November 9 – Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week after Pentecost (8th of Luke) Luke 13:1-9
Deliver Us From Evil: Luke 13:1-9, especially vss. 3, 5: “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Christ our God is discussing the news events of the day, after some who have come to hear Him report that some residents of Galilee were killed for provoking the Roman occupation forces (vs. 1). They are wondering whether these deaths are actually a punishment from God (vs. 2), a speculation that our Lord flatly rejects (vs. 3). In His answer, the Lord also mentions those who died accidentally when the tower of Siloam collapsed. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time (vs. 4), and thus were not being punished by God.
The Lord Jesus uses these two events to admonish his listeners, then and now, to remember the brevity of human life. The business of every men should thus be repentance (vs. 5). To this admonition He adds a parable further emphasizing our need to turn to God constantly for mercy (vss. 6-9).
His teaching unfolds in several steps. First, He acknowledges the evil in the world. He reminds us that evil, without warning, can bring sudden death. Then He notes that death also occurs as a result of social conditions and by mishap. Finally, the Lord prompts us to “complete the remaining time of our life in peace and repentance,” as we pray during the Divine Liturgy, in recognition of the uncertainty of human life.
Note how the Lord Jesus discourages speculative theology – the effort to discern the outcome of events, the hour of one’s death, or other matters which God has not revealed. Such inquiries are the pastime of fools. The prophets and Church Fathers stand by this point.
The Prophet Job reaches a dead end in speculation, and realizes the uselessness of conjecture: “For who is he that hides counsel from You? Who keeps back his words and thinks to hide them from You? Who will tell me what I knew not, things too great and wonderful, which I did not know? . . . I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You” (Job 42:3, 5). Job is converted when God reveals Himself.
The presumption that we can ferret out God’s thoughts is blasphemous. “‘For My counsels are not as your counsels, neither are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘But as the heaven is distant from the earth, so is My way distant from your ways, and your thoughts from My mind’” (Is 55:8-9).
As Job confesses, as God shows to Isaiah, and as the Lord Jesus teaches, all speculation is futile. “Let the ungodly man abandon his ways, and the lawless man his counsels; and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; for He shall forgive your sins abundantly” (Is 55:7). Saint Gregory the Theologian says succinctly, “The divine nature cannot be apprehended by human reason” (“Second Theological Oration,” NPNF Second Series, vol. 7, p. 293).
The Christian Faith is not philosophy, but rather communion with God. There is much of the mind of God that has been disclosed to us: faith, hope, and love, right and wrong, what is worthy of death, what fulfills us during this present life, and how everyone will be judged before the Lord concerning eternal life and destiny.
God enables us to respond to Him, urging us to take the path of repentance and salvation. “He is . . . the husbandman of our souls, who pruneth away constantly whatever is to our hurt ,” says Cyril of Alexandria, “so we may bring forth for Him fruits” (Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Luke, p. 389). Let us give up second-guessing God’s will and heed our Savior when He tells us to take up repentance as a way of life, so that we may receive God’s mercy.
Deliver us from the evil thoughts of our hearts, O Lord, through the cleansing tears of repentance, that we may perfectly love Thee and worthily magnify Thy holy name. – Episcopal Book of Common Prayer