Sermon – The Fifth Sunday of Luke 2019
The Fifth Sunday of Luke
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig
November 3, 2019
The lesson of the Fifth Sunday of Luke is among the lessons which introduce us to the season of Advent, that prepares us for the Feast which celebrates the birth of our Lord. It calls our attention upon the practice of good deeds reminding us of God’s love and personal sacrifice by sending His Son into the world.
In our time there is a great deal of attention being given to the subject of wealth and poverty. St. John Chrysostom spoke at length on the subject. His writing is available in English, published by St. Vladimir’s Press, entitled: On Wealth and Poverty.
People whose lives are either shaped by wealth or poverty manifest certain attitudes and behavior. Significant attitudes and behavior can also be evident among those whose lives move from poverty to wealth and from wealth to poverty. Very often whether or not someone worked to earned his or her wealth, or simply inherited wealth is very telling. For Christian believers, the core virtue in the case of both – which is the true test of one’s sincerity is humility. Humility as a virtue is the foundation Christian love. It is the basis of a “good confession” and the true motive of love. Its opposite is: arrogance, selfishness, greed and hatred – all of which we are warned about by our Tradition, beginning with Christ, the Apostles, and the Holy Father’s. That warning comes with pointing to consequences.
We also hear in the Gospel our Lord’s own warning: “To whom much has been given – much will be required.” Money will not buy you everything. Sadly, there are many who think the opposite. It amazes me how some have believed that pouring millions into a political campaign will guarantee an election. The American professional sports billion dollar industry also does not guarantee that any one time can be guaranteed a championship. People are not as naïve as some would think. It is sad to think what all of that money could do to help those who face involuntary suffering.
The parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus of today’s Gospel lesson is in two parts: 1) the life of the rich man and Lazarus on earth, and 2) their life after death.
The two are contrasted to make the following points: First that there is an eternal perspective to life. That eternal perspective gives us a sobriety with an understanding that in this life there is a spiritual quality of life that is acquired whether a person is wealthy or in poverty.
In commenting on the parable St. Gregory the Great speaks of the affects of poverty and riches to the rich man and Lazarus: The fire of poverty cleansed Lazarus of his evil deeds, and the happiness of this passing life rewarded the good deeds of the rich man. Poverty afflicted [Lazarus] and wiped him clean; wealth rewarded the [rich man] and deprived him of everything else.
In a commentary by St. Ambrose we hear: Lazarus was a pauper [one of extreme poverty and lived by charity] in this world, but [was] a rich man before God . . . Yet not all poverty is holy nor is wealth sinful, but as excess dishonors riches, so sanctity commends poverty.
One’s eternal destiny, therefore, is something that begins in this life, and our stewardship of material things – whether with abundance or poverty has a direct affect on our spiritual life. The message at the beginning of Great Lent is very similar: What doth it profit a man if he were to gain the whole world and loose his own soul? Just as we were reminded before the Great Lent that insofar as we are merciful to others, so will our Father in heaven be merciful to us; and that doing good to the needy is the same as having done a good deed to the Lord, so at the start of the Fast of the coming season, and at a time of the year when we are commemorate our nations many blessings at Thanksgiving, we are again reminded that merciful kindness, Christian charity, and love are among the spiritual virtues that save us from needless agony and eternal torment.
O Lord, our God of love and great mercies, we thank Thee for your goodness in providing for all of our needs. Purify our hearts and minds from all forms of selfishness, neglect, and arrogance. Grant us the vision to see and to understand the meaning of your Gospel message as we gather about your table and anticipate dining in your heavenly kingdom. Forgive us our sins of omission and renew in us the desire to serve others as serving Thee. For Thou art He who came to serve and not to be served, and unto Thee do we ascribe thanksgiving and worship, together with Thy Father who is from everlasting and Thine all-Holy good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. A-men.