Homily 239 –Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
December 4, 2016
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Sometimes, like today, we read two readings from the Epistle and the Gospel. Those readings are outlined in the typikon, the book that outlines those sorts of things.
So today, we read for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, but also for St. Alexander Hotovitsky, the Russian Martyr, born in Ukraine and a missionary to North America.
The pairing of the Gospel readings is somewhat happenstance when it occurs, because normally the Gospels for Sunday are fixed, but the Gospel readings for a saint are dependent on the date.
In any event, these occurrences sometimes provide some fortuitous insight into the ways things relate within scripture.
Today we read of ten lepers healed, with only one returning to give thanks. Standing by itself we might conclude that the 9 were simply ungrateful.
Then we read the instructions from Christ – sell you possessions, give to those in need. Because God has chosen to give his kingdom – created and uncreated – to you.
Wealth is transitory – it comes and goes, we have it one moment and the next it is no longer in our possession.
But the Kingdom of God is permanent. As permanent as it gets.
Wealth, and the pleasures and diversions of the created world, are fleeting.
This perhaps gives some insight into the one who returned. He, being healed, understood that he was now a partaker, an owner, an heir of the Kingdom.
To be an heir doesn’t mean that in the future you will have access to something. It means you have it within your possession now.
And the one wasn’t Jewish, either, but a Samaritan – a foreigner. Not a tribe member, not a family member. And yet, an heir.
We can see that when you are in possession of everything, the pittance you have within your possession is no longer important – in fact, it can be a barrier to enjoying the Kingdom.
The nine who didn’t return weren’t ungrateful as much as they were distracted by the new possession they had – their healing.
We see it all the time – especially this time of year. Our children, our nieces and nephews and friends, receive a gift, and very few pause to give thanks. They are absorbed with whatever they have been given.
They have to be reminded to tell them “thank you!”
But the answer is not to be so absorbed with the things of the world. Healing is good – but not at the cost of the Kingdom.
Even physical healing is temporary – we won’t be fully healed, truly healed, until after our death, when we are resurrected to new life in that Kingdom.
And so we can learn from this very happy coincidence in the two Gospel readings. Because everything, even the things we hold most dear, most sacred, pale in comparison with the Kingdom of God that we have.
And we need to divest ourselves of these cares now. Not later. Now.
For, as the Gospel continues, Christ our bridegroom comes when we do not expect him. Like the 10 virgins waiting for their betrothed, there may not be time to go to the market and buy oil to keep our lamps lit.
There may not be time when Christ returns to divest ourselves of our cares and concerns of this world and prepare ourselves for the Kingdom we possess.
In fact, I can safely say there will not be time. Because Christ comes as a thief in the night – unexpectedly and without warning, without fanfare.
Every day we wake up, we have a decision to make. Will we be thankful to God for the gift of life given to us, or will we just plunge right in to the cares and worries of our existence?
This world, and everything in it, was created good – but is now fallen. And this world is the world humanity was banished to – exiled to – when we decided to put ourselves in the place of God.
This world is not our home. This world is, in many respects, the existence we were never intended to have. Our home is the Kingdom of God.
And, brothers and sisters, we have a choice. We can choose which Kingdom in which to dwell.
The Gospel urges us to choose the Kingdom that we were created for. Not the kingdom of creation, but the Kingdom of the uncreation – the Kingdom of God.
Every morning, make the choice to live in the Kingdom of God. Give thanks. Tell God of your choice, and give Him thanks for allowing you to wake up.
And when you go to sleep, thank God for keeping you throughout the day, and ask His forgiveness for those times where you chose the world instead of the Kingdom. His forgiveness is guaranteed.
Be thankful. Be kind. Don’t be afraid to be generous. Don’t hold on to your possessions more tightly than God.
Follow Christ. And be free – and fulfilled – and whole.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!