April 23, 2024

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

By St. John of Kronstadt

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).

The memorable days of the world-saving sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ will soon come, and on this Sunday the Church has decided to read the Gospel, in which the Lord predicted His future sufferings as if they were present. It was He who said: “Behold, we are ascending to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the high priests and scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him over to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and beat Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him; and on the third day he will rise again” (Mark 10:33–34). So the Lord knew in advance everything that would happen to Him in Jerusalem, all the details of His humiliation, His suffering and death, and did not shy away from them, but gladly and cheerfully went to drink the bitter cup of suffering for the world and for the ungrateful Jews themselves who crucified Him, in order to serve the common salvation of all. Oh, immeasurable love! Oh, immeasurable condescension! Oh, wonderful patience!

The entire life of Jesus Christ from infancy to death on the cross and the resurrection is His wonderful, most loving service to the salvation of the human race. But even from His ascension into heaven, when He sat down at the right hand of God the Father, until now, the Lord, who has reigned over all peoples, has served the salvation of the human race, especially the Christian race, as He Himself said: “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), or in the Gospel now read: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He still cleanses, regenerates and renews us in holy baptism; sanctifies and confirms by the grace of the Holy Spirit in chrismation; He officiates in the liturgy as the eternal High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek, and gives His most pure body and blood under the image of bread and wine; in confession - He Himself listens to our repentance and forgives the sins of those who sincerely repent; in the priesthood, hierarchy or pastorship, He Himself enlightens, shepherds, guides, judges and punishes His spiritually rational sheep; in marriage - He blesses the marital union of husband and wife for the blessed birth and upbringing of children; in the sanctification of oil, as a Physician of souls and bodies, He heals spiritual and physical infirmities. Every service He is present with us invisibly, according to His own promise: “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20), and He accepts our service, and Himself miraculously, effectively, tangibly serves our salvation, producing in us wondrous, divine powers that destroy the iron bonds and shackles of sin and spiritual death, healing infirmities, redeeming us every day for repentance and faith from immeasurable sins, sweetly reviving souls satiated with the bitterness of sin.

We are now in Great Lent, which lasts forty days. What is this Great Lent? It is a precious gift to us from our Savior, who Himself fasted for forty days and nights, neither eating nor drinking, a truly precious gift for all those seeking salvation, as a mortifier of spiritual passions. By His word and example, the Lord legitimized it to His followers. And with what love, with what divine, gracious powers the Lord serves all those who truly fast! He illumines them, cleanses them, renews them, strengthens them in the fight against passions and invisible enemies, against “the principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this world” (Eph. 6:12); teaches every virtue and leads to perfection, to incorruption and heavenly blessedness. All those who truly fast have experienced and are experiencing this. Fasting with prayer is a sure weapon against the devil and the multi-passionate flesh. Let no one pretend that fasting is not necessary.

But now the days of suffering of our sweetest Savior are coming. What is suffering, the passion of the Lord? This is the final, perfect sacrifice of our Savior for the sins of the world, culminating in His death on the cross, on which He exclaimed: “It is finished” (John 19:30)! This is His last, final service on earth to our salvation, so that through His suffering and death we could get rid of just, eternal torment for our sins, so that He could give us His most pure, long-suffering body and the most pure blood shed for us for food and drink. His own - for our purification, sanctification, revitalization and renewal, in order to clothe us with His truth, His merits, to deify and bless us forever. Oh, if only it were so! If only everyone would always look at His suffering this way and internalize it with faith and love! If only they would be crucified with Him, crucifying themselves to the world and passions! Or, here the liturgy is celebrated almost all year round. What is the liturgy? It is the Lord’s daily service to our salvation and the salvation of the world - for everyone and for everything. He Himself serves for us and with us in the liturgy, celebrating the Mystery of His Body and Blood. He has hitherto been slain for us, remaining Himself unslain in His incorruptible, deified flesh; pours out His blood, breaks His body and gives them to us for the remission of sins, for sanctification and for eternal life; His living and life-giving blood still smokes on the altars of Orthodox Christian churches! Oh, wonderful, divine gift of love! Oh, the blessedness of true Christians! Thus, the Lord still serves our salvation in diverse and life-giving ways.

But He left us an image, an example, so that we too could serve each other with love. He said: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant; and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Mark 10:43–44). So each of us, my brethren, must serve each other with our talents, abilities, strengths, our official position, property, education, and not only please ourselves. Thus, the king and the government serve the people, taking care of their education, the direction of their moral and physical strength, and their agricultural and economic life. Shepherds serve their flock, or should serve as a good example of Christian virtues, by the word of teaching and edification, by the reverent performance of the mysteries, by the saving guidance of their flock to a virtuous life and to salvation in God. Educated people, leaders and mentors, authors, writers, and the press in general must serve for the glory of God and the benefit of the people, or entrusted to their leadership with their educational influence on the basis of the Christian Orthodox Church. Rich people should serve the poor, not parasites, of course, who do not want to work, but want to eat bread for nothing; for “if anyone does not want to work, he must not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10), says the Apostle, but to those poor who would like to, but cannot work, or whose work does not progress at all, the work is exhausting and ungrateful, or those for whom nothing can be done anywhere. We are all members of each other in Christ, both by faith, and by duty, and by the conviction of mind and heart, we must serve each other in whatever way we can. Yes, brethren, to serve your neighbors, and not to live only for yourself, not only for your own pleasures, not only to collect for yourself, not to spend time in idleness and laziness, not to regard life as a toy, or only as a chain of games and pleasures. This would not be Christianity, but paganism. We, "the strong, must endure the weaknesses of the powerless, and not please ourselves. Each of us ought to please his neighbor for his good, for his edification" (Rom. 15:1-2).

Serving our neighbors, of course, cannot be without self-sacrifice and the cross, and the greater and higher the good we sometimes deliver to our neighbors, the more difficult the cross often is, for example, the cross of ingratitude and malice from those who have benefited. Such is the cross of our good and beloved Sovereign. But one should not become discouraged because of this, become sad beyond measure and give up the work of ministry. For whose cross was heavier than the cross Christ endured for us?

May the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who terribly exhausted Himself for us, serve as a strong motivation for us not to be afraid and not to run away from self-sacrifice for the common good. And this selflessness and this good are so needed especially now in view of so many great adversities and misfortunes of our people, who although pious and kind, are uneducated, sometimes superstitious, riotous, careless, often short-sighted, free, but not yet learning to understand and appreciate the gift of true freedom. But in order to sincerely serve your neighbors, for this you must absolutely stop serving your passions, you need self-sacrifice; for passions do not allow one to sincerely and diligently serve one’s neighbors, but teach one to please only oneself. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

Become a Patreon or Paypal Supporter:

Recurring Gifts

Contact Form


Email *

Message *