The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (16:19-31)
I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but on Tuesday there will be a presidential election. Both sides are digging their heals in and hoping for an outcome that will give them power, potentially the power to reshape and reimagine this nation, possibly for better and possibly for worse. It looks like it will be an interesting few days as votes are counted and results are announced. Do not be surprised that lawlessness will abound and people will look for excuses to cause trouble. It would be best if we do not defend it or even comment at all. Stay off of social media and pray that God would pour out His grace to heal our nation. About 51% of Americans will be very happy with the results and about 49% will be crushed, almost to the point of despair, depending on the result…. But take hope my brothers and sisters!
Today’s gospel reading is a great vaccine for our potential hysteria. In this gospel we are reminded that this life is finite, it will come to an end. Whatever happens during this election, whatever happens here on earth, it won’t matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of things because every one of us will die. Whether rich or poor, male or female, child or adult, black or white, clergy or layman, republican, democrat, or independent,each of us is going to leave this life. In the Orthodox funeral service we hear these words “I looked again into the graves and beheld the bones laid bare, and I said: Who then is the king or the warrior, the rich man or the needy, the upright or the sinner?” We understand Death is the great equalizer of all men, no matter how great they may be in this life. Our life is very short and passing away.
The election will not change that fact of our death in any way shape or form because only the Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death, and He is not running for public office. As Christians we should already hold Jesus as the only master and King of our lives. As Christians we are also called to make peace with this fact: one way or another, we are going to die. However there is still an issue. Each of us will be called to account for our lives. That my brothers and sisters is a dreadful thought. Even the process of the soul departing from the body can be terrifying. According to some of the Church fathers, it is dreadful if we are attached and enmeshed to the pleasures of the flesh and the material world around us. St. John of Damascus writes “Truly most frightening is the mystery of death, how the soul is violently separated from its concord with the body and, by divine decree, the most natural bond of their cohesion is severed.” — St. John of Damascus
In the parable that we heard today, Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us a story about a very rich man and a very poor man. He shows us how one feasted and indulged himself while the other simply begged for scraps of food. But their condition and situation changed in an instant at the time of their deaths. It reminds us that our lives can be like an illusion. One of the two men lived a life of relative ease, the other lived a fairly miserable life from an outside perspective. But death changed everything and turned what they thought to be true, upside down! The one who was comfortable and wealthy was now in anguish while the other who had suffered so much and been in want, was now comforted and full of peace in the bosom of Abraham. Death shined a light on the reality of their lives and it removed all the shadows and illusions. The only thing that was left after their physical death was whatever was connected to God and to His Son Jesus Christ. Everything else perished.
In light of this parable, this life giving teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are forced to reconsider our lives and our actions. The question that each of us should ask every day as we begin the day is this: “Is my life pleasing to You O Lord?” Perhaps another way to ask it is: “What shall I do to serve you and please you and live a life of lasting significance?” We could even stretch this line of thinking further and say “Lord help me to live this day and serve You as if it is my very last day on earth.” Hopefully you understand that our focus is not on death. We are not being dark or depressed, rather we are living truthfully when we think this way. The world wants you to believe that you will live forever. The world wants you to continue in the pursuit of pleasures and the purchase and consumption of material goods. But when we make these things our focus, we lose sight of the Lord and His will for our lives.We are not of the world. St. John the theologian writes “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life —is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 Jn 2:15-17)
“But whoever does the will of God abides forever.” That is our calling! To be doers of the will of God. The rich man in the parable did not do the will of God. He failed to feed the poor one at his very feet. He failed to show mercy. The rich man was a stranger to mercy and love and for this reason he was a stranger to God and His love. But let us not live like this rich man, attached to our pleasures and our own will, but marrying ourselves to the will of God our Father who loves us and wants to give our lives real purpose and meaning. How do we know if we are being pleasing to Jesus Christ and doing His will? Our obedience to His commandments and teachings. Our obedience to the teaching and life of the Church. Our imitation of the lives of the saints. These are our surest guides.
Let me leave you with this verse from St. Symeon the New Theologian. He writes “Let us flee the world. For what have we got in common with it? Let us run and pursue until we have laid hold of something which is permanent and does not pass away, for all things perish and pass away like a dream, and nothing is lasting or certain among the things which are seen.” Discourses 2.14
May we truly struggle for what is permanent and does not pass away, that is our Lord Jesus Christ, His kingdom, and His righteousness. And Glory be to God forever and ever, AMEN.