2nd Sunday of Luke – October 4, 2015
A great fall tradition that some families enjoy is to go apple picking. The farmers that are responsible for our food supplies must practice great patience to enjoy the fruit of their harvest. The hard work of plowing the fields, planting, weeding, spraying, watering and tenderly caring for their crops takes a great amount of time. It all begins early in the spring and is enjoyed with much thanksgiving during the harvest season of the fall. This imagery is seasonally perfect for coming to a good understanding of the spiritual lessons of this second Sunday of Luke. With the backdrop of the imagery of the harvest, this sermon will focus on three themes: The innate commandment of God, the discernment between necessity and that which is superfluous, and the awareness of the time we have before us now and time that is yet to come.
St. James in his epistle states the following, “Lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls”JM1:21 No one likes to be the brunt of anyone’s anger. When a person gives into one of his or her passion, usually the conscience becomes anxious. Thus innately, the commandments of God are part of a person’s being. The prophet Jeremiah, speaking of the coming of the Holy Spirit proclaims, “I will make a new covenant with them; I will put my laws in their mind.”JR31:31, 33 So when the Lord Jesus Christ teaches in today’s Gospel the following, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” Jesus is saying to us that within us is the fullness of the gospel, within us is the kingdom of heaven, within us is the knowledge and theory of God. For this reason, St. Gregory Palamas writes, “In the beginning He formed us in a manner that was appropriate to His future teaching, and later He renders that teaching suitable for the way we were originally made.”
In one of the verses of today’s epistle, St. Paul prays the following, “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.” 2COR9:8 St. Paul is trying to lay the foundation for almsgiving with his prayer to the Corinthians. Many were hesitant to help the church and the poor, thinking that they themselves might become poor. Yet in other scenarios they wasted no time spending money on themselves in buying fines clothes or imbibing in revelries. In hearing this passage from St. Paul, the faithful listener is being challenged to strive for only the necessities of life and to use any excess to help the poor. This theological way of living is lifted up in the life of the saints of the Holy Scripture. In the Old Testament, during the time of Elijah, the prophet had approached a widow with a young son for some water and bread. She only had enough for one more meal and then she and her son would have died of starvation. She followed the prophet’s directive and her jars of flour and oil miraculously remained replenished through out the whole drought, which lasted for over three years. Of the parents of the Virgin Mary, Joachim and Anna, it is said that one third of their livelihood was dedicated to the temple, one third was given to the poor and one third was used for their necessities. In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus was watching in the temple across the way from where people would leave their donations. He saw many wealthy people putting in an abundance of money. Then He saw a poor widow give two copper coins worth a few cents. He called His disciples to Him and teaches them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” MK12:43-44 During the Divine Liturgy we pray during the petitions, “Deliver us from all tribulation, anger, danger and necessity.” In this way St. John Chrysostom preaching on this very passage encourages the following: “Thus let us think also in regard of clothing and of the table and of a dwelling house and of all our other wants; and in everything inquire what is necessary. For what is superfluous is also useless.”
Nature itself witnesses to a time now and to a time later, to things seen now and to what is not visible, yet real. The sumptuous fruits and vegetables harvested during this beautiful period of fall were planted earlier during the year. The magnificent oak and maple trees that are beginning to reflect the brilliance of their autumn colors are supported by a root system under the ground which one does not see with his or her eyes. Thus, the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven is a real expectation that a Christian must have to be motivated to fulfill the innate commandments of God found within each person. The expectation of the Kingdom of Heaven is a balm and a comfort to embrace the self-sacrifices and suffering of this time. The command of the Lord to “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High,” is an opportunity to be Christ like. In the words of St. Gregory Palamas, “Do not imagine, that if you do good to evildoers and give to borrowers who will not pay you back, that what is yours will be lost. For now is the time for sowing good works, but the season of harvesting them is the age to come.”
With the imagery of the harvest season, this sermon brought to light the innate commandments that are part of the DNA of each person. Also highlighted was the discernment one is called to have between necessities and superfluous things. The third part of this sermon was for one to always have in perspective the life to come symbolized by the harvest. The wisdom of the Holy Scriptures is like a juicy delicious and crunchy apple freshly picked off the tree. The dedication of the Christian to the study and spiritual understanding of the teachings of our Lord are at the heart of a spiritual life and spiritual direction. To quote the great Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” May our Lord Jesus Christ, to the glory of His father, by the power of the Holy Spirit and through the intercessions of the most holy mother of God, of the patron saints, Constantine and Helen and of St. Hierotheos, whose memory we celebrate today, grant to all of us the grace to uphold His commandments, to live with just the necessities so that the rewards of our struggles might be the entrance into His Kingdom.