Planting seeds for the world to come.

Homily 474 – 18th APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
October 24, 2021
Epistle: (188) 2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Gospel: (83) Luke 16:19-31

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

Two weeks ago, before my absence last weekend, we remembered those words of our Lord and Savior to the Widow of Nain, who had lost her only son. We remembered together that sometimes overlooked phrase of Christ – “Do not cry.”

And we talked about hope. Hope not in medical science, not in the facilities of the world, but hope in the resurrection of the dead.

We didn’t know at the time that Father Maximos would suffer a heart attack and be resuscitated several times over the early hours of Sunday morning.

We didn’t know that Hieromonk Makarios, a friend of the parish and of Fr. Maximos, would have a sudden thought to commemorate Fr. Maximos during proskomedia that Sunday at the monastery in Illinois where he serves. Only later Sunday afternoon was I able to communicate with Fr. Makarios about Fr. Maximos.

There are a couple of other quite interesting occurrences around this event that we may at some point explore.

All of which serve to show us –here in this life, in this place – that God our Creator and Lord is firmly in control and will honor His promised resurrection for us, as He offered for His Only-Begotten Son, and Our Lord’s Blessed Birthgiver, and all the Saints.

In today’s Gospel, and in the Epistle as well, we hear a taste of what our existence looks like on the other side of this life. We still find hope. We still see resurrection.

Lazarus, who experiences such pain and torment in this life, both physical and emotional, is redeemed in Abraham’s bosom. The Rich Man, who lived in comfort and ease, never sacrificing anything for anyone other than his own enjoyment, was in torment.

We do need to understand that hades, the place of the dead, was for everyone awaiting the resurrection. Yet, even there, there was a distinction between the tormented and the comforted.

Some, including Basil the Great, would say that the torment they experience, and the comfort experienced by others, is the result of the fire of God – a fire which illumines and comforts some, and consumes and torments others.

But hades isn’t everlasting – we understand “everlasting” to be after the resurrection.

The Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians describes a similar situation. We sow seed in this life. Meaning we can begin to determine our place in the life beyond by our activities in this life.

First and foremost is, of course, the belief and hope in the resurrection, based on Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord, and His own resurrection.

Also, the activities of Christ while on the Earth – which we must model. He offered everything that was human in Him in submission to the Father’s will.

That is what St. Paul tells us to do. That’s what the rich man should have done but didn’t.

We are to become generous beings. We are to be giving beings.

As I’ve said before, giving has the connotation that we simply “give” and solve the other person’s problem, if we are able.

I think we may, however, overlook a more powerful tool – that of sharing.

Few of us are able to give. In the Scriptures, those who are asked to give away their possessions are generally the rich.

What about the rest of us? We should, we must share. Sharing is giving.

In biblical days, particularly the times of Christ, all giving was sharing. You didn’t offer the hungry a loaf of bread and send them on their way.

You invited them to share the meal with you. You invited them to share your bread, and also your home, and enjoy the peace and respite that you were able to offer.

And, in so doing, one prepared their soul to experience God, who shares Himself with us. Be that in eternal rest, or in the Eucharistic Meal we share this morning. The preparation for communion is the preparation for eternal life – deny yourself.

Deny your ego, deny your wants and desires, in order that you may fulfill the needs of your neighbor.

The same exact way that Christ sacrificed and denied everything to fulfill our greatest need – our healing and reconciliation with our God.

The last part of the Gospel account is very important. We sometimes think, “I would like God to give me a sign.”

Beloved, He already has. The entirety of human history is a sign. Moses, the prophets. The deliverance of the Children of Israel from Egyptian Captivity. The Ark of Noah.

The feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand. The resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany. Raising the widow’s son.

The Garden of Gethsemane. “Nevertheless, not my will but Your will be done.”

That is our prayer – whether it be for someone else, like Fr. Maximos, but also importantly for ourselves.

And then, we accept the outcome, whatever it may be, and we offer thanksgiving to God for His benevolent care and unconditional love for us.

As Protopresbyter Georgios Dorbarakis wrote: “When it seems that we Christians are being defeated and are losing to the forces of darkness, that’s precisely when the light of God’s almighty power arises – our participation in Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. Did Christ not seem weak and defeated on the Cross? But that’s where His almighty power was made manifest: He rose on the third day. ‘Our faith is the triumph which overcomes the world.’

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.