November 10, 2019

Sermon – The Eighth Sunday of Luke 2019

PASTORAL SERMON
The Eighth Sunday of Luke
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
November 10, 2019

During his priesthood St. John Chrysostom (the author of the prayers in the
Divine Liturgy we use on Sundays and whose Feast Day is celebrated on November
13) preached a series of sermons in the month of January on last week’s Gospel
lesson: the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In these sermons he refers to the
riotous celebrations of Saturnalia at the beginning of the Civil New Year. There were
seven sermons in all, and included a day of a severe earthquake in Antioch, preceding
his 6th sermon which John found timely, and preached on God’s judgment and the
necessity of choosing the right way of life before it is too late.

If I were to simply read to you the words of St. John Chrysostom, (St. Basil
the Great, St. Gregory the Great, St. Clement of Alexandra, St. Ambrose, on the
subject of Christian compassion and mercy, it would be a severe judgment upon our
lives. St. John taught and believed very adamantly that you and I must recognize
what are the necessities of life: food, clothing, a roof, walls, shoes and the like; all
else, according to John were “superfluous.” In his own words: “Behold how only a
few things are sufficient for you; nor does God ask much of you. Seek as much as he
has given you, and from that take as much as is necessary; the superfluous things
which remain are the necessities of the poor. They who possess superfluities possess
the goods of others.”

In another context of St. John’s writings we hear him speak in a way that
brings it closer to home: “Do I possess the house in which I live? No, it is only on
loan to me from God [as] I remain in that place. [Some would say on loan to me from
the mortgage company.] Do I possess the clothes I wear? No, they are on loan to me
until they wear out, or until I give them away to someone in greater need. Do I
possess this body that you see before you? No, it was lent to me until the day I die.
Do I possess the mind that is composing the words that I speak? No, that too was lent
by God at my birth and will go when I die. So do I possess anything? Yes, I possess
the virtues which during my life I have grown and nourished within my soul.
Inasmuch as I have grown in gentleness, I possess gentleness. These things are
immortal; they are divine gifts which God will not take away because He wants
heaven itself to be filled with virtue. And of course, I possess my soul, in which these
virtues have their roots.”

The Gospel lessons during these months are not intended to make us feel
guilty about what we are not doing. They are intended to help us to understand the
purpose of giving. Is giving something we do in order to get something in return?
Many businesses operate on this premise and have been successful; however, our
purpose is not to function as a business.

The heart of today’s Gospel lesson can be summed up by the words of the
prophet Hosea (quoted twice by our Lord in St. Matthew’s Gospel): I desire mercy,
not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). The point of the Gospel is not about giving. It is more
accurately about having mercy, just as God was merciful to us. His sacrifice was the
result of his love and mercy. And the action of His sacrifice was something that was
done with joy. In fact we are reminded in scripture that “God loves a cheerful giver!”
Similarly for us, Christian deeds of mercy stem from our thankful hearts.

In the context of the 1st century Christ was making two points: 1) our
neighbor is not only those who are of our race or faith (for such was the Judaic
understanding of His day); moreover, the Samaritan in the parable, the person who
does the good deed, and who was notably not a Jew, is the one who is also called a
“neighbor” by the Lord. In other words, a neighbor is not only the human person who
is the object of one’s loving care, but the person who out of love deals
compassionately with someone in need; for we hear Jesus ask: Which of these do you
think was a neighbor to him who fell among thieves? The lesson emphasizes that it is
as much on the attitude and the act of being a neighbor as it is on seeing others as
neighbors. Furthermore, if we love God with all our being, every human being
becomes our neighbor, and we are to be neighbors to everyone.

Second, the negligence of the priest and the Levite, according to Jesus,
justified themselves by a perverted understanding of the Law. (Numbers 6:6-7
prevented one from touching an unclean thing to avoid ceremonial defilement.
Moreover, it is possible to assume that the victim on the roadside was regarded as a
person who was not “one of their own kind.”) Today’s lesson is very difficult for us
today. It may be, very possibly be a greater challenge to you and me than it was to
those who failed to be neighbors in our Lord’s time. Today we can think of many
more ways to justify our “not being involved,” “not taking any chances,” “not getting
ourselves into any legal situation.” And while it is true that each person should learn
to be responsible individuals, the fact remains that regardless of our position in life,
God desires us to be neighbors to everyone and to regard every person as our
neighbor.

You and I will know when we are called to respond. No one will need to tell
us. That response may not only pertain to someone like the Samaritan in the parable –
someone who is not like us or near to us. It may be someone in our own family or a
co-worker, a classmate. The need may not even be food or shelter, but may involve
taking the time to help someone to have courage to face a personal challenge or
overcoming a disability. The need may also not even pertain to finances, but
companionship and loneliness. The struggle may not even pertain to having enough
of something, but a serious addiction or obsession.

Whatever the situation, you and I are not called to judge anyone. At the same
time, God has also given you and I common sense. Asking for discernment in order
to truly help someone is not a sin. Being placed in a situation of knowing that you
can make a difference and failing to respond is the sin of omission.

Finally, with this being Veteran’s Day I have chosen to conclude my message
with a quote from the message delivered by the President of the United States early
Wednesday morning, November, 7, 2012: The role of citizens in our Democracy does
not end with your vote. America is never been about what can be done for us.
[America is] about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating,
but necessary work of self-government. That’s the principle we were founded on. This
country has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have
the most powerful military in history, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our
universities, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps
[people from] coming to our shores. What makes America exceptional are the bonds
that hold together [what is] the most diverse nation on earth. The belief that our
destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations [to
each other] and to future generations. The freedom which so many Americans have
fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights. And among those
are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That’s what makes America great.

Prayer
Almighty God, help us in our misconceptions like the rich young man, who
considered himself justified. As we now approach your holy altar and dare to partake
of your Holy Body and precious blood may we never assume or even presume that it
was not without a price, not without a sacrifice and certainly not without love that you
bore the sins of the world. As we approach your sacred meal, we approach in faith
and love and ever thankful for your great mercy. We lay aside all worldly cares and
any defense of what we may have thought to be our own righteousness. Keep us in
your protective care. Illumine our leaders, strengthen our nation, guard and protect
our armed forces and grant us peaceful times…

Topics: