Homily- November 3, 2002
by Fr. Parthenios at the St. John the Wonderworker Chapel in Nashville, TN
Luke 6:31-36: "Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, juast as your Father is merciful."
This is the gospel of a one man revolution, you might say. The words of the Lord in this gospel are very simple; compared to the parables that we've heard before, of the Kingdom of Heaven, they're very simple words. They're words we can see fulfilled in the lives of the saints. If you look at any one of these icons; St. John of Rila, St. Theodore of Tomsk, any one of them, the whole host of saints, in their lives, we can see this gospel lived. And the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven extended beyond one person's atmosphere.
As Christians we all desire naturally to transform the world in some way. At the end of our lives to say, or have it said about us, that we did good on the earth, that we did something to rectify the ills and the sin and the corruption that reign upon the earth. But this can only be possible by transforming our own selves. That's why it's called a one man revolution; it has to begin with us, in our heart. As St. Seraphim (of Sarov) says, "Acquire the Holy Spirit, and thousands around you will be saved." This is the effect that the transformation within our own hearts can have upon others. It doesn't require words; it doesn't require deeds; it simply requires us to humble down in our heart to hear the words of the gospel, and begin to apply them.
So what are these words; the Lord says, "As you would have others treat you, or do to you, do to them." We can all give assent to this, we want to be treated with respect, we want to love, we want to live in peace, we want to have harmony, and we want to bring joy to others. So we treat others this way. But this can also have a downside; because, for instance, let's say we're having a bad day, which to be honest, to be perfectly honest, we have a bad day. And then we say well, "I'm not feeling so good, and I don't necessarily care if you do this to me." In other words this can become kind of a thing where we pamper our passions, treat others the way we are feeling. This is not the way the gospel is intended, this is not what that gospel means. When it says, "As you would have others do to you," this can only be understood in the fullness of the Church, where our highest striving is what we want others to do to us. In other words, we don't want to be pampered, we don't want to be pleased as men-pleasers, we want to acquire the Holy Spirit, we want to struggle with our passions; and therefore we want others to see us as a living soul, not as just a person with desires.
As human beings we have this tendency to be what are called men-pleasers. Or in other words, to gain acceptance from others, do something that they would like. That's not the spirit of this gospel, the spirit of this gospel is that all are called to the kingdom of heaven, and therefore as we would even have the Lord do to us; it says that at times the Lord will chastise us, for our benefit. So therefore, we should allow or live in a spirit of mutual submission, so that others can chastise us and we won't take offense. This is extending the Kingdom of Heaven in this world because with this internal vigilance comes the grace of God, and comes the light of Christ, it will extend out into the world. The Lord said, "In this world people love each other, because someone loves them, and we do good to others because someone did good to us." This is the status quo, but the Lord did not come to this world, did not take flesh, to ensure the status quo. He said, "I bring a sword," in other words to cut asunder the routine ways of the world that are of corruption. He came to bring life, grace, truth, love, the grace of God, and these things can only be acquired with struggle. So that is why the Lord says in these things, that sinners do all these things already. But He calls us to go out and to love our enemies, to do good to those who do not do good to us, to lend, to be merciful to those who do not do those things to us. Because when we do those with a pure spirit in our hearts, in other words with no other motivation other than simply that these are the Lord's words and we obey them, we follow this kind of life. When we do these things others will see, it will transform others. And how many times have we read in the lives of the saints how a saint, a righteous person would be suffering and would allow this suffering, and would bear it, as you bear a weight on our backs? This is what the word 'suffer' means, as in the gospel it says, "Suffer the little children" or that we're admonished to "suffer these things" it means to humble down and to bear it patiently like a weight on your back. Not to fight against it, not to fall down in despair but to stand up, and bear these things and to live the gospel in our lives and extend the Kingdom of Heaven and to bring the grace of God into the lives of others. Not for our own salvation only, but for the salvation of all mankind, all of our brothers and sisters.