紀錄: Timothy Baker教授
Photo: Alice Popkorn https://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/5495590116/
2114.10.05 Second Sunday of Luke – How to Love?
St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians 6:16-18; 7:1 BRETHREN, you are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.
The Gospel of Luke 6:31-36 The Lord said, “And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And 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, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
Fr. Jonah’s Sermon
The Gospel today is very deep and it relates to almost every aspect of Christianity because Jesus Christ is telling us how we should behave, how we should live. And Jesus Christ is not giving simple directions like you must do this and you must not do that, but what He tells us is about life. He does not speak about a law that is based in some principles, like economic principles, or social or political principles, but he says that as you want other people to behave to you, behave in that way to them.
What does this mean? Each one of us has the need for love. Who does not have this? So, if I want love, I must love the others. I speak about love because I don’t want to speak about other things since it is easier, for example, if I want the others to be honest to me, because everybody wants this, to be fair to others. But I will continue talking about love because it is the most beautiful, the most difficult – and the easiest thing. Because most people do not know how to love, they want others to love them. And they are not satisfied, saying that maybe he or she does not love as I want him or her to love me.
But love is not what the other is giving to you; it is your opening to the other. Real love is not a catalogue, like what I want from my wife or husband, one, two, three, four things: just making demands. But it is: if I want love, then I will love you, and I will love you so strongly as I expect you to love me.
You may say that the other is not loving me as much as I expected. First of all, the first reason is that you don’t really love the other; you ar full of expectations. But we will say more about this thing to understand it. Jesus Christ says that if you love only the people who love you, then what are you doing more than bad people, who are just protecting each other? Real love is something dangerous, is an opening to the other. When I say “dangerous,” I don’t mean that somebody who loves is going to be afraid – because if he does not love then he is already in Hell.
We make this love. It is by our dedication and by our free choice to love the other as he is. But Jesus Christ speaks about this love that has no selfishness inside. He says something that does not make sense for ordinary human beings. He says that if you lend money to people that you expect will repay your loan, what is your virtue? Do you think you have done something great? But He says, “I say to you to lend money to the other even if you don’t expect the other to give it back.” This is very strange because somebody will say, “The other will eat my money.”
But we must understand something. To understand the things of the Gospel, especially things of the mind, requires us to love God very much and to have the wisdom, which is a very high virtue, a very high gift of God. For example, if somebody comes to you and says, “Lend me money,” and he is going to use it to buy drugs, you know he will not give it back. He will come again and again. So if you give him money then you will be helping him to get drugs and to die. We have kids here (and I’m sorry that they have left and will not hear this) but for example, the kids may tell their parents, “Buy this for me. I want this and this.” If the parents do not have the wisdom to say they will not do that, then the children will become very selfish people when they grow up. And this is my point, that we need this wisdom, but this wisdom does not come all by itself, it comes after prayers, and taking the Holy Communion, and talking about things with our spiritual father.
But we now we come to the most important thing in the Gospel, which is the most characteristic thing of Christianity. Jesus says, “I say to you, to love your enemies.” People may ask, “What is this?” But this is the most characteristic thing about Christianity. How do we know that we love God? It is we can love our enemies. Somebody will say, “Why does God say this to us?” According to human idea, it does not fit. Why should I love my enemy when he wants to kill me? This is because how God exists, as love, as coexistence as the three Persons, and he exists in us also, even if we hate him. God sees us and loves us as we are, separating our hatred from our personality.
For example, if you are my enemy, I think that this activity of being my enemy, hating me and trying to do something bad to me, but I separate that from you. I say that is the devil, it is something else. You, I love you. What will I say if you come at me with a knife, what will I say, “Kill me?” No, I will defend my life. And why? Because I don’t want you to become a killer. Yes, I will catch you, I will put you somewhere to relax, but in my heart I should feel the ultimate mercy and I will pray a lot to God to change your attitude of wanting to kill me. Jesus Christ says that we should love the others “because your Father loves you,” even though you are cunning people and not good people. But the Father loves you.
It is very important, how to explain this crazy love of God. Why does God love us? We don’t have any good aspects. But God sees me and separates my sin from me. From my humble experience here, I see that it is very difficult for Chinese people to separate the person from some matter, from some quarrels. But for example, at work we can disagree about something but later we can eat together because we separate our job and the other things. I love you, and differences are differences.
It is very important to start, and to understand how we can prove that we love God—if we love our enemy. Somebody may ask what do I expect him to say to his enemy: “Tomorrow I will be there so you can come and kill me?” And we know the very deep pain, and I have felt this pain many times when (I cannot say personal things, but trust me, very bad things, even on Mt. Athos, not to mention here and other places. But we know, everybody knows, how painful this is). But I will speak to you practically – because the theory is OK – how to love my enemy.
First you throw away any thought that you wish the other to be dead. We pray for the other. We try, when the bad thoughts come, to pray for him, and even when the bad thoughts don’t come, to pray for him even more than for our friends. We commemorate his name and give it to the priest. In the many of the pieces of papers that I have, and I have kept all the pieces of paper that people have given me, some people write, “For my enemies.” And I am very moved because the person who would write these things is a real Orthodox Christian. And so this is the first step practically in what we need to do.
Now, from another point of view, it is a mystery and it is the pastoral way of the Church. For example, sometimes the Church says to someone, “Because you did this, so you will not receive the Holy Communion.” The Church is not doing this to punish the person, but to help him to understand that this is wrong. And the pastoral care of the church is not to take revenge, but first to show that what you have done is wrong, and second, to protect the others. And some of you may know how much I prayed to God that I might die because I didn’t want this splitting of our Church. Because I never pray against anybody. Indeed, I pray very strongly for the others’ repentence and health and not to do bad things to the Church of God.
But somebody may say to me, “I have no enemies.” I think the problem today is not so much how to love our enemies; it is that we don’t know how to love our friends. We don’t know how to love our husband or wife, our boyfriend or girlfriend, even our children. We have a catalog of what we expect from the other. But we never make a catalog of what I want to do for the other. Because only if I throw away the catalog destroying my list of what the other should do for me because I am the king. If I don’t do this then forget about love.
Love, as I say, it can be very painful from one point of view. But it is a life-giving sword because I cut away what I expect you to do for me because I love you: I don’t expect anything. I love you, and this is a jump off the balcony. Why? Because I give up my individuality when I say I love you and I give my life to you: I will do this for you; I will spend all my life for you, and without you my life has no meaning.
You will say, “What? And how about if the other does not respond well?” But you see what Jesus Christ did? God became human. And how many of us really believe Him and how many of us really deserve this? Even me, I don’t deserve it. And so this is the beginning of love.
And it is the end of love also, because, you know, this power, because God sees this and then even if the heart of the other is like a stone gradually God will make it become like and egg. Or between husband and wife, because if we have this way of saying to the other, “You did not behave well to me; what you do is not good.” Then the other will say, “Yesterday you…” But it should be the opposite.
And the same happens with our kids. We cannot see our children as the continuation of our lives. The kids should be free: I don’t say not to educate your children, but don’t think to say, “You should study this because I wanted to study it and I did not have the opportunity, and now you will be what I wanted to be and did not succeed.”
Somebody may say, “But Father, all these things you are saying are very dangerous.” They are dangerous. But we have something, because these things don’t work without this [pointing to the chalice on the altar], without the Holy Communion. Because I trust God, this is why I can open myself to you, to the people that I love. And Jesus will see that we become like Him, and he will do his miracle to the other person, to break the difficult thing outside of their heart so their heart will be very gentle.
Try this, start to try it in your life, to see what you do for others, not what you are expecting the others to do for you. This is the center of life. Some people will ask, and I will finish with this, “What is the meaning of life.” The meaning of life is that we give meaning to life. If you ask Victor Frankl, who wrote a lot about this, what Is life doing for me, [he will tell you] it is what you do for the others. “Like crazy!” you will say. Yes, in God, and because you take this [pointing to the chalice], which is precious. (how much should we sell the Holy Communion for?) Because of this, yes, you do this and you ask yourself what do I do for you, and not what you expect me to do for you.
And always in the context of the Church, receiving the Holy Communion and talking with the spiritual father, you can have the wisdom to do these things properly. So, I will stop here to remember these things. And we will say many happy years to Pelagia, to bless her for working so many years here for the love of God and taking all the bad things from my character.
Recorder: Prof. Timothy Baker