Homily of Fr. James Hademenos Sunday September 4, 2011 at Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church San Angelo, Texas
In today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:16-26) we heard of a young man that came to our Lord and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Our Lord responded that he must keep the commandments. The young man replied that he had kept the commandments. The Lord then replied that if he wanted to be perfect that he needed to sell all that he had and follow the Lord. The young man departed sorrowful because he had many possessions.
When the young man was gone our Lord said to His disciples that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of needle then for a rich a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The disciples then asked who then can be saved. The Lord responded “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”
There are two questions in this Gospel lesson that concern all of us. They are: what must I do to be saved and who can be saved.
Within the Gospel, we see that there are two levels of salvation. The first level of salvation is simply to inherit eternal life. The second level of salvation is that of perfection. We know of these two levels of salvation of eternal life from the scripture. Our Lord said “In my Father’s house are many mansions”. Thus in the kingdom of heaven we are not all equal. Just as there are ranks of angels, there are ranks of those that inherit eternal life. First in this ranking is the queen of heaven the Most Hoy Mother of God, she is followed by the apostles, then the saints, then the righteous and then those that are simply saved. Saint Paul further confirms this ranking when he says to the Corinthians “Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world?”
In today’s Gospel our Lord tells us that the first requirement for entry into the kingdom of heaven is to keep the commandments or more properly to keep the Law of God. We see our Lord tell this young man that he must keep commandments from the Law of Moses. He does this to remind us first and foremost that “Think not that I came to destroy the law, or the prophets: I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” The second thing that He reminds us of in quoting these commandments to the young man is that entry into the kingdom of heaven is as simple as the Holy Prophet King David said in the Psalms “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”
All too often when we look at the commandments of God we look at them as simple requirements. What we fail to see in them, when we look at them in this manner is the deeper spiritual meaning that is attached to them. Thus, we become like the Pharisee who justified himself before God saying “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” Failing to see the deeper spiritual meaning of these commandments our Lord then confronts the young man with the higher standard of perfection in order to see the deeper spiritual meaning of the commandments when he says “go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”
Wealth in of itself is not evil. The evil is created by ones bondage to riches and lands and possessions. We can see that many of the righteous from scripture were rich but were bound more firmly to their faith in God then their riches. Abraham thought of himself as dust and ashes among his riches.
Job’s wealth did not stop him from being humble before God and obedient to Him. Boaz, King David’s great grandfather, was rich but pleasing to God in his benevolence. Joseph of Arimathea was rich but his wealth did not impede his devotion to the Lord.
We see the answer to the second question “who then can be saved” in these righteous men because they were not bound in their hearts to Earthly riches but to God. So we see through these men what our Lord meant when he said “without me you can do nothing.” The apostle Paul further confirms this when he said to the Philippians “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
We can see, therefore, that our salvation rests on our relationship with our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ because as he said “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”