Homily for Sunday December 3rd 2023, Luke 18:18-30 (What must I do to inherit eternal life?)
Glory to Jesus Christ.
A ruler questions Jesus: "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" We are all
rulers in one way or another, we have our rules, our way of thinking, that we want to impose on our lives. Jesus’ goodness can even attract rulers, can even infuse grace in rulers. What a beautiful question today’s ruler asks:"Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Good teacher, I recognize in you a good ruler and am ready, in preference to my rulings to submit to your rule. I recognize in you an authority that transcends my little ruling authority and reaches out to even the ultimate end of human beings: What must I do to inherit eternal life?"
In the presence of such a beautiful manifestation of the work of grace what does Jesus do? First He brings us before the pure presence of God: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." This answer, in the original Greek text, also conveys great gratitude on the part of Jesus: “What is it you are doing by calling me good? You are calling me ‘good', because you are addressing in me that nature of mine, which is not
human, but God alone, recognizing in me the divine source from which all goodness flows." Today, let us also recognize the divine reality behind this iconostasis, the divine reality behind each icon on these walls, behind each face of saint looking at us, behind this Divine Liturgy we are celebrating. Above all we must give thanks to Jesus for leading us to encounter God in person, to encounter the good God, the God for whom all is possible, the God who transcends all human possibles.
This is what monastic life is: persons who receive the supernatural grace to open up their lives, to encounter God in person, the good God, the God who transcends all human possibles. Jesus invites us even though we are still quite blinded in our understanding even of fundamental human rules "Do not commit adultery; do not kill; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother."
Do we not think: “I know this, I know that I should not commit adultery; should not kill; should not steal; should not bear false witness; should honor my father and my mother? ' Catechism is for our continuing education, for us to better understand what evil is encompassed behind the sins of adultery, murder, stealing, bearing false witness, not honoring father and mother. Jesus invites all of us, including us monks, to continue all our life catechetical education, though it is so easy for us to say: “I know all this, I am a professed monk, I have known these commandments for years.” Today Jesus says: “Are you so sure you already know? What about if I ask you to give up all ruling, give up all rules by which you have a certain dominion over things?” Are we not the first ones ready to walk away, saying: “Even if it is in hiding, I want to keep at least a little domain over which I rule as master, a little domain that I am not ready to give, to give up for the sake of
loving the very poorest among my brethren”.
In these domains I refuse to listen to Jesus’ invitation: Follow me. Will I ever have the truthfulness to hear Jesus’ admonition: "How hard it is for those who hold on to their littlest domains to enter the kingdom of God!” . Will I ever have the truthfulness to cry out to Jesus: “Who then can be saved”? And will I ever have the audacity of Peter, the audacity to say to Jesus: "We have given up our possessions and followed you"? Am I yet open to the reality of how frail human life is, open to the essential reality that all of us will face, death, death that may come sooner than I think. Will we not all come to a decisive moment when we give up all our possessions, all our ruling, even our ruling over the smallest things? When will we start to say: “I willingly give up all dominion over things to follow you”?
What is the purpose of monastic life? Is it not that there exist some persons on earth that help one another to come to that moment, that day, when we say to Jesus: “Now, I want to surrender all my dominion over things to follow you”. We monks are also crying out to each of you, lay persons here present: “We beg you to be with us, let us help one another to come to that day of surrender of our dominion over things and follow Jesus”. But foremost it is Jesus crying out in this Divine Liturgy: “Come, say to me, 'Jesus, I truly give up all dominion over things so as to follow you'". It is Jesus crying out in this Divine Liturgy: “I re-present to you my sacrificed Body and my sacrificed Blood, I share to you, over abundantly in this present age, my willingness to sacrifice everything so as to lead
you to eternal life. Approach, therefore, with the words of the good thief on the cross: ‘Remember me, Lord, when you shall come in your Kingdom'”.
This is no easy adventure. St Paul counsels us today: “draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God, stand firm against the tactics of the
devil. Our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but with principalities, powers, world rulers of this present dark age, evil spirits in the heavens. Put on the armor of God, gird your loins with truth, clothe with loving, tender, are for the poorest of your brothers, shod your feet to proclaim the gospel of peace to all. Hold faith as a shield, take as helmet of salvation and sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, all the words in the Holy Bible.” In
summary, Jesus says today: “Come to me that I may come to you.”
Yes, come Lord Jesus, Maranatha.
Glory to Jesus Christ.