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。
Photo: Ryan G. Smith
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