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September 7, 2022

Homily Two for the Twelfth Sunday of Matthew - Eternal Life (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)


 Homily for the Twelfth Sunday of Matthew

Eternal Life

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

A young man, as today's Gospel reading told us, approached Christ and asked him what he must do to obtain eternal life. Christ initially pointed out to him the observance of the commandments, which He Himself gave to Moses, and then urged him to sell his existing possessions and give the money he will collect to the poor and thus acquire treasures in heaven. This is because, as He said, it is very difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.

Reading this text carefully, one notices that eternal life is closely connected with heaven and the Kingdom of God. Eternal life is not simply the end of biological life and the life of the created world, heaven is not the atmosphere surrounding the earth or space, and the Kingdom of God is not some created reality, but life with God, the vision of and the participation in the Light of God. I have underlined in one of the previous sermons that the Kingdom of God is the glory of God, His Light, and this Light is called heaven. Participating in this Light is called eternal life, since there will be no end.

The Apostle Paul writes to the Christians of Corinth that if our earthly house, that is, our body, is destroyed, then we have a building from God, an eternal house not made by hands in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:1). The eternal house in the heavens is not made by hands, in other words, it has not been built by human hands, but it is the glory of God. This spiritual meaning can be seen in another passage of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, in which he writes that he endures all things for the sake of God's elect "so that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus in eternal glory" (2 Tim. 2:10). In this passage, salvation in Christ is closely connected with eternal glory.

The Apostle Peter, the other Foremost Apostle, teaches the same. In his Second Catholic Epistle he exhorts Christians to show greater zeal and to make their calling and election certain, because then they will never sin. In this way they will be richly granted "entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:11).

Thus, eternal life, heaven, the Kingdom of God, eternal glory are identical concepts and basically identical realities. The rich young man asked Christ to show him the way to enter this life. But, unfortunately, he could not free himself from the shackles of wealth and in general the pull exerted by the present life with its charms and challenges. Thus, he refused to obey Christ and accept the way to inherit eternal goods.

This means that we too can have great goals, high expectations, great desires in order to fulfill the purpose for which we have been created, so that from the "in the image" we reach the "according to the likeness", but this is not enough, instead we must accept the ways that Christ indicates. We should free ourselves from dependence and enslavement to created things and above all to the passions. Creation is a gift from God, but at the same time it is also a deception of the devil. After all, the devil through creation, through the eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, deceived the Forefathers and they lost the life of Paradise.

If we have such high desires that are natural, because they correspond to the purpose of our existence, we should apply the commandments of Christ, as taught by our Orthodox Church.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.