Friday, September 9, 2011

Met. Ephrem on the Rich Young Man

The Arabic original can be found here. This sermon was originally given on September 4, 2011 in Rashayya el-Wadi.

As you can sense, I am very happy to be with you and I hope I will be even more so. We have a secret key through which we connect to the whole world, especially to those we love, and this key is prayer. This prayer that gathers us together today, it is not only human prayer and this joy is not human joy. It is heavenly joy. We in the Orthodox Church celebrate—especially on every Sunday—what we call “the Mystical Wedding.” This is because of our faith that this liturgical gathering transcends time and space and that a Christian person ascends in his thought and his heart toward what is beyond this world. This is part of God’s bounteous grace.

To return to the passage from the Gospel and to connect it to this prologue, the Gospel talks about this rich young man, who comes to the Lord Jesus through the crowd. He is a young person like the young people of today. Earnest, intelligent young people today search for truth, for sincerity, because in this world we see a lot of artificial, untruthful things. The new generation today searches for something true and sincere. This young man comes and asks Jesus, “What must I do in order to inherit eternal life?” This young man was Jewish, and the Jews, according to their law, searched for eternal life and said that it could be acquired through good deeds. But what is the meaning of eternal life? Eternal life is life that transcends death and transcends this earthly life.

You know how attached we are to this life. All of us are attached to this life. Why? Psychologists say that it is because of the fear of death that we cling to it and enjoy it. We cling to our wealth as if it will last forever. We cling to our pleasures as if they were true joy. But at root man strives for eternal life, and this is deep in the conscience of everyone. Man feels as though he will live forever, but illness comes and death comes and they strike him.

This young man comes with this spontaneous question and the Lord says to him, “Do you know the commandments? Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not bear false witness. Honor your father and your mother…” And the young man responds, “I have done all these things.” And perhaps most of us do them. But the young man is not satisfied with the law, with these commandments. It is not enough for him. He wants something more that will satisfy his thirst and give him a better life. So the Lord Jesus says to him, “If you want to become perfect—if you are searching for this life that lasts forever-- sell everything, distribute it to the poor, and come follow me.”

But how can a person strip himself of all his wealth? How can a person strip himself of all his lusts? This is something that is difficult for every one of us. Man is attached to this material life and this is what is destroying the world today. They have wars and fight for material goods, but we Christians are not satisfied with this worldly life. We want more. This is why the Lord Jesus came, but this more costs us much…

“If you want to be perfect, sell everything, distribute it to the poor, and come follow me.” This does not mean that we no longer work, that we no longer earn money, that we no longer get married, that we no longer acquire a home, etc. It means that every Christian, every person who looks beyond, must constantly try to not be attached to his possessions, to not be a prisoner of his possessions. At that point he becomes free and tastes this divine grace. We believe that if we want to rise up and rejoice, we must empty ourselves. The person who does not strip himself of his selfishness will not taste eternal life. This is why we ask the Lord to give us this Orthodox point of view, so that we can have unending life. Amen.

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