21st Sunday After Pentecost - St John of Kronstadt
Fr Andrew Gliga
I want to begin today with a quote from St. John of Kronstadt: "What evils haven’t the Russian people and people living in Russia committed? What sins haven’t they corrupted themselves with? Everything! They’ve done and do everything, which is bringing God’s wrath upon us: open unbelief, blasphemy, rejecting all true principles of faith, depravity, drunkenness, all sorts of entertainments instead of donning the mourning garb of community repentance over the sins that anger God, non-submission to authority... In the demonic kingdom there is order and submission of some evil spirits to others, the lower to the higher, the weaker to the stronger; but in this Christian nation all submission, all authority has disappeared—children do not recognize the authority of their parents, subordinates do not recognize the authority of their superiors, students do not recognize the authority of their teachers … divine services are disdained, sermons are powerless, Christian morality is falling more and more, anarchy is growing…". When I read this quote, I do not think of Russia, but rather I see our own country, especially in the light of what has been transpiring. Today we have so much turmoil boiling all around us. And it really is our fault as Christians because we do not act as Christians to those around us.
In the Gospel reading for Sunday we hear the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. This parable of Christ has one unique factor in it, the man in this parable has a name. There is no other parable in all the Gospels in which someone is named; (they all have descriptive names, like the rich fool, good samaritan, or publican). We can be certain that this man is named Lazarus for a reason. What we see in this story of Christ is that there is a rich man who lives his life without a care and enjoys all pleasures of life. At his gate, there sits a poor beggar named Lazarus begging. Well what transpires is that both of these men die and go to hades. Lazarus finds himself in the bosom of Abraham where he finds peace until the resurrection of Christ. The rich man, having a fancy burial also finds himself in hades but in a place of torment. The story speaks of the rich man speaking to Abraham begging Abraham to send to his brothers Lazaraus to tell them to repent in order to not come to this same torment. "Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’" (Luke 16:29-31).
So to unpack this parable. The rich man is condemned because he did not show mercy to the beggar Lazarus; he did not act in a moral way. When Abraham speaks of listening to Moses and the prophets, we see that Moses represents the teachings of the Church (like the law of Moses which taught what sin is). The prophets represent the saints and those who were before us who lived out their life in Christ and performed many mighty miracles. We are given all this treasure in order to us to teach us and to guide us to have morality. Now, when thinking about the name of the beggar; what should come to mind immediately is that we have a Lazarus who also was risen from the dead by Christ. And yet we know that when Lazarus was risen by Christ that immediately this prompted the Jews to plot to kill Christ. This is exactly why Abraham says that even if someone is risen from the dead they will not believe. Isn't this the type of world we live in today? People constantly ask for signs to see God, and yet they are skeptical of the Church, it's teachings and it's saints? And when people are skeptical of the Church they fall away and begin to embrace the morality of the world which is to eat, drink, and be merry. And worldly morality is what leads to separation from God and ends up in the same state as the rich man does.
This brings us back to the initial quote by St. John, it is our sin and unbelief in Christ which leads us down this path of destruction. Sometimes we ask God to give us what we want in prayer or to help us in life. I know many people are praying for our country especially in this time of troubles post-election. But if our prayers are seemingly unanswered what happens? As humans, we tend to rebel and say God is not listening to us. Why is He ignoring our prayers? Well my question would be are you living your life as a true Christian? We have Moses and the prophets, the Church and the saints; are we listening to them? Are you giving all that you have to the poor as the saints did? Are you keeping strict fasts and doing prayers morning and evening? Are you reading spiritual books? If not, then do not expect God to be doing all the work! He will help us, but first we have to help ourselves and free ourselves from sin. God desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they turn to Him and life. How can we expect to receive God's blessings and goodness when we ourselves are not doing that which we should be doing.
Therefore let us try to push ourselves harder starting this week. Make sure we are praying for those around us. Our hope is in God and only in God. If we are worried for the state of our country, well now is the perfect time to act and live our lives as Christians. For only then will salvation come unto us and to the world around us. To end, another quote of St. John, this time one that truly relates to us and to our country: “O Lord, bring the students to reason; bring the government to reason; give them Thy truth and Thy strength, Thy power. O Lord, may the sleeping tsar arise and act with his authority; give him courage and foresight. O Lord, the world is in confusion, the devil is triumphing, truth is mocked. Arise, O Lord, and help the Holy Church. Amen.”