In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. [Amen.]
Our Lord Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters, was not crucified because he was preaching the love of God. He was crucified because, out of love for men, he preached the truth. That’s why he was killed. These are his words from John 7: “The world hates me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” This is why the world hated him; this is why the world killed him: because of his words, testifying against evil. Again, in John 3: “This is the judgment: that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” This text in John 3 about the result of Jesus’ illuminating work, his invasion of the dark world with the light of the truth, follows, interestingly, just after the proclamation of the love of God in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life.
For the Father did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. It wasn’t Jesus’ wish or his Father’s will that those who do evil deeds resist the light; that is completely against God’s will. It’s God’s will that his love and his light invade the world and change people, save people. But that’s not always possible, because some love evil more than they love the offer of salvation. Some are so attached to their evil deeds that they would rather kill love incarnate, light incarnate, than change.
God is love, St. John says; he also says in his first epistle that God is light. Wherever God goes, both love and light go. Love and light invade wherever God exists and comes into a nation, into a people, into an individual heart. Such is also the reality for the Church, because by our union with Jesus we have actually become his love and his light in this world. We bear the same twofold witness, and we should expect the same treatment.
We are the light of the world, and we are forbidden to hide the light, and by our Christ-like love the world is to discover Jesus in us. They’re to taste him and smell him by the way that we live together, by our interest in them. No, Jesus our Savior was not crucified because he preached the love of God to men; he was crucified because out of his love for men he preached the truth, he attacked evil, he scourged the devil and his slaves, he would not tolerate darkness, he unmasked hypocrites, he tore down falsehood, he exposed lies, he gutted heresy, and he did this all in the public square, in the wide open, in the midst of crowds, which is exactly where we find the Lord today.
Today Jesus comes into Jericho, and he goes right for the heart of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, the director of the IRS. Can you imagine? [Laughter] And believe me, haven’t we seen in recent years how desperately chief tax collectors need the light of the Gospel? May God help that hideous criminal, Director Lerner, who, under President Obama, turned the IRS into a weapon, an ideological weapon, and then never was held accountable for a single one of her crimes. A tremendous shame to our whole nation. Tax collectors, and especially the chief ones, really need Jesus—and Zacchaeus was one of them.
Jesus invaded his life. He brings Zacchaeus and his whole family out of darkness; he delivers them from the terrible sin of avarice, from the idolatry of greed, and from Zacchaeus’ horrible moral and political compromise. He was a stench to the people of God because he was serving the enemy and plundering their wealth. The Lord illumined Zacchaeus and his family; he brought salvation to his whole household, because Jesus thirsted for Zacchaeus’ love. He thirsted for his soul. He was like a mad lover. I use that quote because it was one of St. John Chrysostom’s favorite images of Jesus seeking men. He was like a crazed lover, seeking the affection of Zacchaeus.
Just imagine if the pure Virgin was there. She’s not referenced in the text. Just imagine if she was there in that great crowd that was following Jesus, and she saw this whole thing. I can imagine her first thought would have been, “Son, you can’t just do that! You don’t just invite yourself into someone’s house, just because he’s rich and you’re going to have a nice lunch. You’re going to look at someone and say: I’m going to eat at your house today; go make it ready?” What mother would tolerate that? What mother would tolerate—mine wouldn’t. No, no. Of course, she probably had learned already that Jesus always had a twinkle in his eye whenever she thought he was doing something improper. She would soon find out what he had in plan.
Jesus wasn’t invited, brothers and sisters; Jesus invited himself. And this is often how people meet him. We have many stories like this in our own parish, of Jesus simply coming over, simply demanding a face-to-face encounter, simply inviting himself into the very stuff of our life. I must confess, in my own little life, that is exactly how I became a serious Christian. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 16 years old. I had come home from school, and he simply came into my room—at least I finally sensed him for the first time really in my life—and he stood before me, and like a man with a bow and arrow, a hunter, he pierced me. He pierced me; it hurt badly. I felt a sudden urge to read the Scriptures, which I had never done in my entire life. I pulled out my Bible that was given to me in Sunday school in the second grade. I had no idea where to open it, and I just let it fall open, and it fell open to the sermon on the mount. These beautiful words were the first words that I as a young adult, responding to his intentions, read: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied,” and when I read that text, I started to shake. I felt that he was standing right in front of me, looking at me, saying, “Why aren’t you like that?” I just shut the text and put it on my bed, and that began my relationship with the Scriptures, and I’ve read the Scriptures every day since.
This is how Jesus is. He came for me; he terrified me. Yes, I guess you could say I invited him into my life to be my king, but really I think it’s better to say that he invited me into his life. And I think that’s what he’s done for us all, is it not? When Jesus broke all the taboos and went into Zacchaeus’ house, the text reads, “All the crowd murmured.” Tsk, tsk. Ha! What pathetic religion that is. Jesus left all that aside, all that bogus religion, all that ungodliness and lack of thirst for men’s souls, and he sought the salvation of Zacchaeus.
Today is the feast of the translation of the relics of St. John Chrysostom, one of Jesus’ greatest servants, a man who has brought the face of Jesus so clearly to so many for all of these centuries. He also was killed. He also was cast off. And he wasn’t exiled and killed because he preached the love of God, but because, being compelled by the love of God, St. John Chrysostom did the same thing that Jesus did. He attacked evil. He opposed darkness and would not tolerate it. He fiercely called upon the imperial powers to account before the judgment seat of his own episcopal throne. He demanded that that was more powerful than the seat of the emperor and that the seat of the emperor has to bow to that. Heaven is above the earth, not vice versa. No matter how great or how much earthly power a king had, he was a subject of the word of God. And without fear, St. John Chrysostom demanded that, great or small, kept the will of the Lord, honored his words and laws. He defended a poor widow whose property was being coveted by the empress, Evdoxia, and he refused to allow her to seize it.
There’s a beautiful story. 31 years after he had been exiled by those pathetic rulers, Emperor Arcadius and his wife Evdoxia, shortly after he had baptized their own son, Theodosius, they exiled him because they could not bear the witness of his words. They loved darkness rather than the light,and they couldn’t bear the light. They literally hated him, though they feared him. The story goes that when they died—Evdoxia died the next year after the exile, though she was young—she was buried in a tomb in the Church of the Holy Apostles, and she screamed from her tomb for decades. Her young son, Theodosius, eventually became the emperor, and a pious one; he’s known as Theodosius the Pious. He was greatly grieved for his mother. He would go pray in that church, and he would hear the coffin shake—can you imagine? You’re going to pray for your mother, and the coffin in which she is buried is literally—she is literally being tormented by the pains of hell for her opposition to God and to his priest?
Theodosius had a beautiful heart. He didn’t follow the path of his wicked parents. So when he grew up and he became a godly man and a godly ruler, he conceived a beautiful idea, that it was time to reverse the evil deed of his parents. He had a magnificent silver coffin made and sent out by imperial post to the corner of the empire where Chrysostom was buried, where he died in exile, and he had bishops and priests and monks go and exhume his body and take the relics out and place them on the imperial post and then on the imperial barge, and he brought his relics down the Bosporus into the Golden Horn into Constantinople. And all the people who for 30 years had missed their spiritual father, who had been so nourished by him—lives had changed, salvation had advanced immensely, and then he was taken from them. Many of them had lived for these years, literally having liturgy in the orange groves because they refused the communion of the fake bishop that the persecuting emperor installed in Chrysostom’s place. They insisted on maintaining communion with their priests who were in communion with St. John in exile. Finally their spiritual father came back, and they were all out in the Bosporus in their little skiffs with candles burning.
As his coffin came in, it wouldn’t go into the harbor. It kept running aground on some ground. The ground of the widow whose property Empress Evdoxia stole after exiling Chrysostom. He kept stopping there, and they couldn’t get the barge to move on. The emperor, the new emperor, Theodosius the Pious, recognized exactly what was going on, and deeded it back to the widow’s family. And as soon as he did this, the coffin allowed the barge to go into harbor. They took his beautiful coffin up on their shoulders, and they processed with him, and the emperor met the coffin on the shore, and he knelt down and placed his head on the coffin, and he read a prepared script that he had written.
In that script he asked St. John to forgive his parents and to pray them out of hell. Then he asked the saint to return to his throne and occupy it once again. And they brought his relics into the cathedral, the Hagia Sophia, the current Hagia Sophia, and they placed his relics upon the thronos, and as soon as they did that they heard Chrysostom speak from his coffin: “Peace be to all.” The liturgy was restored.
This man was a follower of Christ and received the same treatment that his Master received. It’s what we do in the Church. The readings for the feast last night for him? One of the readings in vespers was from the Wisdom of Solomon, and it begins this way: “Wisdom makes people into friends of God and prophets.” This is what wisdom does: it fashions us into friends of God and makes us truth-tellers, which is so powerful, which is the essence of what a prophet and prophetess is. This was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel who promised that on the day of Pentecost the democratization of the Holy Spirit would be spread across all the people of God, not just the priests, not just the school of the prophets. Everyone would receive the Holy Spirit and would be enabled by him to prophesy, to speak forth the word of God, to hold and preach the truth.
And that’s exactly what happened and what continues to happen in the Church. We become lights, truth-tellers, because we’re compelled by love to speak. We’re compelled by faith to speak. Yesterday, our parish again participated for the seventh year in a row in the annual Walk for Life in San Francisco, the second-largest public gathering in support of unborn children, the greatest of course being in Washington, D.C., always around the time of the hideous commemoration, Roe vs. Wade, January 22, 1973. Almost a million people gather each year in Washington, D.C. In San Francisco we had a pretty large crowd also, maybe 60,000 people, mostly young people. It was electrifying. And we took a lot of our own people, maybe 50 of our parishioners are still there. We went up for fellowship, but mostly we went up for love’s sake.
We went up because we love God, and when you love God you cannot tolerate the defacing of his image, which is what every person, including unborn persons, are. You can’t bear to see a human being disgraced and murdered to the tune of more than one million murders in our nation alone, and now being funded by us. We have to face it. Our own funds are being stolen and being immorally funneled to abortion mills in this land by our government. It is an atrocity of the highest order. And out of love for God, we can’t bear to see human beings, his glory—which is what you are: his glory—in the face of human beings destroyed like that.
We also went out of love for women. Who better than all of the women that were there who have themselves suffered by making the terrible decision of having abortions? There’s not a parish in our nation that doesn’t have men and women who have suffered from this terrible decision. Our own parish has suffered terribly from this. There isn’t one that hasn’t. We know the pain of falling into the lie that this great child—as threatening as this child might be to our ability even to survive, yes, in the worst case of scenarios, even though most abortions are procured simply as a birth control mechanism, without any threat to live whatsoever, but even in the worst of all cases we know that it’s a lie that to do a great evil and to kill the innocent is somehow going to make our life better. It’s not. It’s going to make our lives a lot worse. And out of love for women, to help them, by the force of law, which is an incredible power to help us live uprightly and to not hurt ourselves—out of love for women, we go and we stand in public.
Out of love for the unborn, remembering that God requires us to raise our voices for the most vulnerable, to defend those who are innocent and cannot defend themselves. This is word of Proverbs: “Rescue those who are being taken away to death.” And out of love for our nation we went also, because we know that no nation can murder its unborn children and have any future at all. God has eyes. We know this. There is no future for a murderous nation. “Woe, woe, woe to the nation that sanctions the killing of its unborn children. There is no future; there is destruction. That is what waits.
We went. We raised our voices for the defenseless. We were greatly encouraged to walk and to see so many beautiful faces, mostly young, a great majority under the age of 30. I’ve never had—as I mentioned some years ago to you—the hope I have now, that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. I have real hope now. The new CEO of Planned Parenthood just sent out a fundraising letter. I have rocks in my mouth just saying those words in this church. The new CEO said in her letter to raise funds that she was very worried that this year Roe v. Wade would be overturned. This is the CEO of Planned Parenthood.
I shared this yesterday with our delegation. It was nice. We had about 160 Orthodox gathered together for a prayer service on the public square there, and I shared with them that quote, and then we made the cross, as I will now and I hope you will: May God bless that to take place! May he end this horrible period, this 46 years of national permission and legal sanction to murder unborn children.
It’s up to us, brothers and sisters; it’s up to us. Now, some may murmur. Some may murmur, just like they did when Jesus invaded the tax collector’s house. What is he doing? What are those Christians going to do there? Why are they standing out in public? Why is Father talking about politics? Ha! This is not politics! This is life or death! This is your future. You think that when our nation goes up in nuclear fire we’re not going to go up with it? Who knows if we can even escape now? Who knows if we can even escape now, if we all repent now? This is not politics. No one’s politics should have anything to do with their judgment about the gravity of the evil of abortion. It doesn’t matter what kind of politics, whether you’re a libertarian or a socialist—who cares? We don’t kill unborn children. Period. Ever. For any reason.
Politics. [Sigh. Laughter]
I wanted to end, brothers and sisters, on this Sanctity of Life Sunday, this majestic Sunday of the translation of the relics of St. John Chrysostom, on which we remember that neither Jesus nor John took this easy way. Oh, let’s just cross our hands in the sign of the cross and hope things get better and not do anything about it—that is not the way of the Church. We love people, which means you have to get your hands dirty. You have to suffer. You have to be willing to be murmured against. It’s okay. It’s the only way to do good, is to suffer contradiction.
I don’t know if you read this week—but I hope you did—the email I sent you from St. Paisios the New, the Athonite, whose icon there is magnificently in the narthex. If anyone ever tells you, “You know, maybe we shouldn’t do this, we shouldn’t gather publicly in defense of the unborn to testify against evil and darkness,” tell them, “You know what, you need to get a new religion.” You need to get a new religion, because there’s no one in the Church who says that, no one who’s worth listening to, I can promise you that. The Lord Jesus didn’t live that way; he lived a public life of bearing witness to the truth. St. John Chrysostom didn’t live that way. No saints have.
St. Paisios, who witnessed—he died in the ‘90s, brothers and sisters, inasmuch as saints die—he died in the ‘90s: he knew all about legalized abortion. He saw it come to Greece. And a congressman there, in their parliament, like one of our U.S. congressmen, was pious and a believer and consulted Elder Paisios about what should be done about the abortion law. Do you think this is a pretty decent source for finding the mind of the Church about how we should respond to abortion? Go to Elder Paisios the Wonderworker? I think so. Let me read his answer to you.
Please ask the elder, the congressman said, should I make a request to congress to lift the law on abortion? What is his opinion? Whatever reply he gives you, please, he wrote, convey it to me, so that I can find out what I should do.
So the author, who was the go-between between the congressman and the elder, said, “I went to the elder, and I conveyed the question of this pious congressman, and this is what the elder said.”
I have seen, my father, that certain congressmen, even the majority, seek out a certain issue to request from congress not merely out of their piety but rather so that they may appear to suffer for the sake of what is right. And it is precisely these same people who, a few years ago, when this lawless law was passed, did nothing to resist it.
All of a sudden they’re raising their voices, and they want to suggest that they want to sanction abortion. Well, where were they when it was first being discussed?
(He said,) I am not at all at peace with the way that some face these situations. You see, those who want to pass some wicked law, they become organized beforehand and entirely prepare. They write about it; they talk about it on television. Did you not see that woman who with placards gathered others and went about into the street and yelled for this abortion law to pass? Although, out of the millions of Greek women, only 500 gathered in protest. The prime minister went out onto the balcony and said, “I am pressured by the women to move forward and to set abortion into law.”
This is how, therefore, they present the government as being allegedly forced to carry out the law, pressured by the people, when in reality this is a well-staged and organized plan.
Don’t we know it in our country? Who is better organized than Planned Parenthood?
Tell the congressman, therefore, not to make a request, because his proposal will be denied, and it will be much preferred to not present it at all rather than have it be denied. Instead, he should proceed as follows.
And here St. Paisios gives his plan.
Let him find out which other congressmen, from all the parties, who are conscientious Christians, will agree to work together, because political parties cannot separate Christians. If they are truly Christians they will be united in Christ and they will have him as the common sign by which they will unite. Since all will agree, then each congressman will go to the prefecture which they belong to and tell their bishop that they aim to make the proposal and that they are asking for his help as well.
Gosh, St. Paisios, don’t you know about the separation of Church and State? Goodness grief, St. Paisios.
Immediately, the bishops must raise awareness, and, having gathered as a hierarchical synod, they should write to the newspapers asking for the law to be lifted, which is opposed to Christian law and is also opposed to the constitution, because our constitution is vested in the name of the Holy Trinity.
Do you hear what St. Paisios is saying? He’s saying bishops and priests must right and educate morally their politicians. If we don’t do this, who’s going to help the politicians? Who’s going to help the politicians think about God and morality and what’s right? Never listen to someone, brothers and sisters, who tells you we shouldn’t be involved in politics. That is a cop-out. That is running from a moral responsibility that the Church has to enlighten the world.
Christian physicians must also together raise awareness and publish in the newspapers that abortion is murder.
Do you hear this? He’s going to go through this group and that group of Christians and that group. He already dealt with the bishops and the priests. The bishops and the priests are supposed to write. He dealt with the politicians and what they’re going to do. Now he’s going to tell the doctors what they’re going to have to do, and he’s going to go on.
They should educate women how science has established that 95% of women who have had an abortion are at a higher risk of having cancer in the uterus and in the Fallopian tubes and the ovaries and the breasts.
And then he describes why.
(He says) politicians should speak and write about the impact this has on the nation and the problem of the birth deficit.
The fact that we’re having all this contraceptive mentality and we are dying. We can’t even reproduce ourselves.
Christians have one child by force while Muslims have ten.
So when all these forces and various authoritative persons work together, then, when the day has been designated for this request to be brought before congress, the bishops and the churches will call the people together to make a protest march to repeal the law.
We as Christians do not want to violate the laws of Christ, but they also must respect the freedom of Christian citizens. From the moment the state makes a law, every Greek citizen is obligated to observe it. Otherwise, they will be punished by the state. This, however, deprives Christian physicians of their freedom. A Christian physician has the law of God and their conscience, which tells them not to commit murder, but against their will they are pressured to sin or abandon their position and lose their job.
When a state law is passed, the consequences fall on every citizen of the state, because God will chastise the entire nation.
Do you hear that, brothers and sisters? It’s not enough for us to say, “Oh, we’re not doing it.” That is not how judgment comes to a nation. We’re tolerating it, and inasmuch as we’re tolerating it, we are doing it, and we will suffer the consequences of it.
However, when there is no state law, then the allowed chastisement will be endured only by the person who sins. Unfortunately, they aren’t upset to pay 20,000 drachmas to purchase a lamb to eat on Pascha, but for an abortion, the murder of a young child, they don’t even want to pay one drachma. This is why these women wanted a law to be passed, so they can have free abortions in public hospitals. But they are ignorant of the existence of divine justice, which for our own good will not allow these things to pass without notice, but we are chastised here in order for us to repent and not to find ourselves indebted above.
Jesus wasn’t crucified because he was preaching the love of God; Jesus was crucified because he bore the light as a testimony against evil. He attacked darkness, brothers and sisters. We can’t love God if we don’t hate evil. You understand what I’m saying? May God help us, sinners that we are. May God help us to do something, to care enough to do something, and may we see a new day, a better day, when we don’t bless and give legal sanction to the murder of unborn children. May God hear us. Amen.