St Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
161 N. Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086
26th Sunday After Pentecost

What Must I Do To Inherit Eternal Life?

Luke 18:18-27

In today’s holy gospel, a man comes up to our Lord and asks, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ This is a good and an important question! ‘What must we do to inherit eternal life?’

In answer to this question, our Lord reviews the commandments of God… Thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, etc. And the rich ruler responded that he had kept all these things from his youth. We can see from the scrupulous care which he gave to following the commandments of God, and from the question which he asks of Christ, that this man is a good and pious man… desirous of the kingdom of heaven.

When Jesus heard his reply, He responded: ‘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.’

Christ, the Great Physician, knew precisely the medicine needed for this particular soul.

Asking him to give away his material wealth cut straight to the heart of the particular passion that weighed this man down. And it was too much for him… the Gospel says he went away sorrowful for he had great possessions.

What a tragic scene… for here was a man who clearly desired the things of God and yet he could not make that complete surrender, that death that was necessary to bring him to resurrection.

And Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, acknowledged how difficult it is to give up that which binds us, that to which we cling - in this man’s case, his great wealth. Christ said: ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’

The same may be said for any of those passions which may have us in its grip. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a judgmental person to enter the kingdom of God. Or for a lustful person, or for a selfish person, or for whatever passion possesses us and would cause us to turn away sad because we feel we can’t give it up.

Those who heard Christ’s statement then asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ …to which Christ replied: ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’

And so, you see… even though this rich man goes away sad, he is not condemned. There is still tremendous hope being offered by Christ. What is impossible with man is possible with God.

And Christ says the same thing to each one of us.

Let us ask ourselves… What particular passion of ours might Christ pinpoint if we were in this Gospel scene? What sin of ours binds us and prevents us from following Christ as we should?

Perhaps it is laziness, perhaps it is the love of comfort, perhaps it is sensual sins, or pride, or gossiping, or something else. Each of us have one or more particular sins that anchor and weigh us down in our spiritual life. We need to identify, acknowledge, and work to root out our particular ‘anchors’ – those sins that might cause us to walk away sorrowful from the Lord’s invitation to follow Him.

And, as the hopeful words of Christ indicate, there is no sin which cannot be forgiven if we turn to God with a repentant heart. And there is no sin which is mightier than the strength and grace and will of God. Let us not be deceived into thinking that our particular sins are insurmountable… this is a lie - and if we allow ourselves to think this way it only demonstrates our lack of trust in God. Christ has trampled down death and all sin… it is now up to us to unite ourselves to Him and thereby unite ourselves to His victory over all evil.

Overcoming those sins and those things which anchor us to the earth is difficult, but we must always remember Christ’s words: ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’ The process of our salvation is a process of cooperation between ourselves and God. We must do the work of setting our priorities – and what can take precedence above God? We must do the work of raising up our mind, warming up our heart, and taming our will and passions. We must give nothing less than 100%... and yet, even this is not sufficient. For with man it is impossible, only with God are all things are possible. While setting ourselves to the task of our salvation with strength and determination, we must always place our trust and our hope in God and in God alone. It is by His grace and by His mercy that we may be saved.

It is this synergy of our effort and God’s grace which sets in motion our healing and purification.

Let us love and trust in God enough to respond to His call to follow Him, forsaking anything which would enslave us and cause us to walk away sorrowful. Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is nothing which the world might offer us which will satisfy our ultimate longing. Do not be deceived! For all that we truly seek and hope for will only be fulfilled in God, Who is the Source of all goodness and peace and joy and love.

May that peace of Christ, which surpasses all understanding, be with you and guard and guide you in all things.

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