Metropolitan Hilarion: Above all else, do not overlook those in need
On 8th November, 2020, the twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, the Church commemorates the holy great martyr Demetrius of Thessaloniki. On this day, the Divine Liturgy in the church ‘Joy to All the Afflicted’ icon of the Mother of God on Bolshaya Ordynka in Moscow was celebrated by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relation. The archpastor was assisted by the clergy of the church.
During the Prayer of Fervent Supplication, petitions were voiced over the threat of the spreading coronavirus infection.
Metropolitan Hilarion lifted up the prayer recited at a time of the spread of a pernicious epidemic.
After the service, His Eminence Hilarion addressed the congregation with an archpastoral homily:
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
I congratulate all of you, dear fathers, brothers and sisters, on this Sunday day. The Gospel which we have heard today tells us the Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus. It serves as a reminder of the meaning and value of human life.
Many people believe that the value of human life is to amass great wealth. If they fail to do it, they lament, but the more a man possesses the more he wants. There seem to be no end to this chase as man can never be satisfied with what he has and is always tempted to want more.
There were many people in the world who lived for themselves, amassed large fortune, but were not happy because they felt empty, and no worldly possession could fill this gap.
The parable we have heard is not only and not so much about wealth and poverty as about sorting out priorities. Lazarus, a simple sick man, full of sores, had lived in dire poverty through many years. He was laid at the gate of a rich man hoping to be fed with the crumbs which fell from his table, but in vain. The rich man was tormented not for his wealth or his sumptuous feasting, but for neglecting a poor man.
The rich man had to do a little to make a suffering man happy. If he had thought about other people, about poor people, he could have spent one percent of his wealth to help not only poor Lazarus, but tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of unhappy people. But the rich man did not think of it because he assumed that his wealth was his property which he had amassed himself or inherited and increased and therefore did not want to share.
We see the rich man and the poor man living close by but in parallel worlds – one flowing in abundance and luxury, and another living with illness and in poverty, even without crumbs from the rich man’s table.
That was a usual thing to happen in the time of our Lord Jesus Church and in the centuries before and after. This is happening in this day and age. There are people who have made it their life’s goal to be rich, but the more they have the more they want. Yet, there are people who devote their life to caring for others. It does not matter whether these people are rich or poor, because they can always find something to share. If a man is rich, he can dedicate himself to charity work, thanking God for the wealth he possesses and knowing that this wealth is a gift from God for sharing it with others.
You may say: All right then, the rich can help people through charity, but what can I do as I hardly make both ends meet and have no means to share with the poor, to say nothing of supporting my family?’
One can always find something to share with neighbors. St. Gregory the Theologian taught us to comfort a suffering man with our tears if we have nothing else to offer him, to show compassion to him, stay close to him in time of need, and let him see that we are not indifferent to him. Sometimes it could be enough for a man who feels lonely, abandoned and destitute. It is not necessary to share material wealth with him. If you share your spiritual wealth, the wealth of your soul, it might be the best gift to this man. It is the most important thing not to neglect people who need our help be it material or spiritual, not to neglect the suffering who like a poor Lazarus you can meet near our houses or churches –all those needing our help and sympathy.
Let us recall a wonderful example of holiness revealed to us quite recently. St. Nikephoros the Leper whose relics are resting now at our church was a simple man like Lazarus who was laid at the rich man’s gates. From his young years St. Nikephoros suffered from leprosy, a flesh-eating disease, and spent his life under dire circumstances, first at the leper hospital on the Greek island of Chios and after its closure at the home for lepers in Athens.
St. Nikephoros had spent his life in infirmity; people despised him and were afraid of touching him – God forbid –for fear of contamination. Yet, even during his lifetime he was vouchsafed with the gift of miracle and healing. And recently, as we can read in the mass media, he began to appear to people in different countries, saying, ‘Pray to me, and I will help you fight the epidemic that has spread throughout the world.’
We are praying today to this saint, asking him to help us go through this trial so that those infected be cured, the days of the trial become shorter, less people die and the Lord be merciful to us through the prayers of St. Nikephoros the Leper.
Let us pray to this amazing saint who had lived in simplicity and poverty, but the Lord vouchsafed him with the gift of healing. Let us beseech him to help us during the trying times for our Fatherland and our capital city and be merciful to us.