The idea is to give until nothing is left.
Homily 363 – 1st after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
June 23, 2019
Epistle: (330) – Hebrews 11:33-12:2
Gospel: (38) Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38; (mid-79) 19:27-30
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Sometimes in looking at the liturgical readings and calendar, looking at the readings before and after can provide context.
In the Lectionary we use currently in the OCA, and in the Orthodox Church in general, there are readings during the week that generally work through a particular book in order.
The weekends – the readings for Saturday and Sunday – are on a slightly different cycle, and don’t necessarily follow one after the other. So, in the readings after Nativity, we can read from both St. Luke’s Gospel on Saturday and Sundays, and St. Mark’s Gospel during the week.
I mention this because yesterday’s reading – the reading from Matthew for the first Saturday after Pentecost – has perhaps a direct bearing on today’s gospel reading.
Yesterday’s gospel reading was from Matthew, Chapter 5:
It begins: “The Lord said: Give to whoever asks you, and do not deny whoever desires to borrow from you.”
Our Lord doesn’t provide for us any exceptions. We like to think too much and create exceptions. The Lord doesn’t make any exceptions. Give to whoever asks you.
Even those who say they only want to borrow, and will repay you. Give – and in other places, the Lord tells us to lend without even expecting repayment.
How radical is that? Don’t expect to be repaid. My banking friends go apoplectic about that. This is so out of line with our society.
Jesus doesn’t make this optional. We can choose to disobey – but disobedience it is.
So in today’s gospel, we find that Jesus continues this theme. Jesus makes it a bit more personal though.
In addition to giving our money and our stuff away, He tells us that even our relationships cannot take precedence over Him.
Nothing – not even our own selves, our own desires and wants – can come before Christ.
So, what is the end game? Some say that “you can’t take it with you.” Yet while giving it all away, we do exactly that – we store up for ourselves treasures in heaven.
We will receive a one hundred fold return on that investment. And, we will receive eternal life.
The one who wins is the one who dies with nothing, having given it all away.
Those are the saints we commemorate today. The one’s known to us, and the one’s known only to God. The saints who followed this commandment of God to the letter, and also in spirit.
They were, as St. Paul reminds us, mocked and beaten, scourged and imprisoned. And much worse.
Even to the point of torture and suffering. Even to the point of death.
The choices we face are clear. We can give up everything and follow Christ, or we can not.
We can give until it hurts, figuratively and literally, or we can live in this world, briefly, in luxury and comfort, and save our pain for the eternity to come.
While this seems frightening – St. Paul reminds us that these saints who have gone before us – the ones who have run the race and completed the journey and given away everything.
They are cheering for us. They are giving us their support. They are asking God to be merciful to us, as we are asking God for mercy ourselves.
They are on our side – on our team. And they are so absolutely used to giving they aren’t shy about sharing with us. It all comes down to our willingness, our choices, to fulfill our own desire for comfort or to make sure others have what they need.
While Christ didn’t specifically tell us this, one avenue that is neglected is sharing. We don’t always have to give anything up! We can share with those in need.
Many of the saints chose that route – living in abject poverty, they shared of what little they had. And those with abundance shared with those who had none.
Without regard to status or power or class. Without regard to the ability to repay and share with us in return.
Think of the wedding feast – the master invites many, who refuse, so then he shares with those who cannot repay.
In our world, specifically in our society, we have lots of everything. Housing. Clothes. Food. Transportation.
Things that can be shared.
Just like God has shared with us.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!