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Homily for 12/5/10 - P28 - plenty of time

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 12:16-21 From the moment of our birth, we begin a journey through this life which inevitably leads to our death. There is no escaping that fact that it is
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 5, 2010
      Luke 12:16-21

      From the moment of our birth, we begin a journey through this life
      which inevitably leads to our death. There is no escaping that fact that
      it is appointed to all men once to die. It is also true that no man
      truly knows the day and hour of his own death for it can come at any
      moment. Oh yes, we all believe that we will live to see tomorrow, or
      next year, or even the next 50 years, but it is not certain. Our lives
      will end, but we do not know when or where this will occur. Most people
      respond to this uncertainty with simple denial – it just won’t happen to
      me. Most people never think of their own death, and in fact, it is a
      breach of polite manners to even bring up the subject of death. Death,
      especially our own death, is something that we prefer to tuck away out
      of sight in a place where we won’t have to think about it.

      The rich man of the parable was just this sort of person. It never
      occurred to him that his life would end. He was oblivious to the
      possibility that he might die and so gathered his harvest which he
      planned to enjoy for “many years”. Because he did not consider the
      possibility of his own death, he was a fool, for indeed in that moment,
      his life suddenly ended and it was no longer his earthly wealth that
      mattered, but his spiritual wealth (or lack thereof). He had wasted his
      life in the acquisition of worldly possessions to address the many
      possibilities of his life without making provision for the one certainty
      – that he would one day die.

      The Fathers of the Church all speak of the benefits of being mindful of
      one’s own mortality and death. This does not mean that we should all go
      around somber and humorless, always afraid that we will drop dead in the
      next moment, but it does mean that the possibility of our own death is
      always a factor in our choices about how to live. When we are aware of
      our own mortality, the context of our lives changes. It is easy to think
      that we are immortal, that we will not die or that if we do die, it will
      be in the distant future. This lack of awareness of our death encourages
      three tendencies in our lives which are detrimental not only to our
      spiritual lives, but also to many aspects of our earthly lives. These
      three tendencies are procrastination, vulnerability to temptation and
      living in the future. These are all the result of thinking that we have
      “plenty of time” and when we think that we are “immortal”, then we
      consider that there is always “plenty of time”.

      Procrastination comes about when we think there is “plenty of time” to
      accomplish a task and so choose to do something frivolous over that
      which is necessary. In the context of the spiritual life, this often
      means that we put off doing those things which will help us to draw
      nearer to Jesus Christ and instead do those things which are pleasurable
      to our fallen nature. Therefore, we might watch TV or surf the internet
      rather than take time out for our prayer rule – because we can always
      pray later. We don’t read the scripture or other spiritual things
      because there is always something else to read or some other activity to
      take up our time. Or perhaps we will pass by a beggar without a thought,
      thinking that we can catch them “next time”. We can skip the divine
      services on Saturday night because there’s always Sunday morning – or
      there’s always next week, or maybe there are too many other things that
      “need” to get done. There is always “more time” to catch up on those
      things that we need to do for our spiritual benefit because, well, it
      doesn’t really affect me right now – it won’t be important until after I
      die, and I’m not going to die for a long long time. All this comes about
      because we forget our mortality and lose sight of our own death. To
      recall one’s own death adds urgency to the thought of acquiring the
      grace of God and developing one’s own spiritual life.

      When we are not mindful of our own death, sin becomes more palatable
      because there is always the possibility of repentance. “Why not sin now,
      I can always repent later” we think, and that suggestion weakens our
      resolve to resist temptation. The idea that repentance is always
      possible later is born directly from a lack of awareness that “later”
      might not always come. When we are mindful of our own death, it brings a
      certain urgency to living a righteous life now (not later) and that if
      we sin we might not always have the opportunity to repent. Compounding
      this is the erroneous idea that repentance is somehow “magic” and takes
      effect instantaneously. Repentance is more than this, for while it
      begins at a moment in time, it goes on continually after that moment.
      Sin is not just “breaking a rule”, it has consequences which cause
      injury to the soul. Just as “breaking” the “law of gravity” will result
      in injuries to the body (bumps, bruises, even broken bones) so also sin
      results in injuries to the soul. Just as bodily injuries take time to
      heal, so also the soul requires time and care to heal from the injuries
      of sin. Regretting our sin and being sorry are only the beginning of
      repentance which is a continual turning away from that sinful behavior
      and thought. Even if we begin the process of repentance instantly, there
      may not be sufficient time to heal completely from the injury we have
      inflicted upon our own selves. Without the awareness of our own death
      and the resulting limitation on our time, there always seems to be
      “plenty of time” and “later” and so the urgency of resisting temptation
      is lessened and we fall into sin more easily.

      One final effect of a lack of awareness of our own death is that of
      living in the future. By constantly living for tomorrow, we forget
      today. By constantly worrying about what might happen “later” we lose
      sight of what is happening “now”. When we live in the future, we are not
      living our lives, but rather we live in a fantasy of our own creation.
      And the future we create never quite matches up to reality that we live
      and so to live in the future is fraught with frustration and
      disappointment in the present. Our Lord Jesus Christ told us not to be
      concerned for tomorrow for tomorrow will care for itself. Our concern is
      to live the life that God gives us today. If we are always waiting for
      tomorrow, we miss the challenges, the opportunities, the blessings of
      today. When we bring in the awareness of death to the context of our
      lives, then today becomes important and tomorrow fades into nothing more
      than possibilities that may or may not even come to pass. To live each
      day as though it were our last brings out the urgency and imminence of
      the events of each day and the necessity to use each of those events for
      our own spiritual benefit. Living in this way makes it easier to live
      each day for the glory of God and brings us step by step and moment by
      moment nearer to Christ.

      The rich man of this parable was called a fool because he had forgotten
      to consider his own death and wasted his time on gathering things that
      were only of worldly value. While he might have been rich in this life,
      he was impoverished in eternity. He had wasted all that God had given to
      him gathering that which was inconsequential, that which was without
      value and that which lacked any eternal importance. If we forget our own
      death and trust in having “plenty of time” to accomplish those things
      which are of eternal benefit and value or if we think that there is
      always time to sin now and repent “later” we are fools. If we live in
      the fantasy of the future and ignore the reality of today disregarding
      the life that God provides for us here and now, then we are fools and
      will only end up frustrated and depressed because our fantasy does not
      match up with reality.

      Let us therefore keep an awareness of our own mortality and death, not
      so that we might be always somber and sad, but rather that we might
      experience the joy that God gives to us here and now and not miss the
      opportunities that He puts before us every moment of every day. The
      remembrance of death is a tool recommended to us by the saints to help
      us in our spiritual lives. The remembrance of death is the remembrance
      that one day we will stand before God and that we are destined to either
      live in the joy union and communion with Him or to be forever deprived
      of that joy. Let us not be fools, but be wise and prepare for the moment
      when we shall see God face to face.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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