Monday, August 28, 2017

Met Georges Khodr: If You Want to Be Perfect

Arabic original here.

If You Want to Be Perfect

The rich young man who came to Jesus started to speak saying, "Good teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus does not want this man to call Him "good teacher" because He realized that the young man who was speaking to Him thought that Jesus was merely human and not divine, so he was flattering Him by calling Him "good", just as we address each other with titles so that everyone will accept us and we can benefit from people's kindness. Jesus rejects every form of affectation and excessive flattery and so He answers the young man, "If you want to enter the kingdom, then keep the commandments." The commandments are obedience to God and through obedience man enters the kingdom.

Then we hear the man say to the Lord, "All this I have kept from my youth, so what do I still lack?" We understand from this that the man is advanced in spiritual life and perfect in his morals, as it appears. Despite his holding fast to the law, he was able to ask the Teacher, "What am I still missing?", as though he felt that there was something beyond the Law of Moses or loftier than it. Then the Lord answered him with a strange word, "If you want to be perfect, then go sell everything you have and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven and come, follow Me." The question confronting us today is, are we called to leave our homes and go about homeless in the streets in order to follow the Teacher? What do these words of Jesus mean for us today?

"If you want to be perfect, sell everything you have and come, follow Me." There is wealth that hinders people from following Christ, that is a barrier between people and Christ. Great wealth may be a burden and a seductive temptation such that people perish in it. When we treat the issue of marriage, the man sometimes complains about his wife, "She has everything, what does she want?" The man thinks that his life-partner is content with money, that she is assured by money, and that money solves everything. This isn't true. No matter how much it is piled up, money doesn't give mercy and compassion and it often reduces mercy, compassion and friendship. Naturally, there are people among us who think that they can buy the world and sell it with their money. This isn't true, even at the level of business. Business is first of all a personal relationship and is based first of all on mutual good treatment.

Then we hear the Lord say in a powerful and quiet way, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." The camel is a camel and the eye of a needle is an eye of a needle, as we know. It is as though the Lord made the kingdom of God impossible for rich people! Indeed, He says that piled-up wealth is contrary to justice and justice requires the distribution of the wealth of the rich to those who do not possess anything and that food not be wasted when thousands of people do not have enough to eat.

The rich person is not only the one who possesses a lot of money. The Arabic word for "rich" [ghani] means "someone who does not need" [yastaghni]. The rich person is one who does not need God, who replaces God with money, beauty, intelligence, culture, influence, authority, glory... If a person becomes attached to any of these things, they prevent him from entering the kingdom. The kingdom of God is entered by the humble who need their Lord and consider Him to be everything.

If we strip ourselves of the love of money, of every pretense, and of attachment to any visible thing, if we strip ourselves of all this, we find ourselves empty of everything and ready to receive God into our hearts. When we need God's presence in us and have empties ourselves of everything apart from Him, at that point we become perfect in Him. "The nations know that the Lord sanctifies us and perfects us" (Ezekiel 37:28). Then we attain God's perfection.

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