Sermon on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (2019)

Sermon on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (2019) - Holy Cross Monastery

Here is a powerful revelation:

The tormented rich man said, “I pray thee therefore, father Abraham, that thou wouldest send Lazarus to my father’s house. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”

 Abraham said unto him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”

And the rich man said, “Nay, father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.”

And Abraham said unto him, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

The Scriptures are more able to move us to repentance than seeing a man raised from the dead, according to Abraham, and more truly, according to Christ Who reveals this parable to us. This is a powerful statement.

How many of us understand the Scriptures to be this powerful and able to effect repentance within our soul than if we see the greatest miracles before our eyes, even one raised from the dead?

Let us remember that the Scriptures spoken of in this parable are only those of the Old Testament, and our reverence for the New Testament will be even greater!

Let’s ask ourselves how this can be: how are Moses and the Prophets more apt to impart the wisdom of God and true repentance into the souls of men than one risen from the dead?

What is Moses but the Law? And, what does it, together with the Prophets, hang upon according to the words of Christ the Truth?

Love for God with all one’s being, and love for one’s neighbor, one’s brother, one’s kindred, and above all, love for one’s enemies!

Upon these two commandments, Christ says, hang all the Law and the Prophets. More than this, love is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.

In Genesis, from what are all things created? From the depths of God’s love! He created all the angels and all mankind out of His love to share His overflowing goodness. Not simply content to remain in Himself, God created conscious, free, rational beings who can understand His great love, His great gifts, to be moved to a conscious and heartfelt thanksgiving for them, and to respond with ever-ascending love for Him.

He desired that we, insignificant as we are—being formed of dust—should also be crowned with His very own image, and be granted to partake of His pre-eternal and uncreated and ever-existing life, joy, love, peace, glory and light!

So Genesis, the head of the Scriptures, reveals God’s love. It also reveals that man walked with God in Paradise, responding to His love. But it also tells of man’s betrayal of God’s love, his walking away from God’s love, his hatred of God’s love.

It reveals that there is also a crafty one, a fallen one, the root of evil, the self-willed and arrogant angel who once dwelt in heavenly unseen splendors, but turned from God into himself in hatred of God, ripping many of the ranks of angels down with him into torments and unrepentant pride!

So, Genesis shows us the pre-eternal love of God the Holy Trinity, Three Persons Who are Love. It also shows us the beginning of our descent from this Divine Love. It shows us the beginnings of our wretched and downcast earthly life. But it tells of the coming Christ, the Savior and Redeemer!

It shows us those who still lifted their hearts up to God amidst a perverse and crooked people, when most were sunk in darkness, carnality, complete backwardness, unrighteousness, hatred and wickedness—such is the ongoing story of mankind even unto this day!

Our world has lost Love Himself, the feeble and pathetic pulses of its almost-dead heart—unfit to be called the throb of a living heart—nonetheless seeks to live in life, but most do not know where to look or find it! But it resides in Christ whom many of them reject! It resides in the bosom of the Church which is mystically nourished at every Divine Liturgy upon the very Body and Most Precious and Life-Giving, Love-infusing Blood of Love Himself. But the world persecutes this the Source of Life and His Church!

We could go through the rest of the Old Testament, but let what has been said of Genesis be enough to convince us that without learning about the Three-Personed Godhead, Love Itself, and without experiencing, praying to and responding with all our being to our God—without this, even a dead man who has been in the tomb for days rising up before us will not move us to repent so much as Love Itself!

The Scriptures of the New Testament declare this to be the case! Today we hear of a poor sick Lazarus who departs this life and is carried by angels into Paradise with righteous and hospitable Abraham. We then hear the tormented rich man, who is looking upon this Lazarus, pleading with Abraham to send Lazarus raised from the dead to his brothers so that they might believe in God truly and repent with all their soul.

We hear Abraham declare just what we have been talking about: that they have enough for repentance—the Holy Scriptures—and that if they do not hear these, they will not be persuaded even if one is risen from the dead.

Later on in the Gospel this is just what is proved. There is another Lazarus, the close friend of Christ, the brother of the laborious servant, Martha, and the gentle hesychast and contemplative, Mary. He is sick and dies.

Christ goes to the tomb. The man has been four days dead, and is already rotting and stinking. Christ cries out: Lazarus come forth!!! The man arises, all are in marvel, all fall down to worship and glorify God!

But amidst this glorious sunrise, amidst this revelation which shines forth much brighter than the cloudless heaven, there lurks a dark streak, a blotch upon the scene: wicked envy, offended pride, inhuman malice—wolves in sheep’s clothing: heartless men, supposedly righteous and religious: corrupt Pharisees, scribes and supposed keepers, knowers, teachers and proclaimers of the Law.

They are too blind, too hard-hearted, to deformed, too self-condemned to see a walking miracle—a man risen from the dead, Lazarus!

What has happened to them? You lawyers and teachers of the Law, guardians of the greatest treasure of the world, the revelation of Love Himself Who has created, called back, guided and protected His chosen people, and has prepared them for the coming of the Savior Christ—

You supposed knowers and teachers of this revelatory Law: seeing the Fulfillment of this Law, Christ God Himself in the flesh, and seeing Him raise one from the dead to show you His great love…and more than this, healing the sick, casting out demons, forgiving sins, healing entrenched passions and illnesses of the soul—seeing the Fulfillment of the Law and the Law-Giver and Living Law Himself; seeing Him finally, you want to murder Him in cold blood?

Not only this, but you are so offended that many are coming to believe in Him, that you want to kill the very miracle itself, and to bury now-risen Lazarus back in his stinking tomb?

What has happened to these men? But let us draw back our observation of these men. Let us not fall into hateful judgment of them, for this makes us their equals. But let us turn rather the gaze upon ourselves, and ask our own soul: who am I in this Gospel story?

Am I newly-risen Lazarus, full of thanksgiving for my new hope of life?

Am I someone who simply comes to marvel and gawk at Christ as some wizard who does unheard of things, such as Herod the thrill-seeker?

Am I a person with wounded pride, blazing envy, that I am not paid attention to, but rather this Christ Who raises the dead?

Who are we in this Gospel story?

Let us examine ourselves in its glorious light. Have we heard St. Paul—and moreover, believed him fully—when he proclaims that without love I have nothing, and moreover, without love I am nothing?

Are we persuaded by the mouth of Christ, Paul, when he says that even if we work all miracles, move mountains by faith, penetrate the secret vaults of all heavenly wisdom, understand all theology, enlighten many by our words, are the greatest fulfillers of the so-called social gospel and feed the masses and give all our money to the poor, and more than all this, even if we give our body over to be burned, even if we sacrifice ourselves to martyrdom—and have not love, we have and are nothing!?

Do we believe St. Paul? Do we believe Abraham? Do we believe Christ God the Truth Himself, Love Himself?—when we hear this heavenly choir harmonizing and sounding forth the same proclamation:

Acquire love and this is the greatest miracle!

Acquire love and this is salvation!

Acquire love and this is the height of philosophy, the pinnacle of theology, the true knowledge of God Who is Love!

Acquire love and this is the greatest spiritual gift, the most sweet and nourishing spiritual fruit!

Acquire love and your soul—not just your body—will be raised from the dead!

Acquire love and it will gush forth as mighty rivers upon all you come in contact with, and even to all the world, and thousands around you will be raised from the spiritual slumber of cold death!

Acquire love and—what else can be said—you have acquired God Himself!

Do we believe this proclamation of the Scriptures?

Or do we bite back when insulted? Do we rise up in fury when offended? Do we lash out when intimidated or feel encroached upon? Do we blaze with bitter and life-sucking envy when we see others glorified or praised?

Do we lust after pleasures? Do we seek earthly comforts only? Do we bury our spiritual eyes and ears with the mud of filth and carnal imaginings and feelings of the flesh?

Do we walk about in hypocrisy? Are we affected by human honors and vainglory? Do we love the attention of the beautiful, the rich, the famous, the renowned?

Do we entertain that we are somebody or have accomplished something? Do we imagine ourselves spiritual? Do we think ourselves enlightened, able to enlighten? Do we think we are saints? Do we sit already crowned as heavenly kings, looking down in pride upon everyone else who is less virtuous than ourselves?

If we answer yes even to one of these questions, and that only a little, we have killed Lazarus! We are burying Christ! We are estranged from Love Himself! We are worse than the condemned rich man, further from God than the benighted and envious Pharisees!

How is this? Because we don’t just have the Old Testament Scriptures which speak in veils and shadows, but we have the New which shows us Christ, One of the Three Persons of Love taking on our lowly flesh, being spit upon, slapped, mocked, beaten, pierced with nails, crucified—yet loving, forgiving, interceding, and raising the dead, even those who kill Him!

But if this self-knowledge and this truly greatest of visions—that of the truth of ourselves and our poor spiritual state—if this brings us to despair, and if it overwhelms us, let us not remain in sorrow. But let us even now begin to raise our heads up, and look to Christ our humble and loving Savior Who came to save the damned, heal the sick and purify sinners; let us look to Love Himself, cry out: “affect my hardened heart with your great and all-conquering love, O Lord…cleanse me, forgive me, make me new, grant me to make a good beginning…deliver me from the hell of sin which wars in me…make me Thine own, enlighten me, save me, that I might live in Thee, and pour out thanksgiving to Thee and responsive humble love to all the world unceasingly…!

If we are honest with ourselves, and if we do not think that we have accomplished anything wonderful, and if we humbly beg Christ in this manner, then we shall again rise up from the dead, and see the greatest miracle! Then we shall be persuaded by the testimonies of all the Scriptures, the Holy Fathers and the teachers of the Church, and we shall begin again to seek to live a life which saves our own soul, edifies others, and glorifies the God Who is Love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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