(8) 其他聖事 Sacrament: Funeral, Memorial, Blessing 死&愛 Death & Love 講道 Sermons

拉撒路與財主:神無限寬廣的擁抱 Lazarus & The Rich Man: The Bosom of God

 

 

天堂就像大大擁抱,那裡我們彼此相愛;
地獄就像無邊黑暗,那裡沒人看見對方。

 

big hug

 

2014.11.02 路加福音第五主日

主日經文

路加福音16:19-31「有一個財主穿著紫色袍和細麻布衣服,天天奢華宴樂。又有一個討飯的,名叫拉撒路,渾身生瘡,被人放在財主門口,要得財主桌子上掉下來的零碎充飢;並且狗來餂他的瘡。後來那討飯的死了,被天使帶去放在亞伯拉罕的懷裡。財主也死了,並且埋葬了。他在陰間受痛苦,舉目遠遠的望見亞伯拉罕,又望見拉撒路在他懷裡,就喊著說:我祖亞伯拉罕哪,可憐我吧!打發拉撒路來,用指頭尖蘸點水,涼涼我的舌頭;因為我在這火焰裡,極其痛苦。亞伯拉罕說:兒啊,你該回想你生前享過福,拉撒路也受過苦;如今他在這裡得安慰,你倒受痛苦。不但這樣,並且在你我之間,有深淵限定,以致人要從這邊過到你們那邊是不能的;要從那邊過到我們這邊也是不能的。財主說:我祖啊!既是這樣,求你打發拉撒路到我父家去;因為我還有五個弟兄,他可以對他們作見證,免得他們也來到這痛苦的地方。亞伯拉罕說:他們有摩西和先知的話可以聽從。他說:我祖亞伯拉罕哪,不是的,若有一個從死裡復活的,到他們那裡去的,他們必要悔改。亞伯拉罕說:若不聽從摩西和先知的話,就是有一個從死裡復活的,他們也是不聽勸。」

 

李亮神父講道:

 

今天福音書的內容是關於財主和拉撒路,大家都熟知的故事,我們在講道後可有些互動交談。我希望可以和大家有些交流,而非單只有講道。首先我們看到的是個有錢的財主,擁有神各種的祝福。但奇怪的是聖經卻沒有記載他的名字,為什麼呢?他是如何享受這些神所給予的祝福呢?他只是獨樂樂,如同君王一般身穿紫色袍和細麻布衣服,享用美食。福音書中沒有告訴我們,他是否邀請其他人一起享用飲食,但我們現在知道這個人的名字就是「財富」、就是「錢」。神給這個財主一個非常不容易的挑戰,那是個又窮又病的人,但財主完全沒理會這個窮人,他只關心自己以及享受宴樂。這就是為何財主沒有名字,因為他就是「錢」、就是「自私的宴樂」。

 

反觀我們看到拉撒路這個名字,它的意思是很重要的,拉撒路希伯來文的意思是「神與我同在」。但又窮又病的拉撒路無法工作,只能乞討渡日,卻說神與我同在,這話聽起來是如此諷刺。很重要的是,我們要明白神為何與拉撒路同在,卻沒有與財主同在。重要的是,拉撒路沒有乞討或要求任何特別的事物,他沒要求財主給他什麼,他沒有詛咒財主,他也沒有詛咒神,或任何其他事物。他唯一要的只是從桌上掉落的食物殘渣,因為人們吃東西時,總是會掉落些什麼。我們因此看出他是多麼地良善(kindness)。而他唯一能得到的安慰,卻是狗舔舐他傷口的片刻。

 

我們會問,這就是神與某人同在時,會發生的狀況嗎?但是我們可以從另一個角度來看這個情境:如我們所知,這一生並非永遠。福音書中告訴我們那個沒名字的財主也死了,並且埋葬了。可想而知,因為他很有錢,一定會有個盛大的葬禮,躺在昂貴的墳墓中;相對之下,拉撒路一生則是受盡苦難而死。從福音書我們可以知道他被天使帶去了天堂。而那個財主卻在地獄的烈火之中受苦,但奇怪的是地獄看來和天堂二者並不遠,因為經上說他「望見」,這也說明他的靈魂仍有思想意識。

 

財主望見拉撒路在亞伯拉罕的懷中,而這個懷抱指的是什麼意思呢?我們需要瞭解其中深遠的涵意,「懷抱」就是亞伯拉罕給了拉撒路一個大大的擁抱。第一我們應要明白財主是如何能認出那個人就是亞伯拉罕,是否是因為他以前曾遇過亞伯拉罕?因為就算亞伯拉罕在我面前,我恐怕也沒辦法認出他。我們明白神的恩典以各種方式工作,即使對惡人也是如此。耶穌在使徒彼得、約翰和雅各面前改變形象時,有摩西向他們顯現,而他們是如何認出摩西的呢?那是聖靈恩典的工作,所以不論我們身處天堂或地獄,有種知識可讓我們認得每一個人。我們也可認出我們未曾見過的曾祖父或曾曾祖父,以及所有那些以不同方式對我們造成影響的人。

 

另外,為什麼是在亞伯拉罕的懷抱,而不是在其他人的懷中?但是在回答這問題前,我應該要說天堂就像是一個大大的擁抱,在那裏我們真的彼此相愛。但是還有個更大的懷抱-那是神的擁抱。聖經中使用同樣的字「胸懷」(“κόλπος),那是一個非常大的擁抱。拉撒路在亞伯拉罕的懷中,就像是聖子在聖父的懷中(約翰福音1:18)。所以這個可憐的拉撒路不只在亞伯拉罕的擁抱中,而且他們都在神大大的擁抱中。

 

那麼,為何是亞伯拉罕的懷抱呢?是因為亞伯拉罕和拉撒路、財主有許多相似之處。亞伯拉罕與財主的相似處,在於亞伯拉罕也非常富有;與拉撒路的相似處則是因為他給出了一切。你可在聖經中看到亞伯拉罕在家鄉時的財富,有天他聽到神的聲音對他說:「你要離開本地、本族、父家,往我所要指示你的地去。」誰會聽到一個聲音,就離開原本富裕舒適的生活,前往毫無所知的地方,只因為聽到應許。但亞伯拉罕卻順服遵行。不只如此,神應許他要成為多人的父、多國的父。亞伯拉罕非常年邁時,他因為沒有子嗣而傷心,但他並不因此而詛咒神,他沒有質問神說:「我相信祢,結果祢看,現在一點指望也沒有!」

 

不只如此,當他有了一個孩子,神要求他將孩子獻上。他沒有提出任何抗議,即使是萬般痛苦,他還是預備好要照著做。就像是可憐的拉撒路,他什麼也沒有,他唯一有的,是他對神終極的愛。他接受一切的厄運、疾病、貧困,這就是亞伯拉罕與拉撒路的相似之處。

 

財主認出了亞伯拉罕,亞伯拉罕在世上也曾是個財主。但他們二人卻大不相同,這就是審判。亞伯拉罕總是邀人前來與他一同坐席,他是個好人,因此神親自去拜訪他。所以那個財主稱他為我祖亞伯拉罕,請求他差遣拉撒路,用指頭尖蘸點水,涼涼他的舌頭;因為他身處在火焰之中。即使到這地步,這個財主居然還是漠視拉撒路,彷彿拉撒路不存在一樣。但這個財主寧願和另個財主亞伯拉罕說話,而不和他以前就認識的拉撒路說話,他持續地漠視拉撒路,這就是地獄。我們要明白的,是這個財主還是一樣沒有改變。當他還活著的時候,他忽視在他身邊的人,就當那個人不存在一樣。即使身陷地獄之中,他繼續選擇忽視拉撒路,他心理態度沒有變,他只在乎他在受苦這件事。亞伯拉罕愛他,把他視為兒子,對他說:「兒啊,你該回想你生前享過福,拉撒路也受過苦;如今他在這裡得安慰,你倒受痛苦。不但這樣,並且在你我之間,有深淵限定,以致人要從這邊過到你們那邊是不能的;要從那邊過到我們這邊也是不能的。」

 

我想要簡單說明深淵的意思,當二個人能夠交談,不是你我二人在不同的城市那麼遙遠,他們能彼此對話。深淵是一種態度,指的是一種不願意改變的人格特質。這個財主永遠、一直選擇忽略他的弟兄,他不想改變自己。他沒有改變的心態(metanoia),他只有後悔,甚至不算是後悔,而是痛苦。

 

財主說他在這火焰中,而火焰其實就是指神無窮盡的愛。從初代教會直到今日,並沒有被造的火焰(created fire)。神不是虐待狂,祂並不像我們印象中某些詩人或西方神學家所描繪出的那種心理病態,那些人投射了自己的想法和偏見,把神塑造成一個虐待狂。

 

亞伯拉罕對拉撒路說:「我兒」。這是那位非受造的神,祂是萬民的神,但財主寧願漠視,也不願接受這樣的愛。因為他漠視他人,這使他連同忽略了任何與神共融的可能。比如假設我們把教會大門鎖上,我們每日從早到晚進行聖禮儀,領受聖體,彼此親吻。這不就是天堂了嗎?有人甚至會說:「等等,我要去帶我的家人來。」但有人卻會說:「這是什麼啊?我要走了,我受不了這種愛,我受不了祂、耶穌的身體、祂的愛,這裡的一切我都受不了。」但是卻出不了大門,直嚷著「我受不了這裡的空氣了」。他閉上了嘴不呼吸,但卻更痛苦,這就是地獄。

 

然而那財主其實並非十惡不赦、毫無良善,他至少在乎一件事-他關心他的家人。他說的不是:「地獄既然這麼可怕,但還有那麼多人像我一樣一無所知,那我們一定要想想辦法。」他只是提到他有五個兄弟,他不願他的兄弟也下地獄,除了家人他並不關心其他人。他祈求亞伯拉罕差遣拉撒路去告訴他們地獄有多悲慘。又一次,他再度漠視拉撒路,沒有對他直接說話,好似拉撒路只是無生命的人偶。亞伯拉罕沒說什麼,因為亞伯拉罕愛拉撒路,他們也都在神的懷抱之中。拉撒路非常謙卑,在整卷福音書中,無論是在世上或是在神的懷抱中,他都沒有開口說任何話。

 

財主認為若有一個從死裡復活的,到他們那裡去,也許就可以說服他的兄弟們。想想看假如你看到你早已過世的曾祖父,打開大門走了進來,這會是多可怕的情況。最近我在網路上看到個報導,警察弄錯一些事,告訴一對父母他們的兒子死了。你可想像得到當這對父母打開家門看到兒子時,他們會有多驚訝。這個財主是要他的兄弟們好像是在一種被恐嚇的情況下,去敬畏神。若你知道某人已死,卻來到你面前,你當然會怕。這個財主所體認到對神的信仰,就是基於懼怕的心態。

 

但亞伯拉罕則表示這是不可能,如果財主的兄弟不聽摩西和眾先知的話,就是有人從死裡復活,他們也不會聽勸。他們不願意相信,因為真實的信仰是來自於我們知道「神就是愛」,而不是因為我們害怕一個死掉的人。此外,他這樣的祈求,難以使他的弟兄真的信主,因為在拉撒路復活之後,幾年後他還是會死亡,那時他的弟兄們還會繼續相信嗎?又像是聖經中還有另一個拉撒路,耶穌使他死而復活,他後來成為主教、宣教、仍不免再度死去。拉撒路的復活,對他的兄弟是沒有影響的。

 

此外,若拉撒路真的復活,也可能讓你覺得不太公平,你也許會問為何不是你的母親、親友死而復活。但如果這樣,這些人又會再死去,可能又都再復活,結果變成不斷輪迴。但事實上在生命中,復活只有一次,因為神要我們與我們的肉體一起活著,這才是一個完整的生命。我們知道所有的人不論義人、惡人都將會復活,但許多人雖看見榮耀中的耶穌基督,卻仍恨惡神,這就是他們的地獄。死亡是神最不想要的事。復活是我們期待的完美生命,而在此生,真正的生命是:與神同在,並與每個人共融。

 

在結束之前,你們是否有任何問題呢?

 

問題一:為何拉撒路沒有親戚照顧他呢?

 

首先拉撒路是個非常嚴重的病人,我知道有很多人是沒有任何親戚的。唯一能讓他苟活下來的地方,就是他鄰居財主的家門旁。倘若有人像是拉撒路一樣渾身傷口,你可能也不想去接近他,因為可能靠近就被病菌傳染。華人有時還會把滿身傷口當成是一種凶兆。所以我想若我們是孤單的,那並非都是我們自己的問題,有時是因為其他生活環境因素所造成的。

 

有個影片說,從某個角度來看,我們因著社群媒體而彼此連結。但是從另一個角度來看,在星巴克我卻常看到,也許是情侶,二人彼此不說話只是用LINE互傳訊息。這是一種新的孤寂,尤其是在亞洲社會,人們不願意與人交談,不願向他人敞開自己的心。而我在這樣擁擠的人群中,卻比在阿陀斯聖山(Mt. Athos)的曠野中更加孤寂。

 

問題二:人若一旦死亡,還有任何盼望,或者他們的處境就固定了?

 

這是很好的問題,當我們進行聖禮儀時,我們也試著幫助他們。但我必須解釋談到靈魂,柏拉圖或是古希臘的觀點認為靈魂才是唯一重要的,肉體則無足輕重,但基督信仰的觀點並非如此。神不會讓靈魂死去,靈魂是我的意識,是我。無論你生死與否,我都能認出你。是的,從初代教會開始,教會就為亡者禱告,那是因為我們對他們的愛永無終止的一天。你或者會說那人很惡劣,但我們仍在神的愛中與他連結。看看亞伯拉罕稱那財主為我兒。

 

我們能怎麼做呢?是的,禱告就是我們的責任,從起初教會就為亡者祈禱紀念。你能明白你過世親友的靈魂,和所有的人,所有的生者與亡者,都在聖杯之中,都與基督合而為一。所以我們也進行紀念亡者儀式。從初代教會傳承至今,每周六是專門獻給亡者、紀念亡者。你可能會問這真的對他們有幫助嗎?據我們所知,是有幫助的。但因為人有自由意志,神尊重這樣的自由。神能做任何事,除了祂不能去強迫我們愛祂,祂不願意這樣做。如果祂不顧我們的意志,我們就不再是我們,我們都變成機器人一樣。謝謝你提出這個問題,為亡者禱告是非常重要的。

 

有些修士單單為亡者祈禱,為許多靈魂禱告,讓神可以給這些靈魂片刻安息。我所謂的「安息」是什麼意思?上週講道中我曾告訴你們,在沙漠中有個曾是偶像祭司的骷髏頭,它告訴St. Makarios,當St. Makarios為他們禱告時,神就允許他們可以看見其他靈魂的面容,而這成了他們在地獄中唯一的安慰。

 

在阿陀斯聖山(Mt. Athos)上,有個魔鬼在聖徒面前出現,牠說:「不公平,我在此受苦,而你們所有基督徒都去了天堂,這對我也太不公平了。」然後這位修士告訴牠,去天堂是很簡單的,魔鬼要修士告訴牠方法。修士說:「你只要說:『主耶穌基督憐憫我,請赦免我,我愛祢。』」但魔鬼說:「沒辦法,我辦不到。」而這就是牠為何受盡折磨的原因。不是神要折磨牠,是因為牠不願意去愛。所以問題並不在於神是否將某人帶到天堂,天堂中人人依偎於神的懷抱之中。即使在天堂,對魔鬼來說也是地獄,這就是為何魔鬼受盡折磨。

 

我可以告訴你們一個小地獄,當我還是孩子時,我呼喚著母親,渴望與她說話,她卻常常撇過頭,不說一句話。那時家人們互不交談。對一個小孩來說,那就是地獄。而我母親已經過世,願神寬恕她。

 

修道院中,我曾與一位弟兄有段爭論,事後我便與他保持距離,他後來和修道院院長說了這件事。院長便叫我過去,對我說:「嗯,Pantelaimon(我的名字)發生什麼事呢?為什麼你不願意和那位弟兄說話呢?」我回答說:「因為我不想再有更多的爭論,若我們再開始爭吵,最後恐怕會打起來。」院長告訴我:「寧可打一場,也好過彼此不說話。在修道院中,你若打架,那麼其他人或你的朋友看見了,會幫忙處理,或者請院長介入,這都有助於解決問題。但你若開始冷戰,雖然一開始只是小事,但後來可能漸漸變成炸彈,摧毀你們之間的關係。

 

講道就到此結束,我想大家都餓了吧,我們可以在午餐時有些交談。願 聖三一的神保守我們眾人。

 

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東正教會簡介:

http://theological.asia/taiwan-orthodox/

 

紀錄: Baker教授

翻譯: 張奉書

 

Photo: Ryan G. Smith

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2014.11.02 5th Sunday of Luke –  Life After Death (Lazarus  & The Rich Man)

 

St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 2:16-20 BRETHREN, you know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Luke 16:19-31 The Lord said, “There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses, and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to them, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”

 

Fr. Jonah’s Sermon:

 

Today’s Gospel is the famous story of the rich man and Lazarus. And we can have some conversation after the sermon since I don’t’ want any just to preach, so we can have some interaction. We see first that there was a very rich man who had all the blessings of God, although it is very strange that the Gospel does not give us his name, because we will see what his name is. But how did he enjoy the blessings that God had given him? Only by himself. He was dressed in very expensive clothing, with purple and red cloth like a king, and eating very well. The Gospel does not tell us if he was inviting others to enjoy the meal together, but we can already understand that this person’s name was his money. And God sent this man the very big challenge of a poor man who was very sick, but he totally ignored this man and only focused on himself and his enjoyment. This is why the rich man had no name, because what he was only his money and his selfish enjoyment.

From another point of view we can see Lazarus. Does anybody know what the name Lazarus means? Because names have meaning and are very important. Lazar in Hebrew means “God is with me,” and it is so ironic for Lazarus to say that God is with me and he is full of wounds (sometimes I also have them), is sick cannot find a job so he is just begging. It is very important so see why God was with this man and not with the rich man. And it is important that Lazarus was not begging or asking for anything special. He did not ask the rich man or curse him; he did not curse God or anything else. The only thing he asked for was what was falling from the table because, like when we eat here, always something is falling down, just to eat these scraps. So we see how deep is his kindness, and the only comfort he had was when the dogs were licking his wounds.

We can ask, it this the situation when God is with somebody? But we can see the situation from another point of view: that this life, as we know, is not forever. And the Gospel says that this rich man without a name died and was buried. Obviously, because he was rich he must have had a big funeral and a very fancy grave. But Lazarus, who was suffering so much also died, and the Gospel says that the angels took his soul and he went to heaven. The rich man, was in Hell and suffering in a big fire. And it is strange that this Hell where he was suffering was not very far from Paradise because it says “he saw,” which means that his soul had consciousness.

The rich man saw Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham. What is this bosom? This is very deep and we must understand that this bosom is a very big hug that Abraham is giving him. And first I should say how did the rich person recognize that the person was Abraham. Had he ever met Abraham? If I met Abraham, I would not recognize him. But we see the grace of God works in different ways, even for bad people. How was it that the apostles Peter and John and James recognized Moses at the time of the Transfiguration? It was the Grace of the Holy Spirit that was working there. So there is another knowledge that we will have in Paradise, to know about everybody. And even in Hell we could recognize our grandfather or great-grandfather who we never met, and all the people who influence us indifferent ways.

Why was it the bosom of Abraham, and not of somebody else? But before this, I should say that Paradise is like a big hug [opening his arms out broadly as if to hug], where we really love each other. And there is an even bigger hug, the hug of God. The Bible uses the same word,“κόλπος -which is like a very big hug, for Lazarus with Abraham as it does for the Son who is in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18). So this poor Lazarus was in the hug of Abraham and they were both in the big hug of God.

But why Abraham? It is because Abraham had some very common things with Lazarus and with the rich man. How with the rich man? Abraham was very rich. But also Abraham was so close to Lazarus because he gave everything. You can see in the Bible that Abraham was rich in his original country and then one day he heard the voice of God telling him to leave everything and go to the country I will show to you. Who would hear a voice and then leave a very rich life to go who knows where, just because he heard a promise? But he obeyed. Not only this; God promised him that He would make him the father of many, many people and many countries. Abraham became very old and very sad because he had no children, but he did not, he never cursed God, saying “I believed you, but see now there is no hope.”

Not only this; when he had a child, God asked him to sacrifice it. And he did not do anything in protest; he was ready to do this, even with all the pain. That was like this poor Lazarus, who had nothing but the ultimate love of God. He had accepted all the bad things, the disease, the poverty; so Abraham was like him.

And you see, this is a judgment, because the rich man recognized Abraham, who was also very rich, but there was a big difference between them. Abraham was always inviting people to come eat with him; he was such a good person, so God himself visited him [pointing to the icon of the three angels dining with Lazarus]. So the rich man called him Father and asked him to send Lazarus, just to put his finger with a little water on his lips because he as burning. It is very strange that he still ignores Lazarus; it is as if Lazarus does not exist for him. It is obvious that if I was there [and I will go to Hell, I know], I would say, “I know you there, Pelagia,” for example since she is in Paradise. But this rich man spoke to the other rich man, not to the person he knew; he continues to ignore Lazarus. And this is his Hell. We must see that the rich man does not really change. When he was alive, he ignored that person who was very close to him; for him that person did not exist. In Hell he continued to ignore Lazarus. His mental attitude did not change and he only cared now that he was suffering. But Abraham says to him, “Son.” He recognizes this man as his son; he loves him. But he says to him, “Look, it’s impossible to have this happen, not because I don’t want it, but because this is the situation. In your life you were so rich (Abraham did not say, “like you,” but the rich man knew.); now Lazarus is here in peace, happy, like this [hugging himself]. And besides, there is a very big gap between us, and we cannot go to the other side.”

I would like to say a little bit about this gap, because when two people can talk together, it’s not as if I were here and you were in another town; we can have a dialog. This gap is the attitude, the personality that does not want to change. The rich man permanently continues to ignore his brother. He does not want any change. He does not have a metanoia, which means a change of mind. He has only regret, and not even regret, but just pain.

And what was this fire that he was burning in? It was the ultimate love of God. It is very characteristic that from the first church until today there is no created fire: God is not a sadist, like the psychologically sick imagination of some poets or theologians of the West, who made their own projections and ideas, and they made a God who is a sadist.

Abraham calls him “my son.” So this is the uncreated God that is for everybody, but the rich man does not want to accept it; he ignores it. And by this ignoring others he ignores any kind of communion with God. But suppose for example that we lock the door to this church and we do liturgy every day from morning to night, taking the body of Christ and kissing each other. Isn’t this Paradise? Somebody will say, “Wait, I want to bring my family.” But other people will say, “What is this? I want to leave. I cannot stand this love, cannot stand Him, here, the body of Jesus Christ and His love; I cannot stand it.” And because you cannot go out, you say, “I don’t want to breathe any more this bad air.” You close your mouth but you still feel bad. This is Hell.

The rich man is not totally bad, but he cares for one thing only, his family. He does not say, “If Hell is like this and there are so many people like me who don’t know, then we must do something.” He does not say this. He only says that he has five brothers and he does not want them to happen to my brothers; he does not care about the others. So he asks Abraham to send Lazarus and tell them how bad it is there. Again he does not speak to Lazarus, ignoring him as if he were a robot. Abraham does not say anything because he is with the love of Abraham and all together in the bosom of God. Lazarus is very humble: he does not speak at all in this Gospel, neither when he is on the Earth nor when he is in the bosom of God.

The rich man says that his brothers would be persuaded if they saw a resurrected person come there. Imagine if you saw your great-grandfather who is now dead to come and open the door. It would be so terrifying. Recently I saw something on the internet that the police had made a mistake and told some parents that their son had died when he had not. You can imagine there surprise when they opened the door and saw him. So, the rich man wants his brothers to know God as fear, as a threat. If you were to see somebody to be dead come here, you would certainly have fear. The rich man thinks that the belief in God is based on fear.

But Abraham says that this could not happen. If the man’s brothers do not listen to Moses and all the prophets, then even if somebody is resurrected, they would not believe. Why would they not believe? It is because the real faith is because we know God as love, not because we are afraid of a dead person. And by the way, what he is asking is not that they would really believe because after Lazarus is resurrected, after a few years he will die again. And like the other Lazarus who was resurrected by Jesus Christ and then became a bishop and preached, then he died again.

And by the way, it would be unfair to you because you could ask why not your mother and other relatives and other people’s relatives were not resurrected as well. And then they would die again, and probably come again, etc. But in life this will happen once because God want us to live with our body: that is a complete life. And we know not only that all people, good and bad, will be resurrected, but that many people when they see Jesus Christ in all his glory will hate Him, and this is their Hell. And one last thing is that God does not want death. Perfection is the resurrection; this is what we expect. But real life is this: to live with God and everybody all together.

And before I finish, I want to ask if you have any questions. Is there something you want to ask?

 

Why is it that Lazarus has no relatives to take care of him?

First of all, Lazarus was sick, very sick. And I know that there are many people who just do not have any relatives. And the only place he could survive was next to the house of the rich man. If somebody was like Lazarus and was full of wounds (even I have this sometimes and in Chinese they say this is a bad sign) you would not go close to him because there might be some kind of microbe. So I think that if we are lonely, it is not always our responsibility. Sometimes there are other conditions in life.

There is a video that says that with social media, from one point of view we are connected. But from the other point of view, I go to Starbucks and often you can see two people, maybe boyfriend and girlfriend, and they don’t talk; they are just sending messages by Line to one another. This is the new loneliness, especially in Eastern society, where people don’t want to speak and open themselves to others. From this point of view, I am much more lonely here between many people than I was in the desert on Mount Athos. Do we have any other questions?

 

Once people die is there any hope for them, or are they fixed in their condition.

This is a very good question, and we try to help them when we do the Liturgy. But I must explain that when we talk about the soul, it is not like Plato and the ancient Greeks thought, that only the soul is important and the body is nothing. But the soul is something that God does not allow to die, my consciousness, me. I can recognize you even when you are in the earth, dead or alive. Yes, from the very beginning the Church prays for the dead because love has no end. You may say that the other is bad, but still we are united with him in the love of God. See, Abraham still calls the rich man son.

What can we do? Yes, we pray, this is our obligation. From the very beginning the church commemorates the dead. You can see that the souls of your relatives and all people are here [pointing to the chalice on the altar]. Also, we do the memorial service. Every Saturday is dedicated to the dead from the very beginning of the Church. You may ask if this is actually helping the people. As we know, it is helping them. But because there is freedom, and God respects this freedom. God can do everything except one thing: He cannot force me to love him; He cannot. If he does this then I am not me; I become a robot. But thank you for the question, it is a very great thing to pray for the dead people.

There are monks who become monks only for this, to pray for so many souls, and God is giving them a little bit of rest. What do I mean rest? Last week in the sermon I told you that the skull of the priest of idols said to the great St. Makarios in the desert that when Makarios prayed for them, God allowed them to see the faces of the others, and this was some comfort.

And once on Mount Athos a devil appeared to a very holy person and he said, “This is unfair. I am suffering here when all you Christians go to Paradise. This is very unfair to me.”Then the ascete said that it was very easy to go to Paradise and he could tell him what to do. He said, “Just say, “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me. Just forgive me, and I love you.” But the devil said, “No, no, no; I cannot say this.” And that is why he is suffering. It is not that God was torturing him. It is because he does not want to love. So the problem cannot be solved just by God taking somebody to Paradise, where everybody in together in the bosom of God. That would be hell; this is why he is suffering.

There is also one small hell I can tell you about and I have the right to speak of it because I don’t speak against anybody else. When I was in my home in Greece I remember my mother, may God forgive her since she is dead now, but there was nobody talking to anybody, and I was a child, and this was a hell.

In the monastery because once I quarreled with another brother I was keeping a distance from him, and he spoke of this to the abbot. Then the abbot called me and said, “Eh, Pantelaimon (that was my name then; I have many names, like a criminal), what is happening? Why are you not talking to the other brother?” I said that I didn’t want to get into more quarreling because if we started quarrelling then we would fight. The abbot told me, “Better to fight than not to talk to one another. You are in the monastery and if you fight then some others, your friends and others will see this is going on and will help resolve it. But if you start this cold thing it will start from very small and then become a bomb that will destroy your relationships.”

We should stop here because we are all very hungry and we can talk during lunch. May the Holy Trinity protect all of us.

 

Recorder: Prof. Baker

 

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