We are not destroyed by sufferings. Rather, we are destroyed by pleasure. That is why God gives us good gifts — gifts like sickness, death, cancer, and coronavirus. Gifts like health problems, money problems, and the loss of loved ones. . . . Suffering reminds us to stop trusting in this world, and to start trusting in Christ . . .
In today's Gospel reading, Jesus speaks a parable about salvation, and an invitation to a feast in heaven. Instead of being thankful, many people made excuses and refused to attend the feast. (Luke 14:16-24)
One man said, "I bought a piece of land, and I need to go look at it." Someone said, "I bought five oxen, and I need to work with them." Another person said, "I recently got married, so I cannot attend."
According to St. Theophylact, these three excuses represent the wisdom, cares, and pleasures of the world and of this present life:
The person who looks at the field, instead of attending the feast, is the one who only believes in what he can see. He wants to know about science, but he does not want to know the One who created science. He carefully studies nature, but he refuses to commune with the One who created nature.
The person who works with the five oxen, instead of attending the feast, is the one who is enslaved to his five senses. This person is only interested in doing work which pertains to the earth, and to this present world. The ground is hard, and he plows it with the oxen, preparing it for planting and harvest. His heart is also hard, but he does not plow it, preparing it for repentance and salvation.
The person who avoids the feast because of a wife, is a man who loves pleasure more than he loves God. He has become so focused on pleasures, that he has forgotten the One who created all pleasures. Seeking a pleasure that is temporary, he misses out on the pleasure that is eternal.
We can also understand these things literally. Because of our property, our work, and our marriages, we become so distracted with temporary things, that we neglect what is most important. We become so attached to the things of this world, that we do not prepare our souls for judgment. Grasping for earth, we lose heaven.
Property, work, and marriage are all good things. But they are temporary. We should not pretend that this world will last forever. We must not be so distracted, that we forget to take care of our eternal souls.
So often, our souls are not destroyed by sufferings. Rather, we are destroyed by pleasure. Instead of patiently waiting for eternal joy in heaven, we are too easily satisfied by the little pleasures that this world has to offer.
God is merciful, and does not want us to be destroyed. He wants us to see that this world is swiftly passing away, and that its pleasures are only temporary. He wants us stop focusing on this world, and to turn our hearts towards heaven.
That is why He gives us good gifts — gifts like sickness, death, cancer, and coronavirus. Gifts like health problems, money problems, and the loss of loved ones.
Pleasures lull our souls to sleep, but suffering wakes us up! Suffering reminds us that this world is not heaven, and that this world is not eternal. Suffering reminds us to cry out to God, asking Him for salvation and relief. Suffering reminds us to stop trusting in this world, and to start trusting in Christ.
We need to remember what Jesus said:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:3-4)
The most blessed people are not those who have health, money, and power. The most blessed people are those who have been humbled through suffering, and have reached out to Christ for salvation. They may face death and disease, hunger and poverty, yet still they rejoice, because their names have been written in heaven. They rejoice, because they will participate in the resurrection of the just. They rejoice every Sunday, when they receive the first taste of the heavenly feast, partaking of Holy Communion. They give thanks, because they have been invited to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
Let us accept the Master's invitation, and make sure that we attend His blessed feast. We need to pray daily, take communion weekly, and live our lives in preparation for heaven. We must not allow anything, or any person, to become an obstacle between us and Christ. We cannot allow anything to distract us from our goal of eternal life with Christ in heaven.
Do not waste your life, seeking after temporary things which quickly pass away. As Saint Isaac the Syrian said, "This life has been given to you for the sake of repentance. Waste it not on vain pursuits."
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sunday of the Forefathers — December 27, 2020
Fr. Joseph Gleason
Read this homily in Russian: Почему Бог дает дар страдания
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