SUNDAY BEFORE NATIVITY
THE GOSPEL READING
[The Genealogy of Jesus and the Virgin Birth of Christ]
The book of the Genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa, and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Sala thiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus. :
The genealogy of our Lord, always read on the Sunday before the Nativity, reminds us of two fundamental truths. First, God in the person of Jesus Christ took upon Himself our human nature and our human history when He became incarnate of the Theotokos, the Virgin Mary. Although “begotten of the Father before all ages,” as we say in the Creed, He took for Himself a human Mother and, therefore, also grandparents, great-grandparents, and other family relationships. He is truly Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” He unites in Himself history and eternity, God and man, heaven and earth. He unites past, present, and future.
The second truth we learn is that God took on human form to save us. He is named Jesus, meaning “God saves.” As the Son of God and God Himself, He has always existed and therefore has no genealogy. However, as the Son of the Virgin, He was born in time and space, and He has a human genealogy through her, even though He has no biological human father. He is a Son without a father, Who is begotten of God the Father before all ages. He becomes incarnate for our salvation.
From the beginning, the Gospel of Matthew emphasizes that this is the “genealogy of Jesus Christ.” The word Christ (Χριστός) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. “Christ” and “Messiah” both mean the “Anointed One,” that is the One who is anointed with the Holy Spirit to be Prophet, Priest, and King to His chosen people. His genealogy, therefore, locates Him in the history of humanity, particularly in the context of Jewish history, in which He was born.
The entire Old Testament – the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, including the Psalms we chant in our services – all prophesy about the coming of Christ. In this passage, Matthew especially mentions the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel (which means, God with us).” In Christ, God is “with us” not only because He is present everywhere but because He takes us, in all of our humanity, our sins (because He, as the Son of God, is without sin) upon Himself and to Himself.
Why is the genealogy presented in this Gospel reading so important? How does it speak to us today? Genealogies were very important to the Jewish people because they established their identity as the people of God. Similarly, the Church is also validated, in part, by its history, particularly its “apostolic succession.” This succession – a type of ‘genealogy’ – links our present hierarchs with the very first apostolic hierarchs. The Apostles appointed Bishops as their successors, who in turn appointed their own successors, and so on. We have these genealogical records intact, which means the Church recognizes communion and canonicity among the hierarchy.
For instance, records show that His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the 270th successor to the Apostle Andrew. This succession is also seen in spiritual ways, especially in monasticism, as there are spiritual lines from saints to elders and likewise to their spiritual children. These are not genealogies of ecclesiastical or administrative authority but rather of spiritual grace and virtue. A holy person with a particular spiritual gift called charisma (in Greek, χάρισμα) is likely to pass on that gift to spiritual children through their teachings and spiritual training. Such as, a holy person who is renowned for humility is likely to produce a spiritual child who is also humble, and so on. All of us, together as the people of Christ, belong to “one flock, one Shepherd.” All of us belong to Christ and His Church.
We read in the passage that the Theotokos was betrothed (in other words, engaged) to Joseph, but before they were married, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Joseph decided to divorce her quietly to protect her. We see in Joseph a natural human doubt, for although he might have known the prophecy that “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (Isaiah 7:14), he did not realize that the greatest prophecy of all time was being fulfilled in his own household. However, the angel of the Lord assured Joseph that the Son in the Virgin’s womb was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah.
Joseph was a pious man of faith, so he could discern that the angel spoke truly. Discernment is a spiritual sense that grows through faith, and being faithful, Joseph responded in obedience, which is the product of faith. Even though he was still free to divorce her, Joseph chose to believe and obey. Joseph represents all of us because, in our human frailty, we struggle to understand how God can be Man and how a Child can be conceived by the Holy Spirit. It is a marvel of marvels – a miracle.
Saint Athanasius of Alexandria says, “The Word was made man so that we might be made divine. He displayed himself through a body, so that we might receive knowledge of the invisible Father.” Again, as Saint Gregory the Theologian says, “The deity is made man, so that manhood may be deified.” Jesus becomes “God with us” in such a manner, that He is closer to us than we are to ourselves (in Latin, interior intimo meo). Baby Jesus was born in a cave and placed in a manger (feeding trough). In the original Greek, it was a “fatni” (φάτνη), where the food is placed for animals to eat. The Bread of Life came to be our food from the beginning, as we receive His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.
The Church, at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, affirms that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, confessed to be “in two natures, unconfusedly, immutably, indivisibly, inseparably united . . . no separated or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son.” This explicitly explains the significance of Christ’s incarnation. He is truly and fully one of us without ceasing to be God. He unites God and humanity. This is the foundation of Christianity – the bedrock of our Faith.
The genealogy of Christ shows us how God entered human history, having prepared the way before and through the birth of our forefathers. He took upon Himself our human nature and our whole human history to unite us to Himself. He is with each one of us in our humanity, our history, our families, our lives, and our struggles. He is always near and promises never to leave or forsake us. By being united to Him, we also become part of His genealogy, for He becomes our Lord, our Father, and our Brother.
Christ is born, and we are sisters and brothers with Him. The Eternal God has united Himself with us, joining Himself with our history, heritage, and humanity in His birth of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Let us now, in love and gratitude, join ourselves to Him – through prayer and love toward God and neighbor – so that we might rejoice together in the wonder of His Birth!
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11TH SUNDAY OF LUKE
THE GOSPEL READING
[Worldly Entanglements, Poor Excuses]
The Lord said this parable: “A man once gave a great banquet, and invited many; and at the time of the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for all is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I go out and see it; I pray you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I must go to examine them; I pray you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported this to his master. Then the householder in anger said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and maimed and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and there is still room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet. For many are called, but few are chosen.’”
The Kingdom of God is present with us in Christ, and the Lord invites us to communion with Him as the One who prepares and provides all good things for us. In the Parable of the Great Banquet, the Lord Jesus shows us that He calls us to eternal joy in the Kingdom, and the only thing that could keep us from enjoying that joyous banquet is our unwillingness to respond. However, God’s call for us to enter His Kingdom never ends because of His great love for us.
We read in the parable that a man gave a great banquet, that is, a feast, and invited many people. The Man in the parable is God the Father, and the Servant whom He sends to call people is God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. However, those who were first invited gave excuses and refused to come. There are three excuses. One had bought a field, representing the riches of this world. Another had bought a yoke of oxen to plow, representing the commitments of this temporal life. Yet another had married a wife, representing the relationships of this world when they become more important than our relationship with God.
There is nothing wrong with buying property or working and investing in a career —- and indeed, there is nothing wrong with marriage, which God created. God wants us to work, to be successful, and to gain knowledge and experience in life. He wants us to work to make this world a better place. The problem is not with things of commercial and family life, but that those who refused the invitation used these things as excuses to decline the invitation of God. They heard the call, but “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22) became like thorns in their hearts, and they declined the invitation because they preferred their interests, rather than communion with God.
As a result, God invited other people to come and eat with Him. Those who accepted were the ones who had humble hearts and were thankful for the privilege of being invited to such a banquet. God invited all people, but only some accepted the invitation.
In this parable, Jesus teaches us the value of humility. The Kingdom of God is prepared for the humble who put their trust in God. The poor, the lame, and the blind responded to the call, while the ones who were too busy with their concerns rejected the invitation.
Hearing and responding to the call of God and His unrelenting love results from a heart that seeks God above all things. We hear God when we want to become hearers of God. This happens when our spiritual senses (what the Church Fathers call “the eyes of the soul”) are activated. Our spiritual senses are an extension of our bodily senses: taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight. With our spiritual senses enhanced, when the grace of God comes to us, it fills our souls and bodies with spiritual joy.
To sharpen our spiritual senses, we must cultivate a calm and attentive stillness before God, which the Fathers call hesychia (in Greek, ἡσυχία), that is, quietness before God. We make time in our busy lives to be alone with God, to pray to Him quietly and with an open heart, and to be still and listen to Him. We also develop our spiritual senses by participating in the Sacraments, reading the Scriptures and spiritual books daily, almsgiving, and serving others in the love of Christ.
God continuously invites us to His Kingdom. We already begin to experience His Kingdom here and now when we respond. We experience it in our communion with Him in the Eucharist, and in the life of the Church. As the Lord Jesus teaches us, His Kingdom is already within us, and to enjoy the Kingdom is to respond to God and receive all of His blessings and gifts which He gives us. Saint Cyril of Alexandria says, “And what was the nature of the invitation? ‘Come: for behold, all things are ready.’ For God the Father has prepared in Christ for the inhabitants of the earth those gifts which are bestowed upon the world through Him, even the forgiveness of sins . . . the communion of the Holy Spirit . . . and the Kingdom of heaven.”
When Christ gloriously appears as a loving and righteous God in His Second Coming, He will judge us according to our response to His invitation. There will be surprising revelations at the Final Judgment: some whom we might not think are close to God are closer to Him than we imagine. It is a matter of each one’s heart. It is up to us if we will respond to Christ.
The seemingly honorable people were invited in the parable, but they refused. The ones who were “compelled” to come (by the urgency of the Gospel) were those who seemed to be outcasts — that is, the poor, the maimed, the blind, and the lame. Notice that God did not revoke the first invitation. The problem was with the ones who hardened their hearts.
God sees the heart, not just outward appearances. The humble people respond to God’s love. They accept the invitation and open their hearts, so they enter the Kingdom. God’s love wants all to be saved, but we need to want to be saved.
Our refusal to enter is the only thing that can keep us from the Kingdom of God. God never stops calling us, which is why we need to try and prevent the hardness of our hearts, or the desire for things in this life, from keeping us from Him. Christ says, “Many are called, but few are chosen” — and the ones who are chosen are the ones who respond to the call.
As another illustration of God’s calling to communion with Him, we remember that during this time of the year, we commemorate the Forefathers, especially Patriarch Abraham, two Sundays before Christmas. We are reminded that Abraham invited three angels — a symbolic representation of the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament — to a banquet. The scene is made immortal in the famous icon by Andrei Rublev, representing the Holy Trinity. The icon is also called the Hospitality of Abraham.
This beautiful icon reminds us that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit live eternally in communion with one another. The One God Who exists in Three Persons shares an eternal communion of love between the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Mirroring that blessed life, God desires to bring us into fellowship with Him, inviting us to His banquet. He loves us and calls us to respond to His love.
Do we respond to God in faith as Abraham did? Every day we have the opportunity to spread our hearts as a communion table so we can share in God’s banquet. We open our hearts and the ears of our souls. Everything that brings us closer to God is an invitation. The Lord says to us, come and enter My Kingdom. By putting His love first in our lives, we respond to His call without having other things become obstacles or even excuses. We cultivate humbleness and meekness so we can respond to His call. His Kingdom is within us, and we receive His eternal life when we respond.
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10TH SUNDAY OF LUKE
THE GOSPEL READING
[A Women Healed on the Sabbath]
At that time, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus taught and preached in the synagogues, that is, in the worship places of the Jewish people outside the Temple. The people of God would go to the Temple in Jerusalem on the High Holy Days (what Christians call the Major Feast Days), but it was at the local synagogues in their towns where they would worship every Sabbath. In this narrative, we see a woman with an infirmity attending worship, and it was by going to the house of worship that the sick woman met Jesus. A spiritual malady afflicted her with a physical manifestation (a deformity in her back). We see two important lessons. First, she continues to put her hope in God even after many years of struggle, so she endures suffering with patience and grace. Second, she is rewarded for her perseverance and faith when she meets Christ, who has compassion for her and heals her.
For eighteen years, the woman struggled with social degradation and physical pain. Still, she went to the place of worship every week to praise God. The fact that she was afflicted with this debilitating condition for so many years, and still worshiped at the synagogue, shows her unwavering faith and resilience. God’s love sometimes allows suffering in our lives as a means of spiritual healing as we learn to draw closer to Him in repentance and with the recognition of our complete dependence upon Him. This is what it means to be united to Christ’s sufferings. The woman went to the synagogue to worship God, and the Son of God Himself — Jesus Christ — met her there.
We notice that the woman does not say anything to Him or ask for anything -– but Christ sees her. He has compassion for her, calls her, and heals her. God the Son (the Logos, the Word of God) speaks, and it is done: “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” As He laid His hands upon her, she was immediately made straight.
The laying of His hands on her shows us a pattern by which God’s grace is given to us – we are persons created in body and soul, and the Lord unites us to Him also in body and soul. We sanctify and use our bodies to worship God by our crossing of ourselves, by our prostrations, etc. We receive God’s grace through visible signs of created things, such as: the bread and wine for Holy Communion, the water in Baptism and Agiasmos (the blessing of the waters), the oil in the Chrismation, the laying of hands for Confession (with the epitrachelion or stole) and Ordination, and the breaking of bread in the Artoklasia. This is why the woman’s physical healing is part of her entire restoration as a human being. God cares for our bodies and souls.
The woman was bent down by her sickness, similar to how sin weighs us down as a result of the Fall of Adam, setting our faces, as it were, toward the ground. Jesus, however, frees us to stand up straight, so we can set our minds on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2). He restores us as humans made in His image and likeness, so we can “lift up our hearts” to the Lord (as we hear in the Divine Liturgy).
The woman’s response is immediate as she praises God. She is moved from weakness to strength, from the ground to the heavens. Her response is one of joy and thankfulness for the God who reaches out to raise us to Him. As we pray in the Divine Liturgy, “You brought us out of nothing into being, and when we had fallen away, You raised us up again. You left nothing undone until You had led us up to heaven and granted us Your Kingdom, which is to come. For all these things, we thank You and Your only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit.”
Our lives will inevitably face pain, sorrow, and affliction. Sometimes this is a result of our failures. Sometimes it is a result of the failures of others, sickness, or many other obstacles that are part of life in a fallen world. Despite all that, like the woman, as we come to worship God with our hearts looking for His help, He frees us from the chains that bind us. He delivers us from the infirmities of the soul, from captivity to sin, and sometimes even from physical sickness.
We also see, in this Gospel, the contrast between this woman’s persevering faith and the hardened heart of the ruler of the synagogue. She praised God, whereas the ruler was indignant. He put the Law above love because he did not understand that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. For ancient Israel, God gave the Sabbath, the seventh day (what we call Saturday), as the day of rest and worship. When Christ came, He rested on Saturday and rose on the first day of the week, that is, Sunday. He renewed the very meaning of the Sabbath — not merely as a day of rest, but as a day of wholeness and rejoicing in true unity with God.
Christ presents in this passage a logical argument from lesser to greater: if we care for animals and untie them on the Sabbath so they can eat and drink, how much more does God care for us, His own children, and frees us on the Sabbath day and every day? The purpose of the Sabbath is not to avoid all activity but to use it to celebrate God’s love of us, our love of Him, and His love for all humanity. As a result of God’s love, human beings are more important than our sins, failures, and even rules. As Saint Nektarios of Aegina says, “Love should never be sacrificed for the sake of some dogmatic difference.” Christ came to show us that the most important commandment is the commandment of love.
The ruler could not rejoice or praise God because he put rules over the love of people. The woman who persevered with faith rejoiced, praising Christ, who healed her by laying hands in the power of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such, there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23). For eighteen years of suffering, the woman had kept her faith and hope, and Christ showed her that hope does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Christ teaches us never to give up. He encourages us always to persevere. He never forgets us. He was always close to the woman who suffered for eighteen years. He never forgot her. Her struggle brought her closer to God because of her faith. The Lord loves us and calls us to have faith and trust in Him. It is His Grace and our actions of faith and trust in Him that pave the way toward salvation. As He freed the woman, He sets us free. We are freed by seeking God, putting our hope in Him, and worshiping Him weekly in His Church. The Sacraments, prayer, hymns, fellowship, and faith heal us. In Christ’s Church, we encounter Christ and receive Him, Who frees us from the bondage of sin and grants us eternal life.
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13TH SUNDAY OF LUKE
THE GOSPEL READING
[The Rich Young Man]
At that time, a ruler came to Jesus and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ “ And he said, “All these I have observed from my youth.” And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. Jesus looking at him said, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
There are many things in life that we need and many things that we desire. However, we need one thing the most, and therefore one thing we seek above all: Christ Himself. To trust Him above all things is to put our entire life in that perspective. It means reordering all of our priorities in relation to Him and considering all things as relative to our relationship with God.
The story of the rich young ruler appears in the middle of two other stories which teach complete dependency upon Christ. In the preceding passage, the Lord teaches us that we should trust Him like children, in total dependence. The passage after shows how the Apostles trusted Christ and left everything for Him. In this passage, the Lord teaches the rich young ruler and us that we are to set our hearts on God above all things.
The rich young man is called a “ruler,” that is, he is a member of the Jewish religious leadership. Like his peers, he was looking to find out who this Teacher was, who was doing miracles and preaching about eternal life. He comes to Jesus and says, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” This is the most crucial question, for to inherit eternal life is the greatest human hope. He approaches Jesus out of the desire to find the way to salvation. He is a faithful young man, and his heart burns to please God, to find eternal life. Only God is good, and the rich young ruler asks Christ Himself, the Source of goodness, what one must do to inherit eternal life.
The answer is that eternal life is found by following Christ in complete dependence. This is an essential lesson for the rich young ruler because it presents him with a challenge to consider his own life differently. A child needs a provider, but the rich young ruler was utterly self-sufficient. A child relies on its parents, but he relies on his wealth and virtues. In other words, a self-reliant mindset and a supreme desire for things in this world are the conditions that make us unlike children. Consequently, this mindset can take us far from the Kingdom of God.
The Lord calls us not to worry about our life, that is, what we will eat or drink, nor about our body, that is, what we will wear, for our Father knows the things we need before we ask Him. He calls us not to worry because we can trust Him. We are to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first, and all these things shall be added to us (Matthew 6:33).
The rich young ruler also relied on his righteousness, saying he had kept the commandments of the Law of Moses since he was very young. But Jesus loved him (Mark 10:21) and said, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Jesus’ call to the young ruler gets at the root of the issue in his life and our lives. God knows us individually, and because of His love for us, He gives us the specific prescription which grants us healing so that we can be truly united with Him.
The Saints teach us to trust God and to imitate Him. For example, when counseling a rich man, Saint Kosmas Aitolos did not ask him to give alms to the poor, which would have been very easy for him, but he asked the man to fast since he had to deny himself and keep from the gourmet food readily available to him. By contrast, when counseling a poor man, Saint Kosmas did not ask him to fast, which was easy because he had little food, but to give alms out of his poverty. God always provides us with the medicine we need in His love for us as individuals.
The rich young ruler was self-sufficient, and Christ calls him to become like a child, to desire nothing but God Himself, and to trust Him fully. This is how the young man can inherit eternal life, and this is how we can inherit eternal life. Sometimes we are pleased with our accomplishments, especially with the notion that we keep the commandments and are “good Christians.” We may even think that we are entitled to salvation. However, while it is relatively easy to follow rules, they do not grant us the Kingdom of God. Childlike trust in God, complete dependence on Him, and selfless love for Him and others can bring us to His Kingdom.The rich young man desired to please God, but he also greatly desired his riches. The Lord is full of mercy, love, and compassion for him. Jesus teaches us that, although we are all struggling daily with worldly matters, we must give everything to God, including our struggles. To give everything to Him, in a sense, means to “Let go and let God.” We see many examples of this.
All the Saints gave up their lives for the love of God. Martyrs were not afraid to die rather than deny their faith in Christ. Monastics left riches, family, friends, and every worldly bond behind to dedicate themselves to the teachings of the Gospel. Holy Hierarchs and priests lived to offer the Holy Sacraments and spread the good news of a loving God for the salvation of this world. Holy women taught the Gospel with their exemplary lives. All those were human beings like the young ruler and like us. They struggled and redirected their hearts to Christ. They did not turn their back on the One who took the sins of the world upon Himself. God was their highest priority.
What kept the rich young ruler was not that he had riches. The Lord teaches us that He is the One Who provides us with all things, and our trust is in Him alone. What is our true treasure, our true love? What do we desire above all? What is our highest priority? Saint Basil the Great says, “He does not tell us to sell our goods, because they are by nature evil, for then they would not be God’s creatures; He, therefore, does not bid us cast them away as if they were bad but distribute them; nor is anyone condemned for possessing them, but for abusing them.”
The Lord says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” The image of a camel going through the eye of the needle is a simple analogy of impossibility. However, it is not the riches that create the impossibility, but the love of wealth. Apart from the love and grace of God, we cannot find eternal life. This is true whether we are rich or poor because when we love things – anything – more than the God who loves us, we live selfishly and close ourselves to Him. What is impossible with man is possible with God – because this is the will of the God who loves us and has redeemed us. To trust the Lord in all things is to have a treasure in Heaven. What is possible with God is what God desires, which is to save us and unite us with Him. He is our Father in Heaven, Who gives us all we need.
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