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“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

Lazarus suffered right in front of the rich man’s home.  At any time, on any day, at any passing of the gate, the rich man could easily have relieved his suffering.

The rich man did not see Lazarus.  He paid him no mind.  He looked past him.  Lazarus was invisible to him.

If the rich man had been guilty of murder, adultery, theft – then surely Jesus would have mentioned this.  He is told as wearing fine clothes and eating very well.  The rich man was not known for being evil, he was known for being rich.  He had not an evil reputation.

However, that irrational part of God’s creation, the dogs, did what their Maker would have them do – lick the wounds of Lazarus – while that rational part of creation formed in the image of God, the rich man, chose to ignore him.  The dogs condemn the rich man, for he refused to open his eyes and learn pity even from the dogs.

St. Augustine says, “Of these two then, tell me, which died well, and which died ill? Do not ask the eyes, return to the heart. For if ye ask the eyes, they will answer you falsely.”

Jesus says earlier in this chapter in the fifteenth verse, “for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”

By refusing to look after Lazarus, the rich man who was so proud in this world became a beggar of drops of water in the afterlife.

A person who cuts himself off from other people and from his God locks himself in a prison of his own making.  The rich man locked his own self into the place of torment.  There is a fundamental continuity within God’s creation between this world and the next.  “Life here fashions our eternal destiny.”

The rich man requests Father Abraham to send Lazarus first to cool his lips and then to return from the dead and go to his brothers.  By telling Abraham that his brothers will listen to a man returned from the dead, the rich man thus implies that he himself had not been adequately warned.  This is a form of self-justification.  Abraham disputes the logic of the request.  For example, in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Herod thought that Jesus was St. John the Baptist risen from the grave but yet that did not cause him to repent of his wicked ways.

The juxtaposition of the existences of the rich man and poor man would have simply been a classical reversal of fortune story except that the poor man lay at the rich man’s gate.  He had before him opportunities without number to do the right thing, but did not, for he had not love.

St. John Chrysostom says, “He died then indeed in body, but his soul was dead before.  For he did none of the works of the soul.  All that warmth which issues from the love of our neighbor had fled, and he was more dead than his body.”

The rich man was absorbed by the things of the world and did not renounce them in his heart.  He was owned by his possessions instead of holding them in trust for the Lord.  He was a slave to the things of this world.  He loved his things and not his suffering neighbor.

Sin is being without Christian love.  The rich man did not love his neighbor.  That lack of love led to profound and eternal consequences.  Think:  His ignoring his neighbor at his gate led to his damnation.  His lack of charity towards others led to an eternity without charity for himself.

Fr. Melville Scott said, “Lazarus, borne by loving angels, is placed next to Abraham at the feast of Paradise, as the beloved S. John was placed next to Christ at the last supper, enjoying rest and comfort, the most blessed companionship and affection, but Dives has no place here in a home of love into which he is spiritually incapable of entrance.  In Hades he awakes to gaze on the gulf he himself has fixed; to endure the flame of remorse he himself has kindled, and the parching thirst contracted in his desert life of selfishness.  He has made his own punishment….”

The rich man says that his brothers will repent if Lazarus is sent to them.  This acknowledges that they have something of which to repent and that he ought to have repented during his life.  Effectively, he admits that he sinned.

But see how the rich man started accepting his guilt after suffering anguish in hell, not during his life of comfort.  This realization grew from the consequence of his sin and was not efficacious.  True penitence springs from realizing the wrong you have done or sorrow for hurting others, not from sorrow from hurting yourself.  “I’m sorry that I got caught” is not true repentance.

Even when through his anguish the rich man sees his sin and is moved to ask of Abraham, what he asks first of Abraham is relief from that suffering.  The rich man’s selfishness becomes more perfect in Hades.  He recognizes it more clearly, yet he also acts within his selfishness more perfectly as well.  He has trapped himself in his own torment.

Even in death, the rich man tries to cut deals and manipulate.  Even in death, he seeks to control the fate of others, after he has so poorly controlled his own fate.

Here we see again the profound continuity of life here and beyond.  The rich man in Hades remains attached to the things of this world and suffers accordingly; Lazarus no longer is attached, no longer suffers, and rests peaceably, nestled with his people.

Father Crouse says, “What does it mean that the rich man is in hell?  It is not some arbitrary punishment visited upon him from outside; it is simply the description of the parched, tormented soul which has rejected the love of God.  That is what hell is: nothing more, and nothing less than the practical denial of God’s love.”

This ‘hell as separation from God’, of course, is not some wishy-washy “spiritual” but actually materialist understanding of frowning at people and thus earning a well-deserved reputation as a sourpuss.  Rather, this is the actual existential personal reality of rejecting the bonds of love which unite us with our heavenly Father and our brothers and sisters and ending in everlasting torment without the love of either other people or God.

That the rich man did not commit sins that were audacious in the eyes of the world, of his family, or of his friends does not make those sins any the less wicked.  God cares not for the fashion of this world.  Clever insults and droll jabs can leave their mark in hurting others and can show a disdain for the God-given beauty and integrity and salvation-worthiness of our neighbor that God will forgive but will not ignore.

We create our own notions of righteousness, our own ‘philosophies of life’.  But we are judged by the one eternal God’s judgement according to his righteousness.  We create our own systems of value to justify ourselves, whereas we should be like the Publican who stood afar off, asked God to have mercy upon him, and justified God.

Love of neighbor and love of God are fundamentally bound together.  “God is love” is quite correct.  How we live and love is the greatest adventure of our lives!  But it is so difficult to live out.

This loving each other involves willing the best and highest good for each other and acting in accordance with that will.  This is a very tall order.  How can we do this?

Jesus says, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”

How we can start is this.  Every day, examine your conscience.  Find your faults.  Acknowledge them before the Lord.  Resolve not to do them again.  Ask the good and gracious and loving Lord for forgiveness.  That is repentance.

Brothers and sisters, I commend to you to seriously confess your sins during this mass.

I commend to you to make your private confession to Fr. Nick or another wise and discrete priest of the diocese.

But I absolutely implore you to go home, remember your sins, and fall on your knees and say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

 

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”

+  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

What does it mean that Jesus must go away so that the Comforter can come?

One of the marks of the human understanding of love is that we wish for it to be frozen.  I wish that I could yet behold my dead father’s face.  Young lovers wish that they could stop time and always feel what they feel with each other.  Maturing parents often say that the children grow up too fast.  We want things stopped.  We want to preserve the moment.  We love our beloved, and we wish that we could always keep them.

Let’s look at the life of a woman.  Born a baby girl, she is brought home into a family with parents and an older sister.  She bonds in this family; they teach her how to love.  Her mother holds her close and feeds her.  This little baby grows.  A little brother is born into the family.  Her relationship to her parents and sister changes with his addition, in a way similar yet different than her sister’s relationship to her parents changed when she was born.  Four members of one family become five members of one family.  She grows older.  She leaves the home more and more; her relationship with her peers grows steadily more important.  Her sister leaves home.  She leaves home.  She gets married.  Her mother dies.  She has a son of her own.  With each step, she still loves her family, but her family and her relationship in her family changes.  Her child leaves home, marries.  She now develops a relationship with her daughter-in-law and her family.  Next, she is a grandmother during the same year she loses her father and becomes an orphan.  She and her husband retire.  Their granddaughter grows up.  Her husband dies, siblings die.  Great-grandchildren are born.  Ninety years after her birth, she is no longer the youngest, but is the eldest of her family.  In each and every point, she loves her family.  Yet, her love changes and grows, she changes and matures, and even the membership of the family changes.

Love is a relationship between persons, and relationships are dynamic.   Young couples become older couples, but they have grown together and changed.  Children grow up, and the parents’ relationship with adult children has changed from when they were younger.

So too is our relationship with God.

Here in the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ according to St. John, Jesus tells His disciples that He must go so that the Holy Ghost may come.

There was a time in this world where people could not know Jesus like we can now.  He was made man at a particular point in time – in the “fullness of time” according to St. Luke.  The Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Ghost, came upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her.  She became pregnant with a tiny person.  This baby was Named Jesus.  Jesus:  The Name which is above every name; true God and true man.  Jesus is one Person who has both the full nature of God and the full nature of humanity.

He was born in Bethlehem to the Blessed Virgin Mary, raised by her and St. Joseph.  He taught, gathered disciples, turned His face to Jerusalem, suffered His Passion, and died on a cross for our salvation.  He died and was buried, and on the third day He rose again!

We celebrated that several weeks ago.  Here in St. John’s Gospel today, Jesus tells His disciples, “Now I go my way to him that sent me.”  He has just returned, and now He tells them that He is leaving them again.  But this time, it is different.  The Comforter will come to them.  The Comforter is the Spirit of Truth, and “he will guide you into all truth.”

Jesus comes to us as a baby, we kill Him, and He rises from the grave.  Now He goes to Heaven before us – Jesus breaks the seal of Heaven for us Christian folk.  He is man – He brings humanity to Heaven.  He prepares a place for us.  He is sitting at the right hand of the Father.  This leaving of his disciples is celebrated in our Feast of the Ascension.

Ten days later comes the Feast of Pentecost.

The Holy Ghost comes into the room with St. Peter, and St. James, and St. John, and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and all the apostles.  Flames of fire appear on their heads.  They speak in languages they do not know – they can preach the Gospel to all nations in all tongues.  They are given power from on high.  They become the blessed company of all faithful people, the Bride of Christ, Holy Mother Church.  The Spirit of Truth guides them into all truth.

These people write epistles and acts and a revelation under the guidance of the Holy Ghost – our Holy Writ, Sacred Scripture.  The heirs of the apostles – our true apostolic bishops of the church – commune together with the Holy Ghost, and when the whole church speaks, the councils speak the truth – the Ecumenical Councils.  The Mass is said, unbelievers are baptized, bishops and priests and deacons are made, sinners are reconciled, the sick are anointed, couples are joined in holy wedlock, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost are imparted at Confirmation.

A pious thing after Mass, or when passing by a Church reserving the Blessed Sacrament is to say, “Blessed, praised, worshiped, hallowed, and adored be Jesus Christ on His throne of glory in heaven, in the most holy Sacrament of the altar, and in the hearts of his faithful people.  Some Sixteenth-Century reformers could not understand that Jesus could be on the altar and in heaven at the same time.  No wonder they were confused – He lives in our hearts as well!  Jesus is still with us:  Here on our knees when we take communion, up in heaven interceding for us to the Father, and living in our hearts.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus left off from walking on the same ground we walk on so that we may receive comfort from above.  Comfort is strength for the journey – comfort is not a soft pillow for a slumber.  We are each called by the unfathomable God, made known through flesh, to be with Him, and we are strengthened from on high for that journey.

 

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”

+  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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