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Homily for 9/7/08 - P12 - Who is good

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matt 19:16-26 When we look around at the walls of the Church we see the many icons of the saints. In their lives they followed the teachings of Jesus Christ
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 7, 2008
      Matt 19:16-26

      When we look around at the walls of the Church we see the many icons of
      the saints. In their lives they followed the teachings of Jesus Christ
      and did many good things. These are the ones who are given to us as
      examples by the Church for our own lives. In every religion and in
      secular society, there are those who are held in esteem because they
      have lived lives that we consider to be good. When we think of such
      “good people” many names come to mind quickly – Abraham Lincoln, Martin
      Luther King, Ghandi, Mother Theresa and so on. These and others are full
      of good works and so we call them “good”.

      But then we encounter today’s Gospel wherein our Lord Jesus Christ was
      approached by a young man seeking to find the path of salvation. He
      addressed Jesus saying, “Good teacher, what must I do to have eternal
      life” and Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but
      God alone” In our Lord’s reply is a reminder of a very important truth
      for us – only God is good. The young man did not yet think of Jesus as
      the God/man, but simply as a prophet or teacher and yet, making the same
      error that we also make he called him “good”. He confused “goodness”
      with “good works”. And Jesus quickly pointed this out to him saying only
      God is good. This answer points up the basic error of the young man’s
      approach. By confusing “goodness” with “good works” he also had lost his
      way in seeking the path of salvation. He assumed that to become good and
      therefore to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, all he had to do was “good
      works”. But good works do not produce goodness, rather good works are
      the result of becoming good like God. Here we see the failing of the Law
      as a means of salvation for the Law only outlines and describes for us
      what a good person does, but does not teach us how to become good. If I
      am already good then the works of the Law will come naturally, but in
      order to become good, we must become part of the only One Who is good
      and that is God alone. In order to become like God (and therefore good)
      we must leave behind this world and all of its attachments and live
      instead in the Kingdom of Heaven. And so Jesus answered this young man’s
      question, “How do I gain eternal life” by first drawing attention to his
      error and then telling him how to become good – to give up and renounce
      all the things of this world and leaving it all behind, come and follow
      the God/man Jesus Christ who as God is the only good one. When we have
      done this then “goodness” will grow in us as we are filled with the
      grace of the Holy Spirit and are changed by that grace into the image
      and likeness of God. Then the good in our hearts will produce “good
      works” as its natural fruit – the fruit of a vine grafted into the True
      Vine and drawing upon and sharing the life of the Holy Trinity. This
      then is how we are saved, how we become truly “good” like God.

      In this we see the basic difference between the saints, who are good and
      who therefore bear the fruit of good works, on one hand and cultural or
      worldly heros who are considered by many to be “good” because they
      perform many “good works”. We know that the saints are good for they
      have been revealed to us as having left behind worldly things and
      acquiring instead the grace of the Holy Spirit and becoming therefore
      like Christ. The other “good people” can be judged only by God who sees
      not the outward works, but the condition of the heart.

      If we strive only for good works, like the youth in the Gospel, then we
      have missed the path of salvation. We have acquired only the appearance
      of goodness, rather than having become “good”. To become “good” one must
      become like God. We are not called to good works, but rather to
      perfection. If we are striving for good works but not for the perfection
      of the image and likeness of God then we are not on the path of
      salvation and we are departing from Christ rather than following Him.

      Likeness to God, that is “goodness” is the calling of mankind. Only he
      who strives to attain the Holy Spirit and communion with God can be
      perfect and can become therefore “good” The saints exhibit not primarily
      good works, but rather spiritual perfection – a wondrous surmounting of
      the sinful inclinations of the flesh. Living on Earth, they, through
      their soul, abode, after a fashion, already in the Kingdom of Heaven,
      and for this reason were able to receive from God the abundant gifts of
      grace. They became good and thus bore the good works that are the fruit
      of goodness. We are called to emulate the saints and to follow Christ.
      To follow Christ is not an easy path, for it involves suffering and even
      death on the cross, but in following Him, we leave behind all that ties
      us to this world and are instead tied to the Kingdom of Heaven.

      We come to Christ, like this young man, asking how to gain eternal life
      and he gives us the same answer that he gave this young man – “go and
      sell all that you have and give it to the poor; and come and follow me.”
      In other words, he tells us to turn away from the pleasures and honors
      of this world, to leave them behind, and to seek instead the Kingdom of
      Heaven. He, Himself, will show us the path to the Kingdom of heaven, we
      have only to follow Him, as did the saints. Then we will acquire the
      grace of the Holy Spirit living in us and that grace will transform us.
      No longer will we simply do good works, but we will ourselves become
      good like God, Who is the only good One. In this way we will join the
      choir of the saints and enter the Kingdom of Heaven as one with them all
      united together by the grace of the Holy Spirit, with Jesus Christ in
      the glory of God the Father.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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