Episode 409 – The Time is Now

When we die, we will find ourselves in one of two situations. We will be in the presence of God in either situation. We will either experience His presence as comfort or torment. We will experience God’s presence either has heaven or hell. The choice will be ours, but the choice must be made now, before we die. Once we die, there is not changing our fate. The time to change our hearts is now, today.

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My brothers and sisters, in this morning’s gospel, Christ gives us an important lesson about judgment, an important lesson about how we are going to find ourselves after we die. The two men in this morning’s gospel, some rich man and the church fathers, make it an interesting point to acknowledge that he has no name, κάπιος πλούσιος άνθρωπος, some rich man, and Lazarus, a poor man who had been passed over day after day after day as he laid on the doorsteps of the rich man. The rich man acting as if Lazarus wasn’t even there. So the two die, the gospel says that Lazarus, the angels, came and brought him up into Abraham’s bosom into heaven. It says the rich man also died and was buried. Abraham, all of us, the rich and the poor, are going to be in the presence of God. They were both with Abraham, but the rich man was in torment. His tongue was on fire, and he says to God, “Father Abraham, send Lazarus to dip his finger in the water and cool my tongue.”

Even in the torment of hell, the rich man could not see the humanity of Lazarus. Lazarus was there for his own comfort. Abraham says, “You remember you had all these good things in your life,” He says, “And you received your good things and likewise, Lazarus, evil things, but now he is comforted and you are tormented.” You see, my brothers and sisters, when we get to where we’re going, there are going to be two experiences that we choose. Either we’re going to be experiencing being in the presence of God as comfort, as heaven, or we’re going to experience being in God’s presence as torment or hell. The choice is ours to make, but we must make it now.

Now is the time. Not tomorrow, not next year, not when we grow old, but now, because, as the gospel says, “There is a great chasm between us and you who want to pass from here to you cannot, and those who go from there to us.” In other words, my brothers and sisters, after we die, there is no changing our fate. I wrote in the bulletin that St. Gregory of Nyssa helps us understand the chasm. It’s not some physical separation. Remember, I’ve said this before, as orthodox Christians, we do not believe in heaven up here for the good people and held down here for the bad people. All of us are going to be with God.

The chasm, as the church teaches, is death. Once we die, we cannot change. We have this life now to change our hearts. If the rich man, before he died, had seen the humanity of Lazarus, he would not have been in torment. Now is our opportunity. Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today. There’s an old saying like that. Unfortunately, the only time we make good on that saying is when we’re following our professional dreams, we ignore our journey to God. We think, “Ah, we’ve got another day. Ah, we’ve got another year. I’m only 54. Theoretically, I’m only halfway there.” Except that last week we just buried someone in their 50s.

We don’t know if we have tomorrow. For that matter, we don’t even know if we have tonight. So my brothers and sisters, take this opportunity in the gospel right here, right now, and change our hearts to see the humanity in our brothers and sisters. To look at every person, every man, woman, and child, yiayias, papous little babies, as the icon of Christ. Don’t step over them as if they’re not there, because the time will come where we will not be able to change our hearts.

The time is now. All of us have been given a gift, my brothers and sisters. Are you ready for this? We’ve been given the gift of another chance. As the saying goes, “We woke up and our feet touched the ground today.” Another chance to change our hearts. So I’m going to challenge you. In your heart, if there are individuals, families, or groups that you struggle to love, if there are people that you have been fighting with and have been at war with, I’ve heard some of the stories. Today is the day to heal the war. Today is the day to make peace with each other because we don’t know if we will have tomorrow.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to find myself on the wrong side of the chasm being tormented by God’s love. I’d rather be with Lazarus, but that means I have to change my heart today. St. John Chrysostom teaches us a very wise lesson. He says, “All of us must suffer something for God. Either we’re going to suffer it in life or we’re going to suffer it after.” And that’s the example of the gospel. Lazarus, who suffered during life, was comforted by God. The rich man lived a comfortable life and spent eternity suffering. This is why we fast. This is why we take care of the poor, not to earn our way into heaven but to change our hearts, to see the humanity in our brothers and sisters, even those laying on the doorsteps of our homes. It’s a great challenge. Don’t put off another day because, as the saying goes, one day, and Christ says, as a thief in the night, He’s going to come for us. It might be tonight. Let’s be ready for Him. Let’s not put it off another day. Glory to God for all things.

Episode 409 – The Time is Now

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