September 6, 2022

Homily One for the Twelfth Sunday of Matthew - Three Shocking Questions (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Homily for the Twelfth Sunday of Matthew

Three Shocking Questions

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? ... 
What do I still lack? ... 
Who then can be saved?" (Matt. 19:16-25)
Beloved brethren,

A young man, as today's Gospel reading told us, approached Christ and talked with Him. People's dialogues with Christ are always revelatory, because His energy penetrates into their existence, reveals the depths of their inner world, creates great surprise. In reality, Christ with love and tenderness enters the heart of man and creates surprises and questions.

This also happened with the young man of today's Gospel reading, who successively formulated two questions to Christ and the Disciples of Christ continued with a third question.

The first question was: "Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" (Matthew 19:16). This question includes two points of interest. The first is the goal of this young man, which is the acquisition of eternal life, and the second is the means by which he will acquire it. The young man, above all, asked to learn about the way in which he could enter eternal life, i.e. Paradise. And this is natural, because in every science priority is given to the method by which one reaches the expected result. In this question, Christ indicated the observance of God's commandments in order to attain eternal life.

The young man's second question was: "What do I still lack?" (Matt. 19:20). This is an important question, because one should not remain in a stagnant state, one cannot be relaxed in what one is doing. The path to eternal life requires a continuous movement, which means getting out of ourselves, freeing ourselves from selfishness and being on a path to the eternal that has no end. The Fathers of the Church speak of an ongoing perfection. Every stop to admire ourselves and measure the results of the race is actually a fall. In this question, Christ indicated the perfect liberation from material good things, because in such a continuous journey towards God, man must be free from addictions, he must be freed from self-love.

The third question came from the Disciples of Christ, when they saw the inability of the young man to deny material goods and follow Christ. The question of the Disciples was: "Who then can be saved?" (Matt. 19:25). That is, if for the rich who have their attention focused on material goods, on wealth, it is impossible to be saved, then who can be saved? This question is related to the opinion that prevailed at that time among the Jews, that material goods are God's blessings to people and that the rich have the special favor of God. This, of course, does not apply today.

Man in his struggle for the conquest of eternity, for the acquisition of his salvation, feels weak, powerless, incapable. This road is long, rough and dangerous, because it has many difficulties. Therefore, help is needed and for this Christ answered that this is impossible for humans, but for God everything is possible. This means that we struggle with God's Grace and the path to salvation is not our own achievement, but God's gift to those who struggle.

However, man's dialogue with Christ is creative, effective and saving. That is why we should ask Christ in prayer to have communication with Him, and because this is difficult, for various reasons, we should have a dialogue with Christ's friends, who are the Saints, the Clergy who have a relationship and communion with Christ, as well as reading Holy Scripture and the works of the Fathers of the Church.

Unfortunately, today many people and many young people do not have such spiritual quests, they are not interested in their psychic and spiritual progress, they do not dialogue with Christ and His friends. The worst thing is that the dialogues of today's people are about very low things, about details of our lives, about things of minor importance.

We must start the dialogue with Christ and His friends about our eternal future, because the answers we will receive will fill our inner world with peace and life.

As can be seen in this passage, Christ showed the young man the way to perfection. There are two degrees of perfection. One is preparatory, which is the observance of the commandments of Christ, and the other is the comprehensive love for God and for people.

The first thing that Christ said to the young man was: "Keep the commandments" (Matt. 19:17). The commandments of God are similar to the medicines that doctors administer, since just as material medicines heal the body, so the commandments heal the soul of man. Just as the doctor, when he forbids a food, does it out of love in order to preserve or restore health, so Christ gives commands to preserve or restore the health of the soul and many times of the body as well.

The second thing that Christ said to the young man was: "Sell what you have and distribute them to the poor, ... and follow me" (Matt. 19:21). That is, He urged him to detach himself from his attachment to material goods, to share them with others and to follow Christ freed from them. This category includes all the Saints, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, since each one of them made a great sacrifice in their life and offered themselves to God.

Therefore, in order to obtain eternal life, we must follow these two specific stages, that is, the observance of the commandments, by which the heart is purified, and perfect self-denial. We must begin this journey and little by little we will be ready to offer something more to Christ, when needed or when Christ and the Church ask us.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.