Luke 8: 5-15
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16)
These are hard words indeed, and hardly pleasant to our ears which are so used to soft and neutral words, words that feed our self love and pride. However, these words come directly from the Holy Scripture. They are there for us to read, in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation, the prophecy of St. John the Theologian. We know this apostle as the apostle of love. In his gospels and epistles he appears as soft-spoken and condescending.
When God speaks, He does so in a thundering and clear voice. There is not surplus of words. In condemning the lukewarm, God repeats the syntagma “hot and cold” many times, in order to deepen the abyss between them, and that there may be no middle ground between these two. This is the measure according to which we will be judged and He leaves us no doubt as to that. God wants us to confess our faith, be determined and deeply rooted in it. He does not want us to be lukewarm, shallow and two-spirited. “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me, scatters abroad.” (Matthew 12:30)
“I know your works,” says the Lord. He is not referring to our empty talk. Let us not doubt for a moment: God sees the depths of our souls and our most hidden thoughts. He will not judge us according to what we say about ourselves, what we boast about for all to hear. He knows our works and He will judge us according to them. Let it not be as in the Book of Daniel: “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” (Daniel 5:27) It would therefore be good for each one of us to reflect on ourselves and our works, and to do so honestly. If, after that, there is time to mind others’ business, then so be it.
We saw in Gospel reading that only every fourth seed bears fruit. If only every fourth person amongst us would indeed bear fruit! This evangelical story hits us point blank with its sharpness. Most of us are not rooted very deeply into our faith. With the first gust of wind, with the first rainfall, we are uprooted and blown away from our midst.
Many of us believe that the Church is a salon, a place where pleasantries are exchanged, a place of milk and honey. However, the Church is made up of people, with their passions and their weaknesses. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) The Church has been racked by conflict ever since its beginning. Even today there is no peace in the Church, nor will there be any until the day of Judgment. And what sort of a Church would this be, anyway, if the arch-enemy of mankind, the devil, left it alone? The Church has always been the scene and the battleground of the forces of heaven and Hades.
Each Christian is a soldier who must choose which side he will fight on. And each Christian has been called to place himself in the service of good. If he deserts, or if he retreats and chooses peace, this means that he has taken the side of the enemy. God is angered by such people and it is to them that he is directing those words that we heard at the beginning.
Those who are reluctant, who sit on the fence, who are covert – they are the ones who anger God the most. “I could wish you were cold or hot,” He says. Then I would know where you stand and whose side you are not, and who is your adversary. Since the beginning of the Church, its worst enemies have always been those from the inside, the greedy wolves, as Christ calls them, dressed in sheep’s clothing. It is for this reason that He left us an infallible criterion for recognizing them: “By their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:16)
We are told that in order to resist, we must become deeply rooted. “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24)
The holy apostles always gave strength and courage to their fellow Christians, knowing full well all the temptations that follow a confession of faith. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain with the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” (1 Corinthians 16:13) Why would the apostle give encouragement to Christians if there had been no struggles? “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution,” (2 Timothy 3:12) are the words of St. Paul to his disciple Timothy. St. Paul goes on to emphasize that evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:13)
Knowing all this, let us not be confused and alarmed. All that happens with and within the Church, both here and everywhere, it is all normal. This is a military, battling and suffering Church. Peace is in heaven, among the angels, peace and tranquility.
In order to reach that peace and tranquility, we first must pass through the tempests and storms of this world and come out of them with sores and wounds. Each one of us here, as “good soldiers of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (2 Timothy 2:3) must become deeply rooted in our faith in order to give a good harvest when the time comes, “in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel.” (Philippians 1:27)