這是為何那個有錢的年輕人離開後，耶穌對門徒說說：「我實在告訴你們、財主進天國是難的。我又告訴你們，駱駝穿過針的眼，比財主進神的國還容易呢。」而你可能會說反正我們又不有錢。但你知道你擁有好的家庭和聽話的孩子，在很多事上富足，更甚於金錢的豐足。你若不能明白愛的根本是源於主耶穌，那麼這些事也終會成為自私自利，並逐漸瓦解。這就是為何門徒會問，如果連富人不能得救，這樣誰能得救呢？耶穌說得非常深奧，這對我們都很重要： 「在人這是不能的，在 神凡事都能。」耶穌要我們的生命是一種奉獻的生命。若你是敞開的，這就是一個真實的生命。若你不知道如何敞開，你就不會對你的妻子、孩子敞開，你將成為變成一個封閉而自私的人。
這是奉獻嗎？這是神至高的愛，神至高的中保(mediation)？是的。所以要明白首先要獻上自己的生命給神，如果你不這樣做，也別無它法。所以記得我們向祂獻上，是來自祂所賜的福。為了一切的事而奉獻，不只是少數的事奉獻，為了我的工作 、我的飲食、我的孩子 、我的愛情、我的親友 、為一切的事。無論是我們的軟弱或是難處，在神沒有難成的事。有人會對你說你的生命毀了，但不是這樣的，在神可成就萬事，願聖三一的神保護我們。阿們。
2014. 08. 31 馬太福音第20主日
2014.08.31 – Giving and Love – Twelfth Sunday of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew 19:16-26 At that time, a young man came up to Jesus, kneeling and saying, “Good Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you call me good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Fr. Jonah’s Sermon:
The Gospel today is very special from a psychological point of view. It says that Jesus was walking in the street, and of course he had a very great reputation among the people. But one young person went in front of Him and he knelt down in front of Him and asked, “Good teacher, what good thing do I need to do in order to attain eternal life.” Actually, it is important that in the original language of the Gospel it is the word translated as “good” is arapos, which is a very great concept in philosophy. The young man used this word twice: “good teacher,” and “good things to do.” Somebody may ask, why did he say this two times, was it a is kind of irony that this person displayed in front of all the people. There was no reason, as we will see later, to kneel down in front of Jesus Christ and to play a theater in front of Him.
But we should understand why he was playing a role in front of Him. In front of Jesus Christ, we all are judged. In front of Jesus Christ, we have to expose our real selves. And in front of the Holy Communion, because that is the real Jesus Christ, we really are judged: our intentions, our inner selves. So this person had something forcing him to prove that he is the best, that he is good. Jesus understands that this is a kind of act that the other person is playing, but not on purpose. The person felt that he could not stand in front of Jesus Christ as he really was, so he started pretending, without understanding that he was pretending.
Jesus said to him, “You call me the good one? But there is only one who is the good one.” Somebody might say that this shows Jesus did not know He was God; but of course He knew. And you will see later whether this person was really considering Jesus to be the one and only God. Jesus very gently, without causing the young man to be embarrassed, tries to bring him to see how he was, but very gently. He said to him, “If you want to have eternal life, keep the Commandments.” The young man was surprised by this answer from Jesus Christ, because he was not expecting such a simple and deep answer when he had been expecting something else.
So he asked, “Which ones?” even though he should have known the Commandments. Then Jesus told him the Commandments of God, but he said them in the opposite order. He started with don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your parents. And finally he said, “Love your brother as yourself.” Actually, this commandment was the first one; always Jesus says that the highest commandment of the Law is what? To love the Lord your God and your brother as yourself. Actually, here Jesus did not say anything about the love of God, the highest commandment, and only mentioned the lower commandment to love your brother because this wealthy man would not understand anything. The young man kneeling before him said, “All these things I have done since my childhood.” Really? And I say, really? Because for all of you, and me even more than you, in my mind at least is full of bad thoughts and adulterous thoughts and so many bad things. And St. Basil the Great said, “I have not been with a woman, but I am not a virgin.”
But this young man did not understand anything. He was like the Christians who say, “I am a good Christian. Did I kill anybody? No. Did I steal money from anybody? No. Commit adultery? (Most of the people,) No. So I’m good.” This person lives in his own world. He is looking in a big mirror and admiring himself. But Jesus very gently wanted to teach him something higher, to teach him what is the real self, and what Christianity is all about. He did not ask the young man, as I asked you, “Did you really do these things from childhood? Really? Come on, the only sinless one is Jesus Christ, right?” All of us have sins, and we continue to have them. Jesus did not humiliate the young man, but he tried to give him faith, to teach him.
Then Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect…” because the young man had said he had done all of these things and asked what was missing. Then because he wanted perfection, Jesus brought him to reality with a very great word, saying, “If you have done all of these things and you still want perfection, you should sell all your property and follow me.” He said to give it to the poor, not to give it to Him. He did not say to give them some small money, to Judas, who was keeping the money. He did not say that, He said to give it to the poor. He said, “Follow me.” He offered to make this man an apostle, which was a very great honor, because Jesus did not call only the twelve, he called this man also.
And He said to the young man, to make it easier for him to decide, in a way that he did not do for the other disciples, saying, “You will have treasure in Heaven.” The other apostles were poor people and had to almost destroy their family to follow Jesus, but he did not say anything like this to them. But what was the treasure in Heaven that Jesus Christ was referring to? It is the Holy Spirit, Grace of God, the grace to be an Apostle.
But what was this young man’s reaction? He left without saying a single word. He left full of sorrow. He did not say, “What you ask is very difficult, but I will follow you and maybe give you ten percent of my money, twenty percent, but I will follow you to learn and maybe in the future I can do something better. The theater that he was playing to himself and to others was over because, now full of sorrow, his self image of his faith was destroyed. He had told Jesus that he loved his neighbor as himself, and if he truly loved the others as himself it would be no problem to give his money to them, right? So how did he love his brothers as himself because he kept everything for himself, so he remained rich while the others did not have enough to eat.
And what about the highest Commandment, to love the God from all your heart; and God had just called this man to be an Apostle but the man preferred to stick with his money. And I understand that this man’s heart was in his pocket with his money, and he did not love anybody – just his money. And I can imagine that when he grew older, when he was married, how would he love his wife? He would just take advantage of her body because his heart is in his pocket, in his wallet, with his money. But Jesus did not really want to say to him and to all of us to destroy your family by giving away your money, because you need it to live. He did not really want this. For example, Abraham, who was a rich person but he had the honor, the highest blessing of the Holy Trinity to come to his hospitality and give him their blessing, like the icon here of the Holy Trinity. But Abraham had something and God wanted something, Abraham had the promised son, Isaac, and God promised that from this child God would build a great nation in the world. Then, one day God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. I see children here and I say to the people who have children and who know what the children mean to them. Imagine if God were to say to you to sacrifice your child, what would you do? This is a very deep thing. Kierkegaard, the philosopher wrote a lot about this thing, although he had a little bit of misunderstanding.
Anyway, Abraham said, “The Lord can give and the Lord can take away.” And he went to sacrifice his child because he love God more than anything, more than his child, more than anything, and he was ready to sacrifice when God revealed himself and said, “No, don’t do this.” He said, “Now I know that you love Me more than anything.” Abraham had real love for this child and this child was blessed; even today, we are the Israel, all the Christians are the children of God in Israel. But because Abraham loved God more than his only son we still honor him.
That love was not a contradictory love, it is a real love. For example, the love between husband and wife, if it is not based on the love of God, will gradually be dissolved. The everyday problems, the things that we have to face plus the temptations of the devil, they will dissolve this relationship. This is why two people are married in the Church, so that it is not merely human love, but it is the love of God.
And don’t think that you love your kids more than God loves them. God loves them more than you do. And if He dares to say, as He did to Abraham, “Give me your kid,” as he did first to Abraham, if God dares to ask us to love Him more than our wife or our kids or anybody else that we love, He is doing this because first God gave, as the Gospel of John says, He gave his only begotten Son for us. God first gives us His Son, without asking us; we did not ask God to become human. And there is no reason, according to philosophy there is not any reason why this crazy love of God would make him give his only child, like this kid.
We must understand that the real self is not to be closed to myself, but to be open and find myself in a relationship with God, and in relationship with others. The more we close ourselves and say that the Church is a good place to go on Sundays, but it is too much to ask me to come here more. If we don’t give our whole heart to God, then we give our whole heart to selfishness, which means death. This is the problem of all human beings, the selfishness to be close to myself, to my money, to my small family. The death is waiting and the human problems are waiting to gradually destroy these relationships if they are just self-closed relationships.
This is why the disciples when they heard this that the rich guy was leaving and Jesus Christ did not even say OK I will follow you,” he said nothing of this. Then Jesus Christ said “ How difficult is it for people who are rich or who have self confidence, how difficult it is for them to be saved, for them to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” You may say, “We are not rich,” and I know that you are not rich. But you may be rich in things other than money, in a good family or in good children. If you don’t understand that the basis of all the love is Jesus Christ, then these things will become selfish and gradually they will dissolve. This is why the apostles asked, “If the rich person who has everything cannot be save, what about us?” Then Jesus Christ says something very deep, which is important for us to remember: “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” Jesus wants us to have a life of giving. If you open, then this is the real life; if you don’t know how to open, you will not be open to your wife or to your kid, and you will become a closed and selfish person.
Why do you come to the church? Do you know why? It is as I say, [taking up the chalice], “To give of Your own gifts. We offer these gifts from your own gifts, the bread and the wine, which is also our self, the gifts of God, which are your children, your wife, your job. We offer to God the gifts of God. This offering becomes what we do in the church, with the hands of the priest. It is not just the clothes that we wear [pointing to his hat] and other dogmatic things. So this offering is the center of our lives. And God accepts this offering. Jesus was the first to offer himself. Otherwise, we would not know how to offer. He became human without anybody asking Him to do this. This is the ultimate love of God.
So the Gospel for today teaches us how to be, but all we will decide to offer ourselves to God and through God to the others, and we will open, or we will leave full of sorrow, like this rich young man, out of our lives, out of our love, out of our family or our relationships, or out of our job; and our life will be full of sorrow and defeat…because you don’t know what is giving, you don’t know that it starts with the real giving, which is the ultimate love of God, the Holy Trinity. This is the real Christianity.
And we see this in the Church. I have people that I baptized, and they have left the Church. And why do they say that they left the Church? Because they say that the Church did not give them money. And I will ask, what did you do for the Church? And actually this Church gave money. Like a stupid person I gave to those people who abandoned the Church. One is a Muslim now. And from this point of view, remember to ask yourself, what is it that you do for the Church? What do you do for God? It is not only, “Give me, give me, give me.” How are you engaged to this separation and to this life-giving God. Because, as you see, God became so humble, not only that he came as a human being. He obeys me, an unworthy human being, and He becomes the bread and the wine.
Is this giving? Is this the ultimate love and the ultimate mediation of God? Yes! So, understand, give your life, first, to God and from this love all the other loves will come, and they will be incarnate, and they will make you really happy. If you don’t do this, then there is no other way. So, remember, we offer to You, Your gifts from Your own gifts. For everything, for everything, right? Not just for a few things, for everything. For my job, for my cooking, for my kid, for my love, for my boyfriend, or for everything. And God will make the impossible things, our weakness, our hardship. Other people may say to you that your life is over; but it is not over, God can do everything. May the Holy Trinity protect all of us. Amen
Recorder: Professor Timothy Baker