Saturday of the Week of the Prodigal Son

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Trusting in the Lord’s provident Care for us
Saturday of the Week of the Prodigal Son
14 February, 2009
2 Timothy 3:1-9 ; Luke 20:46-21:4

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

In the Epistle this morning, we heard the Apostle Paul describing the Last Days. He is saying that there are going to be expressions of selfishness. These behaviours are certainly rampant today. Every sort of evil and perversion is rampant in our world today. It is not as if we have been lacking these terrible things in the past. Yet, it might be said that, in the past, these things had some sort of brake on them, because people tended to be more believing in the past than they are now. When the Apostle Paul is speaking about certain sorts of persons that go around taking advantage of people (and he mentions women in this particular case), he is speaking of women as a class of society that generally had no education whatsoever. They were very vulnerable to what anyone would say to them.

When human beings have taken the focus of their hearts off the Lord, when they have depended upon themselves, and determined to be do-it-yourselfers, then this means that they have also decided that they are going to be comfortable in this world. The characteristics that the Apostle describes always take over. Human beings without God are fear-driven in very many inexplicable ways. The way people turn in on themselves and decide to make themselves comfortable here, apart from the Lord, these selfish behaviours described by the Apostle, cause people to go to pieces. These behaviours make society, in fact, go to pieces, as it characteristically does under these circumstances.

Not so long ago I was told that when things were in the proper order in Chinese society, the whole society prospered. This has been the case for 5,000 years or so in Chinese history. If the emperor was worshipping God correctly according to ancient history (even though he was not a Christian or a believer in the sense that we understand, but he was nevertheless monotheistic), he was responsible for keeping society in order, and for feeding the people. He, himself, was responsible for feeding the people through the character of his leadership. Therefore, when he was a believer and setting a good example, the society (which must be agrarian, fundamentally, in order for this to work) was able to produce enough food for everyone, and there was general harmony amongst the people. In the course of Chinese history, repeatedly and periodically, business has taken over the driver’s seat of life. Following the ancient mentality of China, business must be a product of the agrarian society, not in charge of it. This agrarian-business order is understood to be divinely directed. Every time the order has been inverted, war has been the product, with the usual devastation of everything, including the fall of the government of the time. The only escape from this many-times-repeated cycle would be if there were a reform. Otherwise the dynasty fell.

This is not so detached from the words of a French philosopher of the last century who wrote a book which said that in his opinion the greatest disaster that has happened to human beings was the invention of the internal combustion engine. Until the internal combustion engine and the development of automobiles, human beings had to be pulled out of themselves so they could care about their environment. They had to be responsible for animals so that the animals would serve them well enough. I have heard from my own father how the care of these very creatures was abused. Nevertheless, the basic principle remains that we humans need to be pulled out of our self-obsession by our responsibilities. Everything is able to be abused because human beings are always fallen ; they can abuse things and distort things. This French philosopher was right. I think that his philosophical idea comes from a Christian formation and a Christian heart. (I met the person, and I believe that that is where it comes from.)

The persons about whom our Lord is speaking to us today always want the attention on themselves. I mean to say persons who go parading around, making a show of being believers, of being faithful. These persons are pretenders, one could say. True worshippers of the Lord, who are doing things for the Lord, do not call attention to themselves, but rather they try to hide from attention if at all possible and recoil from having attention drawn to themselves. Our Saviour says today that the person who is a true giver in the spirit of the Law, and in the eyes of the Lord, is this widow who has just now put only two pennies into the treasury. Even though it was worth nothing monetarily, it was worth everything to her because this was all she had. Our Saviour says that it is her whole living. She is giving the Lord everything because she is trusting that the Lord is looking after her.

How many times in the course of my life have I been given examples of people who have trusted the Lord in a similar way as did this woman. This woman has complete, utter trust in the love of the Lord. She trusts in His care for her, and how He is providing for her. How many times I have seen and heard of this happening in the lives of people even today. When they are in all sorts of desperate conditions one way or another, the Lord, nevertheless, provides. The stories that I have been told in the course of my days are more than I can repeat or even remember. People who trust in the Lord have their needs met by the Lord – not according to their own labours and their own doing, but because the Lord, in His love, out of the blue, has provided for them.

For you and for me (and I suppose for bishops particularly) these words about making a show, and being a pretender and so forth, are very crucial. When one is a bishop, there is no way that one cannot have attention put on oneself. However, there are ways to try to divert this attention. It is important for us all to remember this at all times. When we are being thanked for something or when someone is saying : “What a wonderful thing”, it is always necessary that we do what Orthodox Christians characteristically have always been doing -- we refer that gratitude immediately to the Lord. Therefore, we should be saying instinctively, out of our hearts : “Glory be to God” or “Thanks be to God” for whatever it is.

We must always be referring to the Lord whatever good is happening, because we ourselves are fallen human beings. We sin. We get distracted. We do all sorts of things that we ought not to do, and think all sorts of things that we ought not to think, and so forth. The Lord loves us, and if good comes through us, it is because He does love us. He cares about all of us. He is with us. He is protecting us. He is nurturing us. Most of all, He is saving us. The Lord is with us ; He is not distant from us. He is with us, and He is involved all the time in everything that we are, and everything that we are doing.

Let us ask the Lord to give us the Grace and the trust of this woman whom we see today with Him as she throws her whole living into the treasury. She is demonstrating to anyone who has the eyes to see that she truly loves and trusts in the Lord. Let us ask the Lord to give us this love and this trust in our whole lives. Let us actively put our trust in Him because He who loves us will not desert us. He who cares for us will not forsake us. The Lord will protect us, and He will help us truly to be ourselves, so that in everything, truly, openly and honestly, we will be able to glorify the all-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.