Peace, and the Rich Fool

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST !!!

For He is our peace, Who has made us both one.

   Jesus Himself took on our flesh, and in His circumcision he became a Jew; and in His death on the Cross he took upon Himself the curse of our mortality and became as One outside the law, as One Whom the law condemned, that He might unite all mankind in Himself, both Jew and Greek. And He didn’t just change us so that we might be new and improved Jews; He created us a new man, breaking the fragmentation that divides us from God, and from each other — not just bringing the enmity to and end, but KILLING IT.

   And He proclaimed Peace to those who were far off and Peace to those who were near. We see this even in His Nativity, where it is announced by the angels to the shepherds — those near, and by a star to those who came from a distant land. 

   And we are made fellow citizens with the saints. We are being built into a holy temple in the Lord; a tabernacle, a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. We are given citizenship in the Kingdom of God. We proclaim it in this Divine Service; we participate with it in communion; we live it in our day-to-day lives. 

   He is our peace, having made us one: Male — Female, Jew — Greek, English — Russian, White — Black … HE has made us one; reconciling us to God, making us Fellow-citizens of the Household of God. It spite of our differences, God has called us together to stand as members of His house as we worship Him together. He has called us to be His body through communion. We may get on each others’ nerves from time to time; but God is building us into a community of His Body, here in Silverdale, here in Central Kitsap County. not as another organization, but as an organism, a living, breathing microcosm of Christ’s Body; to incarnate His Body in our lives, and His ministry in our encounter with others. 

   And we do not figure all this out on our own by reading about it — our foundation of faith is in the Apostles and Prophets. The foundation is in both the Old and the New Covenant. We must be obedient to the teachings of Christ, the Apostles, and the Prophets. Those teachings are not easy to do; those teachings constantly challenge us to live a life of repentance. 

   Christ Himself is the cornerstone, and we are His temple being built together. Sometimes we irritate each other; sometimes we rub each other the wrong way. Yet we are being built into His dwelling. In our worship we humans stand with the angels, offering up the noetic worship which is offered by the angels at all time, and we this morning come together to offer it with the angels.  And we live our lives from this offering — offering ourselves as a living sacrifice — our reasoned worship.

   We together are the Temple of God. We can’t do that alone. We need each other, to pray for each other, to love each other, and yes, sometimes to annoy each other and learn to overcome our differences so that we realize His unity in us. 

   We must do this together. It is for this purpose that God has called us here. 

  Therefore we must bear one another’s burdens. For just as we are in need of healing, so all of us are. In bearing our own burdens and the burdens of each other, we fulfill the law of the Kingdom of God. 

   And Christ heals us; He restores us to the likeness of His Image in Whom we are created, if we will let Him; if we will cooperate with Him. 

   Let us use this time of the Nativity fast to cleanse ourselves of bitterness, anger, falsehood, impurity, uncleanliness, and covetousness. Most especially in this time of year, when commercial interests want us to be greedy and consume more, we must guard ourselves in moderation, for our soul is in this battle between virtue and vice — and there are many who want to make money on our vices. We are to give thanks in all things and be grateful. Which brings us to our Gospel. 

   The Gospel reminds us of this as well. The parable tells us the man had more than enough. The Rich Fool is only concerned with himself, and how things effect him; he does not look at how his behavior affects others. He only considers himself, and what life can give him. He is like Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life”; he only looks out for himself and his own petty concerns. 

   Instead of building bigger tables to share his wealth, he decided on bigger barns – barns where his harvest would accumulate, and spoil. 

   He seems to think that he is the owner of his soul and that he is in charge . . . of everything! 

   Jesus then continues the parable, deliberately using the line “Eat; Drink and be merry.” He knew that those listening to Him would recall how that line from Isaiah continued: “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.”

   St. Basil the Great says of this very Gospel: “if you fill these larger ones, what do you intend to do next? Will you tear them down yet again only to build them up once more? What could be more ridiculous than this incessant toil, labouring to build and then labouring to tear down again? If you want storehouses, you have them in the stomachs of the poor.” 

   The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor.”

   On this same passage, St. Leo the Great points out that this passage should read: “Fool; in this night they demand your soul from you.” These things that you own, now own you. Many of the fathers remind us that the only thing we get to take with us to the grave is whatever virtue we may have acquired in this life. 

   And so the Rich Fool dies without learning mercy and generosity. And the wealth of his harvest is left to rot. 

   We must guard our relationship to the many things our world tells us we MUST HAVE, especially this time of year. We have only to look at the average relationship with the smart phone to see how easy it is to be owned by our things. 

   As we are now in the Nativity Fast, let us guard against the noise of acquiring. And when we find ourselves having a surplus, let us find a way to build a table that invites others to partake of our good fortune. 

   So, let us guard our souls in sobriety, and turn down the volume of the noise from the world through prayer, fasting, and alms. And, let us not get so involved in whether our particular political side won today that we ignore the friends and family that we have. Let us spend less time on the internet, and more time loving the people whom God has given us. Let us not fall for the desires to have things that are very loud right now (Black Friday seems to have lasted two weeks this year). Let us rather BE . . . together . . . with those people God has given us and put in our lives. And with the current pandemic, we must find more creative ways to do this. As St Paul reminds us, we must bear one another’s burdens. 

To Him Who gives us all good things in due season, be all Glory honour and worship. Always now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen

Last Judgement

Last Judgement

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit:

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST!! 

   Amen, I say to you, in as much as ye did not to the least of these, neither did ye to Me. 

   Today we hear about fasting in the epistle. If we read the hymns from Vespers and Matins for this coming cheese week we will also hear words of instruction about fasting. 

If thou dost fast from food, O my soul, yet dost not cleanse thyself from passions, thou dost rejoice in vain over thy abstinence. For if thy purpose is not turned towards amendment of life, as a liar thou art hateful in God’s sight, and thou doest resemble the evil demons who never eat at all. Do not by sinning make the fast worthless, but firmly resist all wicked impulses. Picture to thyself that thou art standing beside the crucified Saviour, or rather, that thou art thyself crucified with Him Who was crucified for thee; and cry out to Him: “Remember me, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom. (Wednesday Matins)

   The hymns of the Katavasia of the Canon for last night’s Vigil are already the hymns of the irmosoi of the Great Canon of St. Andrew.  

   This Wednesday at Vespers, and Friday at the Moleben, we will already say the Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian. 

   This week we already begin fasting from meat. If you have access to the daily sections of the Triodion, they start this week. I commend them to you. 

In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us a different sort of teaching. Instead of speaking of Himself and the Kingdom obliquely or through Parables, He confronts us with a vision of the Last Judgement. This Glorious vision is of Him, the Son of Man, as King of all nations, for ALL nations will be judged, those we like, and those we do not like. All nations before the Throne of Glory are judged based on how they recognized the Image of God in the least of them. 

The Lord sent the Law, and the Prophets, and we have disregarded them. And finally He spoke to us through His Son, and we disregarded Him too. Our Physician has taken careful measures for our healing, even conquering death by His death, and dulling its sting. And as in the days of Noah, Christ has flooded the world with His Righteousness, Grace, and Mercy. 

The King comes with both Justice and Mercy. And we recall all of Jesus’ teachings and parables reminding us that, to the merciful, God will show mercy; — to the merciless, God will show no mercy, but only judgement.  Some will see the King as joy and bliss; others will see the King as judgement and condemnation. And the dividing line is: . . .  “How did we treat others.” When we get to Holy Week we will see this theme repeated: for the Foolish Virgins did not have enough oil. . . .  Oil is a pun for mercy. 

And He divides the sheep from the goats, the righteous from the wicked. The Sheep are sheep because their likeness is as to the Lamb of God. One thing to note is that neither the righteous nor the wicked are aware of who is which. The righteous question being considered righteous; the wicked question being considered wicked. The righteous are unaware that by ministering to the least of these, they ministered to the King. 

He was: hungry, and they fed; thirsty and they gave drink; a foreigner, and they welcomed Him; naked, and they clothed Him; sick and imprisoned and they visited Him. The righteous ministered to Him by ministering to the least of these. They didn’t know that by ministering to the Image of God in the least of these, that they ministered to God, the King. For God does not need food, drink, asylum, clothing, a physician, or liberty — but the least of those created in His Image do. When you sum it all up, what they did for their fellows who are created in God’s Image and likeness — they loved. . . . Come ye blessed, inherit the Kingdom that was prepared for you from the foundation. The Kingdom of God is what we were all created for. . . And the righteous do not react as if they have been vindicated; instead they react with humility.

To the goats, the wicked He says: Depart you cursed ones. He does not curse them. They have cursed themselves. Depart to a place that was NOT prepared for you, but for the devil and his demons. The fire of punishment was not designed for you, but you have brought it upon yourself; you have chosen it.  They choose it by refusing to do all the things the righteous did. And the impious react with self justification: “Lord when did we see Thee…” In this is a warning to us, not to seek to justify ourselves. DEPART! . . . for you preferred wealth and power and things over your brothers. . . and that is hatred for your brothers. 

St. Gregory Palamas says, “Observe this last evil: pride is yoked with callous behavior, as humility is with compassion. When the righteous are praised for doing good, they humble themselves the more, without justifying themselves. When these others are accused of being devoid of compassion by Him Who cannot lie, they do not humbly throw themselves to the ground, but answer back and justify themselves.”

   The first commandment is that we love God with all our mind, all our soul, and all our strength, and the second is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. The only way we can prove we love God is by loving our neighbor.

Brothers and sisters, we live in a culture dominated by protestant calvinism: the idea that wealth is virtue. If you read social theory you will find that they have divided the poor into “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor”. And we do our best as a culture to withhold aid to those we deem “undeserving.  But SS John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Ambrose of Milan will have nothing of this:

For most people, when they see someone in hunger, chronic illness, and the extremes of misfortune, do not even allow him a good reputation but judge his life by his troubles, and think that he is surely in such misery because of wickedness.  — St. John Chrysostom 

Lift up and stretch out your hands, not to heaven but to the poor; for if you stretch out your hands to the poor, you have reached the summit of heaven. But if you lift up your hands in prayer without sharing with the poor, it is worth nothing . — St John Chrysostom

Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead. —  St John Chrysostom

If you see any one in affliction, ask no more questions. His being in affliction involves a just claim on your aid. For if when you see a beast of burden choking you raise him up, and do not curiously inquire whose he is, much more about a human being one ought not to be over-curious in enquiring whose he is. He is God’s, be he heathen or be he Jew; since even if he is an unbeliever, still he needs help… . . . If you see him in affliction, do not say that he is wicked. For when a person is in calamity, and needs help, it is not right to say that he is wicked. For this is cruelty, inhumanity, and arrogance. — St. John Chrysostom

The rich are in possession of the goods of the poor, even if they have acquired them honestly or inherited them legally. — St. John Chrysostom

The rich seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of preemption. For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, and no one would be in need. —  St. Basil the Great

He who strips the clothed is to be called a thief. How should we name him who is able to dress the naked and doesn’t do it. — St. Basil the Great

You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not just to the rich. —  St Ambrose

Feed him who is dying of hunger; if you have not fed him you have killed him. — St. Ambrose of Milan

I was hungry and you took my food away, and arrested those who were trying to feed me; I was thirsty and you dumped my water in the desert, or you gave my water to someone who paid you; I was a foreigner and you sent me back to the perils of the country I escaped, I was naked and you condemned my morality; I was sick and you made it impossible for me to see the physician; I was in prison and you forgot me. 

Rather than take Jesus’ words to heart, we try to find a way to justify our greed, our hard heartedness, our neglect, our theft of the resources that belong to all mankind.

   During the Lenten season that will soon be upon us, we are instructed to increase prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. When we give alms we should thank the one we give to, because through them we have the blessing to give to God.  

   We are beginning a time when we are asked by the Church to simplify our lives, to soften our hearts, to be generous with alms, to turn down the volume of our noisy world.

Brothers and sisters, listen. Our souls are on the line. Jesus taught us to pray that our debts be forgiven as we forgive our debtors — our debts, those things we should have done but didn’t. Jesus did not accuse the goat people of adultery or murder; He accused them of lack of mercy. 

I would be guilty of not clothing you if I soft-pedalled this. This is what our Lord expects of us. This is the criteria by which we are judged. 

The Kingdom which was prepared for you from the beginning, the joy of all joys — or, … the punishment that was not prepared for you but rather for the devil and his angels. Which will we decide? We must decide whether to let the medicine of these commandments be a healing for us. Or by not applying the medicine, a fate which was never ours to begin with awaits. 

But by our actions or inactions, we decide.

May we attain unto the lot of the sheep through the mercies of our Lord Jesus Christ, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, to Whom be all glory, honour, and worship; always now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen

St. Ambrose of Milan

Some miscellaneous quotes from St. Ambrose of Milan

Evil is not a living substance, but a deviation of mind and soul from the path of true virtue. —  St Ambrose of Milan

But they, too, who would forbid the city to foreigners cannot have our approval. They would expel them at the very time when they ought to help…They would refuse them a share in the produce meant for all, and avert the intercourse that has already begun; and they are unwilling, in a time of necessity, to give those with whom they have enjoyed their rights in common, a share in what they themselves have. Beasts do not drive out beasts, yet man shuts out man. Wild beasts and animals consider food which the earth supplies to be common to all. They all give assistance to those like themselves; and man, who ought to think nothing human foreign to himself, fights against his own. — St Ambrose of Milan

A possession ought to belong to the possessor, not the possessor to the possession. Whosoever, therefore, does not use his patrimony as a possession, who does not know how to give and distribute to the poor, he is the servant of his wealth, not its master; because like a servant he watches over the wealth of another and not like a master does he use it of his own. Hence, in a disposition of this kind, we say that the man belongs to his riches, not the riches to the man. — St. Ambrose of Milan

There is your brother, naked, crying, and you stand there confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering. — St. Ambrose of Milan

The poor mine gold, but they are not allowed to keep it; they are forced to work for what they cannot own. — St Ambrose of Milan

Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies. — St. Ambrose of Milan

No one heals himself by wounding another. — Saint Ambrose

You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not just to the rich. —  St Ambrose of Milan

It is not from your own possessions that you are bestowing alms on the poor, you are but restoring to them what is theirs by right. For what was given to everyone for the use of all, you have taken for your exclusive use. The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone. Thus, far from giving lavishly, you are but paying part of your debt. — St. Ambrose of Milan

Feed him who is dying of hunger; if you have not fed him you have killed him. — St. Ambrose of Milan

Evil is not a living substance, but a deviation of mind and soul from the path of true virtue. —  St Ambrose of Milan

Palm Sunday

Sermon Palm Sunday

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST !!!

   Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together; and we all take up Thy Cross and say : Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. 

   We must admit a certain amount of irony today, for because of a plague we cannot all be gathered together. Most of us must stay home so that we do not endanger those who are vulnerable. 

   This current plague has raised many a question for us. Being forced to stay home, being forced to quiet ourselves, being forced to take a break from our usual busyness has made us look at our priorities. What is it that we do that is important? What is it that we do. . .  that we really can find better ways to do? It is a deeper asking of the sorts of questions that we asked 50 years ago. Then, many of us thought the solution was to simplify by uglifying.  The assumption was made that beauty was an unnecessary extravagance. This was a solution put forward by a culture that thought that everything important happened only in the brain.

   We have all, as a whole culture been forced to observe a Lent of simplifying and solitude. And what do we miss the most? Do we miss going to work and sitting in our cubical? Do we miss the traffic jams? No, we miss the beauty of connecting with others; we miss the beauty of being close with others; we miss the beauty of going to concerts and listening to live music; we miss the beauty of our favourite restaurants, and the people that we interact with daily, even if casually. We are being smacked over the head with what is really important. Function over beauty is showing itself to be a false dichotomy. 

 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”

   Today we remember a very beautiful act, and we remember that someone said that it wasn’t very practical. Judas commits what he thinks is a powerful “WhatAboutIsm”. . .  “Yes this was a very beautiful act; but what about the poor?” It is not a zero-sum game. We can, and MUST have beauty to express our love for He Who IS beyond all beauty. The beauty of what we do is a poor reflection of the beauty of Him Whom we worship. Yet we must give it all the beauty we can. And at the same time we MUST minister to the poor, to the afflicted, to the hungry, to the sick, to those who have been traumatized by life. 

We must beatify our temple — we must care for the poor. The time is coming very quickly when we must consider the building of our own temple. As we move towards that we must both consider the poor, and consider that we are honouring our Lord, just as Mary did in today’s gospel. 

   And through the epistle, the Church tells us “REJOICE! The Lord is near.” We rejoice, for in our unity, the Lord is present. This is a Rejoicing that can exist even when we are grieved. It is a choice: REJOICE! even when the circumstances do not seem to be joyful. REJOICE! even in the midst of grief and pain — for “The Lord is near.” 

   St. Paul commends to us the virtues. It is best to focus on them — to consider them, to consider the things that have been learned and received, heard and seen; and peace beyond knowing will be with us, and will guard our hearts and thoughts.

   And now Jesus come to be anointed before His death. It is both for His death and to indicate Him as the anointed One, the Christ, that He is anointed. He is offered a very beautiful gift. 

   And Judas takes offense. Jesus rebukes him. Jesus paraphrases Deuteronomy: “The Poor you shall always have with you.” This has been used by some as a justification for doing nothing for the poor. But the rest of that verse in Deuteronomy says: “Therefore, I command thee saying: thou shalt open thy hand wide unto thy brother and to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” Jesus makes reference to our duty to the poor, but indicates that His time with them in the flesh is limited — that it must be savoured. 

   And so we must beatify our temple; we must beatify our singing; but we must not ignore the poor while we are doing it. Neither, as Judas suggested, may we ignore the first two. Jesus’ rebuke to Judas was also a rebuke to any who would travel the path of wickedness: “You will not always have Me with you.” Jesus is telling them that there will be plenty of opportunities to minister to Him indirectly by ministering to the poor — but this is a unique opportunity to minister to Him directly. But Judas did not understand. 

   And so Jesus mounts upon the colt of a donkey. Here Jesus is performing the traditional triumphal entry of a king into a city; but He does it with humility riding on the foal of an ass. In doing so He fulfills the prophesy of Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold thy King is coming to thee, a Just One, and a Saviour; He is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal.”

   The people, most of whom had been hanging out in Bethany with Jesus and Lazarus, immediately recognize the prophesy, and cry out HOSANNA! HOSANNA! In Hebrew, Hosanna means “Save now” They are recognizing Him to be the long awaited Saviour. They are asking Him to save them: “Save us, O Son of David.” It may be likely that they understood this salvation to be in political terms. They may have expected this Messiah to be a new and improved earthly king. Many have, and continue to have this misunderstanding. But the people did not understand. 

   The King of the Universe enters Jerusalem in humility — He even had to borrow a donkey to ride. 

   And the Saducees and Pharisees of the Sanhedrin are upset. This One Whom they had counted as an enemy is now proclaimed King of Israel. The Sanhedrin did not understand.

   Thus begins Holy Week. Jesus comes as a humble King. And Time as we know it begins to pass away. In the Eucharist, the Passion, the Death, the Resurrection, the Kingdom of God breaks into our time. That which is without Time comes to dwell in time. The fathers of the Church underline this by having no assigned Tone to this week. The Octoechos has ceased. Time, as we usually measure it, is beginning to expire.

   In one of the Gospels, Jesus will say at the supper: “I will no more taste of the fruit of the vine until I taste it in the Kingdom. At His Passion when He is crucified, He will be offered sour wine on a stick, which He will refuse. Then at the end of His Passion, after three hours, He, knowing all things are accomplished will say: “I thirst.” Again, He will be offered sour wine on a stick — this time He will drink it. And He will say “It has been finished (It has been accomplished)”, and deliver up His spirit. With this the Kingdom of God, that timeless Kingdom, invades time.

   And He will be in the Body — in the tomb; in Hades — with the soul; in Paradise — with the thief; on the throne — with the Father and the Spirit — He Who fillest all things. 

   And then we will celebrate His resurrection from the dead; His trampling down death by death. We will begin another week without a set tone, in which we must, never-the-less, SING EVERYTHING. This is to show us that since Time as we know it has passed away, a new Time beyond Time is inaugurated — an eighth day. Our Homeland is come — a week is as if it were a single day — That which Jesus has called us to has been made known to us. The Kingdom of God is made present to us continually. 

   Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together; and we all take up Thy Cross and say : Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest to Him, together with His Father Who IS without beginning, and the Holy glorious and Life-creating Spirit be all glory and honour, now and ever and unto ages of ages. 

The Last Judgement

In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us a different sort of teaching. Instead of speaking of Himself and the Kingdom obliquely or through Parables, He confronts us with a vision of the Last Judgement. This Glorious vision is of Him, the Son of Man, as King of all nations, for all nations will be judged, those we like, and those we do not like. All nations before the Throne of Glory are judged based on how they recognized the Image of God in the least of them.
Some will see the King as joy and bliss; others will see the King as judgement and condemnation. And the dividing line is “How did we treat others.”

And He divides the sheep from the goats, the righteous from the wicked. One thing to note is that neither the righteous nor the wicked are aware of who is which. The righteous question being considered righteous; the wicked question being considered wicked. The righteous are unaware that by ministering to the least of these, they ministered to the King.

He was: hungry, and they fed; thirsty and they gave drink; a foreigner, and they welcomed Him; naked, and they clothed Him; sick and imprisoned and they visited Him The righteous ministered to Him by ministering to the least of these. They didn’t know that by ministering to the Image of God in the least of these, that they ministered to God, the King. For God does not need food, drink, asylum, clothing, a physician, or liberty — but the least of those created in His Image do. Come ye blessed, inherit the Kingdom that was prepared for you from the foundation.

To the goats, the wicked He says: Depart you cursed ones. He does not curse them. They have cursed themselves. Depart to a place that was NOT prepared for you, but for the devil and his demons. The fire of punishment was not designed for you, but you have brought it upon yourself; you have chosen it.
They choose it by refusing to do all the things the righteous did.

Brothers and sisters, we live in a culture dominated by protestant calvinism. If you read social theory you will find that they have divided the poor into “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor”  But SS John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Ambrose of Milan will have nothing of this.

For most people, when they see someone in hunger, chronic illness, and the extremes of misfortune, do not even allow him a good reputation but judge his life by his troubles, and think that he is surely in such misery because of wickedness.  — St. John Chrysostom
Lift up and stretch out your hands, not to heaven but to the poor; for if you stretch out your hands to the poor, you have reached the summit of heaven. But if you lift up your hands in prayer without sharing with the poor, it is worth nothing . — St John Chrysostom
Feeding the hungry is a greater work than raising the dead. —  St John Chrysostom
If you see any one in affliction, ask no more questions. His being in affliction involves a just claim on your aid. For if when you see a beast of burden choking you raise him up, and do not curiously inquire whose he is, much more about a human being one ought not to be over-curious in enquiring whose he is. He is God’s, be he heathen or be he Jew; since even if he is an unbeliever, still he needs help. For if indeed you had been charged by God to investigate and to judge, well and good, but, as it is, the fact that he has fallen into misfortune is all you need to know. If you see him in affliction, do not say that he is wicked. For when a person is in calamity, and needs help, it is not right to say that he is wicked. For this is cruelty, inhumanity, and arrogance. — St. John Chrysostom
The rich are in possession of the goods of the poor, even if they have acquired them honestly or inherited them legally. — St. John Chrysostom
The rich seize common goods before others have the opportunity, then claim them as their own by right of preemption. For if we all took only what was necessary to satisfy our own needs, giving the rest to those who lack, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, and no one would be in need.—  St. Basil the Great
He who strips the clothed is to be called a thief. How should we name him who is able to dress the naked and doesn’t do it. — St. Basil the Great
The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you put in the bank belongs to the poor. — St. Basil The Great
There is your brother, naked, crying, and you stand there confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering. — St. Ambrose of Milan
You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not just to the rich. —  St Ambrose
Feed him who is dying of hunger; if you have not fed him you have killed him. — St. Ambrose of Milan

I was hungry and you took my food away; I was thirsty and you gave my water to someone who paid you; I was a foreigner and you sent me back to the perils of the country I escaped, I was naked and you condemned my morality; I was sick and you made it impossible for me to see the physician; I was in prison and you forgot me.

Rather than take Jesus’ words to heart we try to find a way to justify our greed, our hard heartedness, our neglect, our theft of the resources that belong to all mankind.
In a week we will begin a time when we are asked by the Church to simplify our lives, to soften our hearts, to be generous with alms, to turn down the volume of our noisy world.

Brothers and sisters, listen. Our souls are on the line. Jesus taught us to pray that our debts be forgiven as we forgive our debtors — our debts, those things we should have done but didn’t. Jesus did not accuse the goat people of adultery or murder; He accused them of lack of mercy.
I would be guilty of not clothing you if I soft-peddled this. This is what our Lord expects of us. This is the criteria by which we are judged.

The Kingdom which was prepared for you from the beginning, the joy of all joys — or, the punishment that was not prepared for you but rather for the devil and his angels. Which will we decide? We must decide whether to let the medicine of these commandments be a healing for us. Or by not applying the medicine a fate which was never ours to begin with awaits.

But by our actions or inactions, we decide.

in-as-much

The Parable of Lazarus and the rich man

Sermon 20th week after Pentecost

CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST!

Lazarus lay at the gate every day. The rich man could not excuse himself for not knowing about Lazarus’ condition.

St. John Chrysostom says that if we do not see God in the beggar at the gate, we will not be able to see Him in the Chalice.

The rich man is revealed as lower than the dogs, who at least showed mercy to Lazarus in the way they knew how to show mercy.

Augustine notes that because of the rich man’s neglect of Lazarus, he is not named in this story, for his name is not written in the book of Life. Lazarus’ name IS written. Lazarus means “one who has been helped.”

So where does Abraham fit in this story? Abraham is the first one who was called to leave his citizenship, his city, and all the stability and comfort he had known to follow God in faith. He became a despised Habiru – and through that became the father of a nation that would prepare the world to receive God in the flesh. This is the comfort that Lazarus finds himself in.

And Abraham, through his journey, acquired much wealth; yet it was not for the sake of the wealth that he kept it; he did not hold his wealth for its own sake, but for the journey that God had called him to.  This rich man had wealth too. But he held his wealth in greed, and neglect of his fellow man. Abraham, who prayed mercy for the wicked, showed mercy to the poor and hospitality to the stranger could not help this rich man.

Even in death we see how this man’s soul has shown itself to be ugly; his first thought is for his own comfort, and relief of his pain; and he, even now treats Lazarus like an errand boy.

St. Ephraim the Syrian observes that this fire that torments the rich man in death is a fire from within himself.

By his life, he neglected the afflicted, the poor, the alien. These are the very ones Moses and the prophets instructed us to be merciful. By his life, he mocked Moses and the prophets.

Jesus points the story even further, if we will not listen to Moses and the prophets and have mercy on the poor, the afflicted, the homeless, the hungry, that His own Death and Resurrection are meaningless to us.

Who are the people outside the gates for us today?

We live in a society that punishes the poor, that does its best to keep them in poverty and them blame them for it. We do our best to excuse ourselves from our duty to them. We say, “it’s MY money; I earned it; you should not compel me to help them.” We justify to ourselves why it is ok to neglect the poor.

We have in our community the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the afflicted. If we do nothing to help them we share in this rich man’s mocking of Moses and the prophets. Again St. John Chrysostom warns us: “If we do not find Christ in these, we will not find Him in the Chalice.”

And, there is another one who sits outside the gate whom we continue to neglect. That one is ourselves.

In the last week of the 40 days of Great Lent the hymns give us meditation on this parable.

We are told that we are the one whom we neglect at the gate.

Joseph the Studite writes the stichera for Monday  vespers of the 6th week of Lent:

I have rivalled in foolishness the rich man who showed no love for others; overwhelmed by sensual pleasures and the passions, I live in luxury and self-indulgence. I see my mind, O Lord, lying always like Lazarus before the gates of repentance, but with indifference I pass it by, and leave it hungry, sick and wounded by the passions. Therefore I deserve to be condemned to the flames of Gehenna: but deliver me from them, O Master, for Thou alone art rich in mercy. (Joseph the Studite – Monday  vespers of the 6th week)

   We neglect ourselves not only in lack of mercy to others, but also in lack of mercy to ourselves. We starve ourselves from prayer, reading of scripture, and giving alms. We neglect that part of us that “GETS” God most readily, our spiritual mind.

So, let us feed the hungry and show mercy to the poor; and let us also feed ourselves on the riches that God has passed on to us through the Church.

To Him be glory, now and ever and unto the ages of ages.