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Homily for 11/4/12 - P22 - the itch of the passions

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 16:19-31 In this parable we see a glimpse of the life beyond the grave. As always, since this life is beyond our ability to comprehend, this glimpse is
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 4 5:57 PM
      Luke 16:19-31

      In this parable we see a glimpse of the life beyond the grave. As
      always, since this life is beyond our ability to comprehend, this
      glimpse is given to us in the form of a parable or a metaphor. In this
      glimpse into the life beyond the grave, we see the fate of two very
      different people. Lazarus, the poor beggar who had nothing in this world
      was found in paradise, having lost the world, he gained his soul. The
      rich man, on the other hand ended up in torment - having gained the
      world, he lost his soul.

      The torments of the rich man tell us a little about the nature of the
      torments of Hell. There is an undying thirst that cannot be quenched.
      This thirst represents our passions. In this world, when we thirst, we
      drink; when we itch, we scratch; when we hunger, we eat and so on with
      all the passions. In this world we have the opportunity to live
      according to the passions, feeding each one whenever it makes its
      appearance. We indulge all of our desires, from pride to vanity to
      hunger to acquisitiveness and so on. But in the next life, this is not
      possible. If we have allowed our desires to run unchecked in this life,
      then in the next they will still be there, but there will be no way to
      satisfy them. We will thirst, but there will be no water to drink, we
      will hunger, but there will be no food, we will desire pleasure, but
      there will be none. We will be tormented by the itch we cannot scratch.

      This life is given to us to prepare for eternity. If in this life we
      neglect to quell the passions, then we will suffer in the next from
      them. However, if, in this life we struggle against the passions and we
      life a life of ascesis and self denial, weakening the passions, then in
      the next life they will no longer torment us. If we deny the passions in
      this life, then in their place we will be able to develop the virtues
      which will find their fulfillment in the next life. In this life, when
      we have the itch of the passions, we can scratch it and satisfy it, but
      the “itch” or drive of the virtues does not find complete fulfillment in
      this life and they can only be scratched, that is satisfied, in the next

      This parable then helps us to understand the eternal effects of how we
      live our life in this world. If we live as the rich man, indulging the
      passions, ever increasing our attachment to them and to the world in
      which the are based, then we are in effect creating our own torment in
      eternity. We are creating the itch that can only be scratched in this
      life and which in eternity will remain unfulfilled. This is why our Lord
      said that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven
      than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

      The other person in this parable, the beggar Lazarus, is found in the
      next life in paradise. But certainly it is not just the absence of
      passions and deprivation of the pleasures of the world that bring us to
      paradise. From the scripture we know that entry into the Kingdom of God
      is an active process. Not only must we deny ourselves and take up our
      cross, but we must also follow Christ. From this we see that Lazarus did
      not only simply suffer in this world and thereby automatically enter
      paradise - he must also have cultivated within himself the qualities
      that brought him near to Christ. A poor man, a man who does not have
      easy access to the pleasures of the world does not necessarily deny
      himself. Even a poor man must actively participate in his salvation. If
      one is poor, then the “obvious” pleasures of the world, food, drink,
      comfort, ease and so on do not seem to be accessible to him, however,
      there are other temptations and passions to avoid. Even when one does
      not have rich and plentiful food available, a certain discrimination in
      the food available becomes both an attachment to the passion of taste as
      well as a source of pride in being able to make such distinctions. Even
      though clothing may be of poor quality a person in such a state might
      develop the passion of vanity in learning to arrange and choose what
      clothing he does have to enhance his appearance. The lack of possessions
      and one’s own general poverty may itself become a source of pride -
      pride in what he can do without, pride in his lack of reliance on
      worldly goods (when in fact he is more reliant on those few things he
      has than a rich man might be on the many things he has). The poor man,
      seeing his poverty might also develop a resentment towards the rich man,
      judging him for his wealth, considering him to be less than the poor man
      himself because of his many possessions. Thus it is that poverty itself
      does not lead a man into the kingdom of heaven. Lazarus still was
      required to exert a certain effort and to subject himself to the ascetic
      labor of self denial. In order to reach paradise, Lazarus must have
      struggled against his own self will and pride and rather than falling
      prey to complaining about what didn’t have and desiring that which he
      didn’t have, he developed within himself contentment with God’s
      providence, joy in that which our Lord provided, even though by the
      standards of the world it seemed to be nothing.

      This parable shows us the dangers of attaching ourselves to the things
      of this world and focusing our desires on worldly things - whether we
      have those things or simply want those things. That which is necessary
      for our salvation is to focus all our desire on the Kingdom of Heaven
      and with no regard for earthly riches (whether we have them or not) and
      no regard for earthly fame and esteem (whether have it or not) or for
      anything of this world. Like Lazarus, we set the eyes of our hearts upon
      the Kingdom of God and let that desire be the force behind all that we
      do, the deciding factor behind everything. If you should happen to
      receive earthly possessions, then know that God has given you these
      things, not for your own use, but as tools to be used to work out your
      salvation. Everything that you have belongs to God, give it back to Him.
      Give of what you have, whether it be time, or money, or reputation, or
      energy, any other worldly thing. Give to care for the poor, give to
      further the work of the Church in the world, give to support the
      missionary work which spreads the light of the Kingdom of God whether it
      be here in this community or across the ocean in a far away land (or
      anywhere in between for that matter). Give of all that you have, not for
      your own glory and fame, but for the glory of God. St John if Kronstadt
      began as the son of a poor and pious deacon in a small town near
      Archangelsk in Northern Russia. He never desired fame or fortune, only
      to serve God. When God brought him to the city of Krontsadt, one of the
      greatest naval ports of the Russian Empire, to serve as rector in the
      cathedral - he still continued to give all that he had, even the fame
      that accrued to himself, to the glory of God. What funds he had went to
      the care of the poor and the support of the Church. He built shelters,
      almshouses, workshops, hospitals, clinics, and more. He founded Churches
      both in Kronstadt and further away. He himself never rested but was
      constantly put forth effort serving God. And God blessed his labor. St
      John had no money, he had few possessions, he had no personal backing or
      fame - but the money was always there, provided by others who loved God
      and who were inspired by his almsgiving. More than a thousand letters,
      bank drafts and packages a day came through the post to St John and all
      that he received he used, not for himself, but for the glory of God. As
      his fame grew, he never took credit for it himself but always gave glory
      to God for it, saying, “I did not and do not seek fame, it came to me of
      itself. I give glory to Him who said, ‘for those who honor me, I will
      honor’”. Thus St John did not desire the honor of men, but only the
      honor of God. He accepted worldly honor and worldly wealth only inasmuch
      as it gave glory to God through Him. All of his desire was set upon the
      Kingdom of Heaven.

      St Abercius, whose memory is celebrated today is another such example.
      He was called to Rome, the capitol of the empire by the emperor Marcus
      Aurelius in order to deliver the daughter of the emperor from a demon
      which tormented her. St Abercius healed the emperor’s daughter and the
      emperor offered to him gold and silver and great wealth – but the saint
      took nothing for himself asking only that public baths be built over a
      healing spring in his home of Hierapolis at the state’s expense to
      accommodate those who came to be healed and that each year a measure of
      grain should be set aside from the government treasuries and given to
      the poor of Hierapolis. The saint sought nothing for himself, but only
      the glory of God.

      These are the examples set before us - to set all our desire on the
      Kingdom of Heaven, as the Gospel says, “seek ye first the Kingdom of
      Heaven.” This is the path that St John and St Abercius walked, this is
      the path that the beggar Lazarus walked and this is the path that is put
      before us today. Do not set your hope and desire on the things of the
      world, but instead seek first the Kingdom of God. To desire God, to be
      near Him, to live in Him, to honor Him - this is the only desire which
      is fulfilled, the only “itch” that can be “scratched” in eternity.

      It is as the psalmist says, “One thing have I desired of the Lord and
      that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord.”

      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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