November 15, 2020

Sermon – The Eighth Sunday of Luke 2020

PASTORAL SERMON
The Eighth Sunday of Luke
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
November 15, 2020

During the priesthood of St. John Chrysostom (the author of prayers in the Divine Liturgy we
use on Sundays, and whose Feast Day is celebrated on November 13), a series of his sermons
were preached in the month of January on the Gospel lesson: the Parable of the Rich Man and
Lazarus—heard two weeks ago. 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. On one day
of his sermon there was a severe earthquake in Antioch, preceding his 6th sermon. St. John
found it very 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 from the teaching of St. John Chrysostom on the
subject of Christian compassion and mercy, it would be a severe judgment upon our lives. The
teachings of St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Great, St. Clement of Alexandra and St.
Ambrose are very similar. St. John taught and believed very adamantly that you and I must
prioritize 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. And God does not have “an axe to grind” with the rich. The Gospel lessons 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 lesson 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 very possibly be a greater challenge to you and me, then 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 we should all learn to be responsible persons, 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.

Only 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 one’s time, friendly companionship and and perhaps loneliness. The
struggle may not even pertain to having enough of something, but overcoming a serious

addiction or obsession. In some cases it may require the trained help of a counselor or
therapist.

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, having just commemorated Veteran’s Day, last Wednesday, 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 that we in their tranquility may
lead a calm and peaceful life in all godliness and sanctity.

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