor pleasing to God - to serve others for salvation, just as Christ God Himself “came not so that He might be served: but that He Himself might serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant; and whoever wants to be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:43–45). “Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal.6:2). Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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