• Text of Gospel Reading
  • In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Christ is in our midst!
    From the very first moments of our Lord’s public earthly ministry all the way down to His last, His sermon is the same. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” In His earthly ministry Christ is constantly pointing man toward the Kingdom, and revealing to us how to get there. But His ministry should not be understood as simply telling us what to do so that we can have rewards in paradise. So that we can have all we ever wanted and big castles and be happy. His message is not centered on “pleasure.” But is centered on Man, and on our salvation. Which has as a side affect, of course, of our happiness, because with Christ we can be complete. In today’s atmosphere, sometimes the life and teachings of Christ are simplified to “accept this, believe, and go to heaven.” The Christian faith as a sort of fire insurance, keeping us out of hell for all of eternity. But what Christ offers is so much more. Christ reveals the way to the Kingdom. And the Kingdom of God is understood to be the presence of God. So Christ is preaching not how to get somewhere, but how to know someone. He tells us that the Kingdom of God is now. On the earth we are getting to know God. We are able to draw closer to God. To be healed of our sins and our passions. To be made whole. We’re able to begin to participate in the Kingdom, to enter the presence of God, even in this life. Man is created for the Kingdom. And God has come in the person of Jesus Christ to show us the way to the Kingdom.
    So in today’s Gospel reading, a rich man comes to our Lord and seemingly asks the right question—how can I have eternal life? But our Lord immediately sees problems with his question. Firstly—the rich young man calls Christ “Good Teacher.” And he does so not referring to the divinity of our Lord. But rather he only sees Christ as a good man with wise teachings. So our Lord rebukes him. No one is good but one, and that is God. He’s saying – “If you call Me good thinking I am merely one of the teachers, you’re wrong, because no man is essentially good.” Man turns easily from the good. And in comparison with the goodness of God, human goodness is counted as wickedness. The goodness of God is absolute, where human goodness is relative. God is all good and all perfect; man is good in his struggle to be god-like, but we can never reach the absolute goodness of God. Christ can only be called good in that He is God incarnate. So in answering the young man’s question, our Lord begins by trying to correct his mis-understandings inherent in the question.
    The second problem with the question—the man wants to know what he must do to enter the kingdom of heaven. As if the grace of God were something he could earn. But our Lord doesn’t rebuke this false understanding, but rather tries to show the young man the absurdity of the idea that he could do something to get into heaven. “Follow all the commandments,” the Lord tells him. This is something that no one can do. Christ just finished saying that no one is good but God. We all fail to follow the commandments of God. But this rich young man fails to receive the Lord’s mild rebuke and instead says, “I have followed all the commandments even from my youth.” But then he continues on, “what still do I lack?” Somewhere deep inside he understood that merely following the law wasn’t enough. He’s caught in the struggle—I do all I can yet still something is lacking. So Christ reveals the way of the Cross to the young man. “Give up all that you are, go outside of yourself, become what you are not, and follow Me, and then you will have rewards in heaven.” This is the way of Christ—who became what He was not in His love of man. The way of the Cross, following Christ to Golgotha in order to share in His Holy Resurrection. The young man is told not to gradually divest of his wealth, but to immediately and drastically strip himself of everything that’s not Christ. And then, when he is entirely naked, to follow Christ.
    The final problem with the young man’s question to our Lord—he asks for the kingdom of Heaven and not “how can I know God?” This is really the overarching problem, the largest of the mis-understandings the man has. Not realizing that “treasures in Heaven,” “the Kingdom of Heaven,” “salvation”—these things are from our relationship with God. They aren’t rewards. They aren’t even the goal of our struggles. The question—“what must I do to be saved?” is really even the wrong question. “What must I do to know God?”—this is the question we need answered. It’s not “are you saved”—it’s “do you know God.” We’re created for relationship. And the most important relationship in our lives is with Christ. But it’s not a relationship we have in order to be saved. If I had friends only for what I get from them, we wouldn’t call that real friendship. The same with our relationship with Christ. We love Him because He first loved us.
    So in His brief conversation with the rich young man, Christ truly reveals to us the Christian life. #1—know Who and What you believe. We can’t know the right questions, nor the right direction to go, if we don’t understand what we’re supposed to be doing and where we’re supposed to be going. #2—once we find Christ, we’re to give up everything else and follow Him. This doesn’t mean quit our jobs or live in poverty; it means we give up anything that might stand between us and our relationship with Christ. When you have the most important thing in the world, you should be willing to suffer all things to keep the most important thing. #3—It’s all about the relationship. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Our love for Christ, our relationship with Him, that is what the Christian life is all about. We love, we grow and nurture that love, we bask in the radiance of that love, and we share that love with others.
    As one of our venerable contemporary Saints, Elder Joseph the Hesychast, writes:
    “O truly sweet! For Thy love, we are crucified and endure everything!…O eros of the love of God!…Either I shall live one
    hour as Thou dost want, my dear Christ, or else may I not exist in this life.”
    Glory to Jesus Christ!