With Christ as Our Foundation

A Homily on the Thirteenth Sunday of Pentecost

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In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

Today is the thirteenth Sunday of Pentecost, and on this day during the Divine Liturgy we read the Savior’s wonderful parable about the wicked vinedressers (Mt. 21:33-42), well-known to Church people, but not only. Even those who have read this very vivid narrative only once will undoubtedly remember it. The Lord speaks of those sons of the house of Israel who did not accept the prophets sent to them, and in the same way did not receive the Son of God sent to them. The image of the vinedressers represents the people who rejected their prophets.

The owner of the vineyard repeatedly sent to the vinedressers for the harvest, but they, wanting to keep the grapes for themselves, beat some, others they maimed, and others they stoned. Then the owner sent his son, but upon seeing him, they said: “He is the heir! Let’s kill him, and everything will be ours!” And the parable ends with these remarkable words: The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.

The stone that the builders, that is, ancient Israel, rejected, as they rejected the prophets before, is the Savior Himself, slain, lifted up upon the Cross, but made the cornerstone. What is a cornerstone? Vladimir Ivanovich Dal, who compiled a famous dictionary, has some remarkable words about this: A cornerstone is the main stone, laid at the base of the foundation, in the corner from which the foundation begins to be built. The building begins with the cornerstone, and if it is laid incorrectly or an unsuitable place is chosen for it, then the entire foundation will be weak. Modern people perhaps don’t know that for the majority of history, foundations were not poured from concrete but were made of stones, so the image of the cornerstone was clear to all. It should be clear to us, people of the twenty-first century.

And what is the meaning of this parable? It is about how Christ must become the cornerstone for each of us and for serious construction in general—whether it be the construction of a people’s life, the life of a state, or international relations. Even those who don’t accept Christ to the fullest extent should lay those great ideas that Christ brought to people as the cornerstone of their lives and activities.

Unfortunately, the various sorts of temptations that exist in life—temptations of authority, strength, power, money—create the illusion that something else can be laid as the cornerstone of career growth or a political platform, for example, science—objective analysis. By decision of the Holy Synod, since 2015, this Sunday has been dedicated to prayer for the suffering creation. It is, if you like, a Church conservation day. But unlike many other conservationists, we are speaking about the most important thing.

You heard today a wonderful prayer that says that the root cause of the destruction of nature is human sin, namely egotism and the desire to take as much as possible for yourself, regardless of the consequences. But in exactly the same way, our life is destroyed if we place some other stone at the basis of it. It may seem to us that everything is arranged rationally, on the basis of our knowledge: “After all, we graduated from college, we are modern people, we understand everything perfectly well. Yes, there is the faith, somewhere in the realm of folklore, but we know how to build our own lives!” But if you build it without God, then nothing will work out—neither in your personal, nor familial, nor social, state, or planetary life. It would seem to be easy to gather all the heads of states and governments and adopt some clear rules on what you can and cannot do, so as to save the world. But it doesn’t work out because the wrong cornerstone was chosen, because at the foundation is human sins, which destroy both personal and social, and even planetary life.

Today’s Gospel reading teaches us very much. And if someone truly believes in God—not on the level of folklore, not out of habit, but rationally—then he should very seriously receive what he heard and make Christ, His commandments, and His laws the cornerstone of his life. Of course, everyone sins, everyone deviates from them; but the main thing is to place this stone. After all, the walls of a building may be imperfect, but if the foundation is laid correctly, it will withstand even an earthquake. It is the same in our lives: While laying the right foundation, we don’t always build the house correctly, sometimes yielding to various types of temptations and allurements. But if the foundation is laid correctly, then in the end, everything will fall into place, because the Lord abides with those who build their lives upon the foundation of His Word, His commandments. May the Lord help us all to hear the wonderful words of this Gospel parable and never forget that the building will be strong and will endure the trials of the times only when Christ Himself is at the foundation.

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