Author: Fr George Dimopoulos
Source: Orthodox Sermons for all the Sundays of the Year – Volume I
Publisher: Christian Orthodox Editions
“Be ye therefore, merciful as your Father is also merciful”. (Luke 6:31-36)
One of the most outstanding verses of Holy Scripture, dear brethren, is contained in today’s Gospel reading. The Roman Emperor, Alexander Severus, was so deeply impressed by this verse that he not only repeated it often himself, but commanded his public officers to engrave it on all the walls throughout the city: “and as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise”. Socrates had much to say; Plato philosophised endlessly; Aristotle imparted much to the sciences; and we, we study them diligently. But nowhere in their writings can we find a verse containing as much thought and depth as that spoken by our Lord. Many atheists and persons indifferent to the Faith, were readily converted upon hearing this one verse. Others that do not accept Jesus Christ as God, at least proclaim Him as an outstanding moral teacher.
Oftentimes we explain this reading. Our readers have read it and heard it on an equal number of occasions. And the more you read and study it, the deeper you go into its meaning, which opens up new vistas of thought on the subject. It is filled with wisdom and divine revelation. It encourages the right type of relations and behaviour between fellow men. It exhorts men to be Christ-like and to come as close to God as possible in their virtues. In other words, not to reach God in quantity, that is, in His power and wisdom. This is beyond the natural capabilities of human beings. For example, it was from that very moment when Adam and Eve sought to know as much as God, when they tried to become as God, listening to the devil – it was from this time that they were farthest away from God. What was it that the devil told them?…“Do you want to become as God?It is very simple and very easy. Do not listen to God. Revolt against Him and His will”. We know the results of the Fall. As Scripture otherwise says, a great gap was opened between God and man.
Nowehere in Scripture will we find one verse that exhorts us to become as equals to God in His Knowledge, Power, or Wisdom, and the rest of the natural, divine attributes. And when man took the initiative in this area, he met instant destruction. In the Old Testament, we read about man’s attempt to reach God by climbing above Him in a tower, and from there trying to dethrone Him. The tower was the famous Tower of Babel. When commencing to build the tower, there arose mass confusion amongst the builders. They lost their understanding of their common language and were unable to communicate with one another. Eventually the tower collapsed and the men were scattered all over the face of the earth (Gen 11:4-9).
Almost the same thing was said by Russia’s first astronauts, during the reign of the supposed all-mighty Kruschev…“they said to us that God is in the skies. We went there and we conquered the heavens. But we never met God. We travelled to the stars and we did not find God there. We went beyond our planet and we did not see God anywhere”. In the language of the ancient Greeks this would have been considered as an insult. And the insultor would have been punished severely, by being excommunicated from the intellectual community as an offender against the divine realities. Today, in our terminology, we call it blasphemy of the worst order. The results are well-known. Krushchev’s end was very insignificant, to the point that many people were anxious to know what had happened to the former all-mighty boss of the Iron Curtain. Does he still live, or was he simply excommunicated? In any case, the influence of such ideologies dwindle everyday because it is a proven fact that the religious convictions of peoples dedicate to God can never be squelched.
We must never forget that no man can ever find God when his purpose is evil; when he seeks God to blaspheme and humiliate Him. We must never seek to find God outside of ourselves, outside of our own existences. With much authenticity does St Paul speak on this subject…“know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are”.
The great eighteenth century German philosopher, Kant, in his moral proof of the existence of God moves from the moral law which exists in us…“there exists an absolute moral law, catholic; previous and supreme, every human law which is expressed in positive command. Do not do evil, do good. Consequently, there exists a Supreme Law-Maker, who is the Absolute Mind, All-Mighty and Absolute Holy Being. This moral law is absolute and universal. The conscience even in a more deviate condition is in a position to make the distinction between good and evil”.
We said before that we cannot reach God in the quantity of His power, nor does any Scriptural verse advise differently. However, we do find many verses in Scripture which exhort us to reach God in the quality of His virtue. One such verse is the above mentioned… “Be ye, therefore, merciful as your Father is also merciful” (Luke 6:31-36). The unfortunate Nietzsche used to say to his students, “Become strong and step on the weak, in order to climb up to separate the strong from the weak. Life is only for the strong”. The Gospel tells us to love our fellow man in the same way as God loves us all. It is only that man who feels this love towards his fellows that will remain in God, and God in him…“God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him”.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that has no love can never know God, for God is love. God’s love for us is so perfectly manifested because God sent His Only-Begotten Son into the world that we might live in Him. I strongly suggest, beloved, that you read tonight – immediately – the whole Catholic Epistle of John.
The ancient Greeks and Romans tried to describe their mythological gods as being full of power, wrath, and anger. One of the gods was charged with thunder, the other the tempests, and the third, storms. They were always ready to dash their powers against man whenever he became disorderly. But God is full of goodness and love. He forgives, even when man commits sins seventy times seven. And for the salvation of humanity He send His Only-Begotten Son. My brothers, let us follow His example. Let us always exude our love and mercy. And in so doing we become imitators of our Heavenly Father…“merciful as He is merciful”, Amen.