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Homily for 12/4/11 - Entry of the Virgin - acquiring true wealth

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 12:16-21 We live in a culture which places a premium on working and providing for yourself. A person who is able to take care of his own needs by his own
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2011
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      Luke 12:16-21

      We live in a culture which places a premium on working and providing for
      yourself. A person who is able to take care of his own needs by his own
      labor is considered to be a success and highly esteemed; while a person
      who cannot seem to make ends meet and who must depend on the charity of
      others (as well as the state) is seen as a failure and is often looked
      upon with scorn. The rich man in today’s Gospel parable was one of those
      whom we would consider a success. He did not depend on anyone else for
      his welfare and in fact worked so diligently that he was able to amass a
      surplus of goods – more than he could need. Now, he thought to himself,
      it would be possible to take a well earned rest and to enjoy the fruits
      of his labor and sacrifice. But that very night, he was called to stand
      before the throne of God and what words did he hear? He was not
      congratulated for his hard work or for his success. He was not
      complimented on his work ethic or his thrifty ways. He only heard, “Thou
      fool”. Indeed he had worked hard and had gained much – but he worked
      hard for the wrong thing and gained that which had value only in this
      transient and short life. He completely neglected the needs of his soul
      and did not collect any spiritual wealth and so was found wanting. He
      was a fool not because he did not work hard, but because he worked hard
      for the wrong thing.

      Side by side with this parable, we also celebrate today one of the great
      feasts of the Virgin Mary, her entry into the Temple. As a child, she
      was brought to the temple to be dedicated to God. She would live in the
      temple, work there and learn to love God. Then upon her womanhood, she
      would return to her parents house and become eligible for marriage. This
      was not an uncommon practice for pious parents who wished to give a gift
      to God for His mercy and for the gift of children. But with the Virgin
      Mary it was different. When they arrived at the temple and were met by
      the high priest at that time (Zechariah – who would be the father of the
      Forerunner, John the Baptist), she ascended the steps of the temple on
      her own and the spiritual eyes of Zechariah were opened and he saw that
      she was truly chosen of God. He broke all convention and took her into
      the temple itself and even there did not stop but took her into the holy
      of holies – the place where the ark of the covenant had been kept – for
      her saw with the eyes of his soul that she would become the living ark,
      the dwelling place of God. There she worked to acquire not a worldly
      fortune, but a spiritual fortune amassing for herself the grace of God
      which would enable her to become the temple of God incarnate, that
      ladder by which God descended from heaven and the font from which He
      took our flesh and became man.

      The Virgin Mary worked hard and worked hard at acquiring the right kind
      of wealth. St John of Kronstadt describes her labors saying: “How did
      the most blessed Virgin spend her time in the temple? … She spent her
      time in prayer, reading of the word of God (as you can see on the icon
      of the Annunciation), in divine contemplation, and handiwork.”

      St John then holds the Virgin up for all of us as an example of how we
      should labor to acquire the riches of the grace of God, “What an
      excellent example for fathers, mothers, and their children; for
      Christian maidens and youths!...we should also have the same thoughts as
      She has. May her children by grace be of one spirit with Her! Let them
      learn from her how to love the Lord, our Creator, more than anything
      else in the world, more than father and mother, more than anyone dear to
      us; how to avidly study the word of God…; learn with what warmth of
      heart and love we must pray to the Lord; how we must dedicate ourselves
      to him wholeheartedly; how to entrust our fate to His wise and all-good
      Providence; with what purity, meekness, humility, and patience we must
      always clothe and adorn ourselves and not with the vain embellishments
      of this adulterous and sinful world which knows no bounds of luxury and
      elegance in bodily clothing; how to love a life with God and the saints
      more than to dwell in the tents of sinners (Ps. 83:11).”

      “Who will show us what makes up our Christian calling and duty, of what
      spirit we must be, and how we should behave ourselves in various life
      situations? Who will give us the strength to live in the spirit of
      Christ—holy? The Church gives us all this. We can receive these
      spiritual powers in the temple of God through the Sacraments. Here a
      heavenly, unearthly spirit hovers; here is the school of Jesus Christ,
      in which future heavenly citizens are educated. Here you will receive
      heavenly lessons from the Divine Teacher, Jesus Christ, and the Holy
      Spirit in the Gospels. Here is heavenly food and heavenly drink,
      spiritual, heavenly garments, and spiritual armaments against the
      enemies of salvation. Here you will receive the peace that is a
      foretaste of heaven, so necessary to our spiritual activity and
      education, and strength for spiritual labors and struggle with sin. Here
      we partake of sweet conversation with our Heavenly Father and the Most
      Holy Queen and Mother of God, with the angels of the Lord and saints.
      Here we learn how to pray, and for what to pray. Here you will find
      examples of all the Christian virtues in the saints who are glorified
      each day by the Church. Here, gathered together in the house of God, as
      children of one Heavenly Father, as members of the mystical body of
      Christ, we learn how to love one another—member loving member, as
      members of Christ, as Christ Himself.”

      This is how we should spend our lives and how we should labor to acquire
      the riches of the kingdom of God. Too often, however, we get distracted
      by the wealth of this world. St John described this tendency by pointing
      out a storehouse, saying, “For example, here in this building were kept
      fabrics of every sort and color. Those fabrics are the object of
      adoration of the daughters of men. They lived for them, were inspired by
      them, rejoiced over them, but not over God. Here the sparkle of various
      items of silver and gold stunned and enticed the gaze of those who
      worship everything glittering and beautiful. In a word—no matter where
      you direct your attention in the world, you will see only decay, vanity,
      and sin; everywhere is the earthly and worldly. Empty, vain
      conversations, vain activity that gives almost no reminder of heaven,
      God, and the other life.” In contrast, he points out the environment we
      find in the Church and in the homes of pious Christians, “Only in pious
      homes do the icons of the Lord Jesus Christ, His Most Pure Mother, and
      His saints remind the thoughtful that we, Christians and members of
      Christ, members of His kingdom, look for the resurrection of the dead
      and the life of the age to come, in which we shall unite with the Lord
      and the saints, having cleansed ourselves of all defilement of flesh and
      spirit.”

      Should we all then give up on the world, leave everything behind and
      spend our whole lives inside the Church building as the Mother of God
      did in the temple? No, we are not all called to such a life of
      withdrawal from the world. For the most part those of us here in the
      parish are called to live in the world, to have jobs and houses and cars
      and bills. We have husbands, wives, children, coworkers, friends, and
      acquaintances. We are surrounded by the world. But this makes it even
      more necessary for us to be alert and attentive to our spiritual lives,
      to guard against the distractions that surround us and seek to pull us
      this way and that. It is a matter of priorities – do everything to the
      glory of God, seek to use every activity, every task, every moment, no
      matter how worldly it may seem, in such a way that you are reminded of
      the presence of the Holy Spirit in your heart. Create for yourself a
      haven in your home, a place where you are surrounded not by the
      distractions of the world but by the reminders of the Kingdom of God. We
      should take every effort to be in the Church as much as possible for
      here we are surrounded by the saints, here we live even if for a brief
      moment and for just a little bit in the Kingdom of God. Here we have the
      Gospel in our ears, we have the incense to lift our hearts to pray, we
      have the prayers and hymns to constantly pull us toward the Kingdom of
      God and to describe for us the riches of God’s glory. Here in the Church
      we receive the sacraments, those fountains of grace which inundate us
      with the power and mercy of God.

      Brothers and sisters, let us imitate the Virgin Mary rather than the
      foolish rich man. Let us work to acquire the riches of the Kingdom of
      God. Let us focus our efforts on using the things of this world as the
      means by which we acquire the things of heaven. Let us constantly trade
      and work and sacrifice, not to amass a worldly fortune, but to store up
      for ourselves treasures in heaven. As our Lord said, “where your
      treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Let your treasure be found
      not in earthly barns, but in the mansions of heaven.

      --
      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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