April 24, 2024

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

Homily Seventeen on the Passion

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered in 1954)

A large crowd of people came to Golgotha to watch the execution of the Lord Jesus. As always, this crowd consisted of average people, neither smart nor stupid, neither evil nor good, and mediocre in everything. These were people who were instigated by the scribes and Pharisees, and who madly shouted at the trial of Pontius Pilate: “Crucify Him, crucify Him! His blood is on us and on our children!” They, along with the priests and Pharisees, mocked Jesus hanging on the cross, saying: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.”

And now, when the sun darkened and darkness fell throughout the entire earth, they shuddered in horror, realizing their grave sin, and slowly dispersed, hanging their heads low and beating their chests.

But not everyone shuddered: a part of the hopelessly stubborn remained, those who cruelly persecuted the Apostle Paul and stoned him, those whose descendants to this day do not want to know their Messiah.

But there were even worse than these: there were people with petrified and evil hearts who were not ashamed to brand the already dead Sufferer with a shameful word, when they asked Pilate to place a guard at the tomb of Jesus and said: “We remembered that this deceiver said: On the third day I will rise again."

Let us leave the accursed darkness of these hearts hopeless for the truth and look into the hearts of other eyewitnesses of the crucifixion of Christ. Let us first see the heart of the Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of the Crucified One, pierced with a sword, about whom Elder Symeon prophetically said on the Day of the Entrance of the Lord: “A sword will pierce your very soul.”

Next to Her stands Christ’s beloved disciple John. And at a distance are the other apostles and myrrhbearers, Joseph of Arimathea and Nikodemos.

Oh, how terrible it is to look into the hearts of these pure and holy people!

They are torn apart by burning, unbearable pain, they are full of despair, because suddenly their bright joy has ended and the hopeless darkness of despair has come.

But there are two more hearts that we especially need to think about: this is the heart of the Roman centurion who commanded the execution of Jesus. In his heart there was the darkness of pagan ignorance of the truth, but it was pure and very deep.

With wide open eyes, he observed all the movements, all the behavior of the Crucified One, and listened with amazement to His grace-filled words, His prayer for those who crucified Him. And when darkness came, when he heard the terrible last word of Jesus, “It is finished!”, then ardent faith flared up in his heart with a bright flame, and he exclaimed: “Truly He was the Son of God!” He was baptized, became a Christian, and ended his life as a martyr. This was the holy martyr Longinus the centurion. Even more unexpected, even more amazing to us is what we saw in the heart of the thief who believed in Christ, crucified with Him.

Oh, how vast are the depths of the human heart! How amazingly completely opposite feelings coexist in him: the cruelty of a murderer was in him, the serious vices that are constant in all robbers, and in this same heart there was a place for a suddenly flared-up deep faith in the Son of God crucified with him. And in an outburst of this faith, he exclaimed: “Remember me, Lord, when you come into your kingdom.” These short words were enough for Christ to forgive him all his grave sins and lovingly answer: “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”

This is what we see in the hearts of those who were spectators of the unspeakable horror of the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is in your hearts listening to me? I know, I know that you are excited, that tears are dripping from your eyes. I know, I know that love, ardent love for the Lord Jesus Christ brought you to this holy temple. But there are few, few of you, close to my heart, although the temple is full.

And there, behind the doors of the church, there are a huge number of indifferent people who do not care at all about the Lord Jesus Christ, about His Divine preaching, about His terrible cross.

To our horror, there are even many bitter enemies of Christ, for whom are the terrible words of the Apostle Paul: “ Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. 10:28–29).

With a shudder of our hearts we think that another terrible word of Paul will come true for them: “God cannot be mocked!” Amen.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos. 

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