November 22, 2020

Sermon – The Ninth Sunday of Luke 2020

PASTORAL SERMON
The Ninth Sunday of Luke
By V. Rev.
Timothy Baclig
November 22, 2020

Upon hearing today’s Gospel lesson, you and I should ask ourselves: “How much is enough?”
What do I need in order to live a life in such a way that I am not hoarding my possessions?

We all have responsibilities that include: a) providing for our family; which may include avoiding
debt; doing everything we can to ensure that our children are educated; preparing for the needs
of our retirement and concerns for our medical expenses. All of these responsibilities come with
much uncertainty. They can, at the same time be excuses for not sharing with others, especially
those with great needs. Some of us, especially if we are blessed with good fortune, consider
every possible way of avoiding taxes; we carefully plan our deductions, consider ways to
multiply our income with wise investments. The point is: so much of our financial planning is
without certainty. We worry about tomorrow, but we know that our Lord teaches us that we
should not; yet our lives are seem largely dependent upon what resources we have.

So then we must ask: What does this morning’s Gospel say to us? Let us also review what else
He has said on the subject. It is interesting to note that one-third of our Lord’s teaching has a
direct bearing upon what we do (or don’t do) with our resources:

1. [Matthew 6:25ff] …do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body,
what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than
clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet
your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable then they? Who of you by worrying
can add a single hour to his life? (v. 33) But seek first [the Kingdom of God] and His
righteousness…

2. [Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34] Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth
and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in
heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For
where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

For the past two Sundays we have heard lessons that have focused our attention upon doing
good works. Specifically, we have been reminded that our rich heritage in Christ, who is Himself,
the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, calls us to be merciful. Moreover, we have been
learning that “being merciful” should be the motivation of “making sacrifices.”

Our Christian Tradition (in both the East and West) has observed a fast during the Season of
Advent. We keep a fast in preparation for the Great Feast of our Lord’s coming. However, unlike
Great Lent, this period of forty days has, over the years, tended to place greater emphasis upon
the practice of doing good works. The whole legend of Santa Claus, for example, based upon
the real person of St. Nicholas the Wonder-worker, who is commemorated on December 6th,
and is commonly depicted as a kind and charitable saint, who was a doer of good deeds,
especially to the poor. Yet, without minimizing the discipline of fasting and prayer practiced
during the season, fasting, we should understand, does not exclusively mean abstinence from
foods. Fasting can also, and very possibly mean, the abstinence of the many other things that
we have found ourselves “consuming:” things that we may have become possessive of, or very
possibly attached to; even behavior that we have found ourselves compelled to do. The foolish
rich man spoken of in today’s Gospel is a good example. He lacks an understanding of God as
his Source and selfishly hoarded his goods.

St. Gregory the Great addresses the fast in this way: “…let no one believe that fasting alone is
sufficient; for the Lord tells us by the mouth of the prophet, ‘The kind of fasting I want is this:
Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free.’ And
then he continues, ‘Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the poor. Give
clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives (Isaiah
58:6, 7). The Lord therefore blesses the fast that uplifts our hands in almsgiving before His
eyes, which is joined to the love of our neighbor, and founded on compassion.”

We live in a land that has prided itself upon freedoms that have provided each of us with
countless opportunities for our every ambition. If either by working hard, such as our parents or
grandparents did, some of whom were immigrants, or if it was our good fortune to become the
inheritors of all that they achieved to make our life much easier, our standard of living is largely
spoken of in terms of our possessions. And so the very words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the
verse preceding today’s lesson could not be more alarming: “Watch out!” He said, “Be on your
guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things
he possesses” (verse 15). The Lord then proceeds to present us with a parable that describes a
successful man who defines his life in terms of what he possesses, and further, considers the
purpose of his life in this world solely in terms of being a consumer. We hear the rich man in
today’s Gospel says to himself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life
easy; eat, drink and be merry” (verse 19). These words are part of the writings of the Old
Testament author of Ecclesiastes. They are the very words that are also found in the prophesy
of Isaiah. However in Isaiah, the phrase ends with the words: “…for tomorrow we die” (Isaiah
22:13). It is not mentioned in the quote because the Gospel lesson draws the same conclusion:
the rich man’s life ends with death.

Today’s lesson is also a good study into the mind of a person who hordes things. In commenting
on the rich fool, St. Basil says: His heart is tormented, devoured with anxiety. For what [others
might rejoice in] brings pain to the [greedy]. [The rich man is not happy that] his storehouses are
stuffed full. The overflowing riches which his storehouses are unable to hold are a torment to his
soul, lest perhaps the overflow should bring some of their blessing to those in want! The man in
the parable is truly selfish, according to Basil.

. Our Lord’s concludes the lesson of the parable with the warning: that possessing the rich
man’s attitude and his way of thinking is foolish. Why? Because it would be more proper for
one’s goal in life to be focused upon becoming “rich towards God” – the Giver of every gift, the
Provider and Source of all things.

In last week’s Gospel lesson we heard our Lord say, I desire mercy not sacrifice (Matthew 9:10).
The man in today’s parable was neither merciful nor sacrificial. He considered his life blessed
by having the ability to selfishly hoard his riches. He gave no thought to the fact that he would
not be able to take any of his possessions with him to the grave. He was in fact, deluded in his
thinking: perceiving himself rich, he was in fact very poor. Thinking of his wealth in terms of the
abundance of his possessions, he gave no thought to what it meant to be “rich toward God”.

Prayer
O Christ our God, have mercy upon us sinners. O Holy Virgin, Mother of God, beneath your
compassion we take refuge, despise not our prayer in our spiritual poverty, but by your
intercessions, deliver us from all manner of greed, jealousy, pride and envy. O Holy Spirit of
God, purify our hearts set aright our minds, and sanctify our souls that we may be found faithful
stewards of all that has been entrusted to our care. Establish us in your will; grant that we may
remain steadfast in our commitment and earnest in our desire to be rich towards God. For Thou
art He who is a ready help to us in our time of need, and to Thee do we ascribe glory, together
with the Father who is unoriginate, and our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ; for blessed art
Thou unto ages of ages. A-men.

Topics: