‘If you Want to Enter Life, Keep the Commandments’

‘If you Want to Enter Life, Keep the Commandments’


Hierodeacon Rafael Misiaoulis, Theologian


The rich young man in today’s Gospel reading seems to have metaphysical concerns and considerable spiritual interests. His young heart burned for the sublime, the eternal, the things to come. He approached the Lord with zeal and with a genuine willingness to learn. A desire and flame had awakened within him which forced him to approach Christ and ask Him the following question: ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ The Lord replies: ‘Why do you call me good, since you consider me to be a normal person? No-one’s completely good except God alone’.

Thereafter Jesus reminds the young man of the commandments of the Law of Moses: don’t commit adultery, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, honor your father and mother. Observance of the Lord’s commandments is a basic and necessary requirement for our salvation. We aren’t saved merely by believing. We also need to perform works. We should remember the words of the Lord: ‘Those who have my commandments and keep them are the ones who really love me’ (Jn. 18, 21); and in the Wisdom of Sirach: ‘nothing is sweeter than to observe the Lord’s commands’ (23, 27). The divine commandments are a unified whole and the one depends on the other. Non-observance of one betrays a sinful disposition which will reveal itself, in the wrong circumstances, in the transgression against another, or others. And also in the contempt and disdain for the divine Law-Giver Himself.

‘Teacher, I’ve kept these commandments since I was a child’. ‘Then’, says the Lord, ‘you’re lacking only one thing. Sell all you have and, since you desire eternal life, divide the proceeds among the poor and come and follow me’. As soon as he heard this, the young man became dejected, despondent and saddened. The reason was that he was very rich. He couldn’t break through the wall of his wealth. ‘He grew fat, he became thick and broad: then he forsook the God that made him, and departed from God his Savior’ (Deut. 32, 15). Then he realized how difficult it was to give yourself over completely to God.

When Christ saw the young man departing so disappointed, He said: ‘How difficult it is for those who have money to enter into the Kingdom of God. It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God’. When the people heard this they asked: ‘Well, in that case, who can be saved?’ Christ answered that what’s beyond our own limited, human powers is achievable and possible by the Grace of God.

It’s not enough that you don’t steal, you don’t kill. You need something more: to love. This is what Christ invited the rich young man to do, but he didn’t have the strength to do so. It’s only people who love who achieve the unachievable. Where love flourishes, Grace comes.

Our life is full of examples such as that of today’s rich young man. We’ve all known examples of wealthy people who worship and venerate their possessions as if they were god. And then, suddenly, they lose everything and they’re out on the streets. We recognize this dire situation when we sing in Church the ancient verse from the Psalms (33, 11): ‘The rich have been made poor and hungry, but those who seek the Lord shall not lack anything that is good’.

Christ is blunt with the rich man in the Gospel reading today. Not to insult him, nor to punish him, but to help him, to show him his inadequate spiritual state. But the Gospel narrative also reveals something very important to us, too: the manner in which we should strive spiritually. Christ tells us quite plainly, that any dependence on money is idolatry which manipulates us, subjugates us and, in the end, controls us completely. The young man in today’s Gospel loses eternal life. He preferred his wealth and loved his money more. May our own choice be different. May we use the perishable to purchase the imperishable, the transient the eternal, and through the proper use of money, may we enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.

Source: pemptousia.com




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OCN has partnered with Pemptousia. A Contemporary post-modern man does not understand what man is.  Through its presence in the internet world, Pemptousia, with its spirit of respect for beauty that characterizes it, wishes to contribute to the presentation of a better meaning of life for man, to the search for the ontological dimension of man, and to the awareness of the unfathomable mystery of man who is always in Christ in the process of becoming, of man who is in the image of divine beauty. And the beauty of man springs from the beauty of the Triune God. In the end, “beauty will save the world”.

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Pemptousia Partnership

Pemptousia and OCN have entered a strategic partnership to bring Orthodoxy Worldwide. Greek philosophers from Ionia considered held that there were four elements or essences (ousies) in nature: earth, water, fire and air. Aristotle added ether to this foursome, which would make it the fifth (pempto) essence, pemptousia, or quintessence. The incarnation of God the Word found fertile ground in man’s proclivity to beauty, to goodness, to truth and to the eternal. Orthodoxy has not functioned as some religion or sect. It was not the movement of the human spirit towards God but the revelation of the true God, Jesus Christ, to man. A basic precept of Orthodoxy is that of the person ­– the personhood of God and of man. Orthodoxy is not a religious philosophy or way of thinking but revelation and life standing on the foundations of divine experience; it is the transcendence of the created and the intimacy of the Uncreated. Orthodox theology is drawn to genuine beauty; it is the theology of the One “fairer than the sons of men”. So in "Pemptousia", we just want to declare this "fifth essence", the divine beaut in our life. Please note, not all Pemptousia articles have bylines. If the author is known, he or she is listed in the article above.