28th Sunday 



What ShalI I Do 


Inherit Eternal Life

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen

Today is the 28th Sunday after Pentecost, and being December 2nd, we
also remember the Prophet Habakuuk. The reading today is a little
different than it is usually in some years. Sometimes the readings at
the end of the year must be rearranged a little bit because the
proximity to the next Pascha, and Great Lent. The usual reading for
today is in St. Luke-s Gospel, and concerns the Great Supper. Today, we
also read from St. Luke-s Gospel, about a certain ruler who asks a very
important question. 

The scripture begins: 

?And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to
inherit eternal life?

This is a good question, as it appears, but  actually in the case of
this man, it was not a good question, because  our Lord knew his heart.
His heart was to test the Lord. St. Cyril of Jerusalem talks about this
in his homilies. He was really trying to trip Jesus up, and get him to
say something contrary to the law. 

A better question would  not really be a question at all, but a prayer,
a yearning, a desire. Our prayers are full of this quality. All the
prayers of the Saints have this quality to them v beseeching the Lord to
enlighten us, and fill us. It is not so  much -What do I have to do to
be saved-, as if there is a checklist of things, but instead, an ardent
desire to please the Lord in all things. That-s what our life should be.
So our entire existence, every breath we take, should be a PLEA to our
Lord and Savior, that He would enlighten us, to be able to do good works
for His glory and to be pleasing to Him. In doing good things, we are
becoming like Him, which is our goal, which  is the process of our life.

A question like this is really a very shallow question. The answer, 
though, is very simple, but profound. We know the answer. We follow
Christ. Where  Christ is, there is all blessedness, and we learn to be
like Him. We learn  how He thinks, and we learn to think like Him (and
by the way, the church  is His body, and the way the church thinks is
the way He thinks).  

Another aspect  of Christ that this question does not bring into account
at all is that Jesus Christ is a great healer! He is the Great
Physician. To be near Him is to be near warmth, actually to be near
fire, and to be enlightened, and to be made ABLE to do good works. It-s
not just  a matter of questioning what should I do.  It-s,  - O

Lord, help  to DO that which I should do.  

Jesus know the character  of this man, and He knows that He-s rich, and
He is first going to test him a little bit, to the end that He shows how
silly his question was. 

?And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save
one, that is, God.¦ 

This is merely a rebuke of the ruler. He is essence is saying, -Do you
KNOW Whom you are talking to? You are talking to the uncreated One. You
are talking to the God-man, Jesus Christ. Moses had to  hide in the
cleft of a rock for Me to pass by, because He could not endure my
sight., and you talk to me as if I am a common man-. Then He answers the
ruler some more, in a way that  must have seemed to the man to have been

?Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do
not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.¦

These are ?givens¦ aren-t they? He gives him the law by the way, so that
this man can have nothing to say against him.  From the beginning of
Jesus- ministry, He had enemies, mortal enemies, and they were trying to
kill Him for the entire three years, but Christ picked the time and the
place in which He  was to be executed. It was His choice when He went to
His cross, and  this was not His time yet. So, He avoids the possibility
of censure by saying to follow the commandments,  to follow the law. No
good Jew would be able to disagree with Him, but He is also making
another point here, and later on He tells the man what he really should

Following the law is  merely the bedrock upon which the virtues begin.
They are just in a fledgling state, if we can follow these things, The
really high virtues of the soul are much more profound than not
committing adultery. They are not having any thing unclean at all in our
hearts! They are much more profound than not stealing. They are to have
love for another man to such an  extent that we would be willing to die
for him, or we would be willing to prostrate and prayer with tears for
him, as so many of the holy fathers did. The Christian life is well
above these commandments. These commandments are minimums.  They are
just the beginning, and the law cannot save v becoming like Christ,
though His grace v that-s what saves. 

Now if we take the law and these commandments, and we extend them to our
life in the church, we can say, -thou knowest what thou shouldest do-:
accept the church-s teaching, accept the church-s authority in your life
(which is a big stumbling block for so many people). Come to the 
services! This seems to be a given. Come to all the services. I will say
this until I have no more breath - in today-s  climate, with it-s
incredible temptations, if you are not coming to all the services
offered, you are  endangering your soul. And I believe, and the church
teaches that it is a sin, if you are able to come to church, and you
don-t want to give due service to God. It-s a sin, and you are cheating
yourself. You struggle  with your passions; that-s another given. You
keep the fasts. This is just  the beginning of virtue now, just the
foundation.  We say our prayers  in the morning and the evening. I have
counseled everybody, I think that, to pray together, if you are husband
and wife, to pray together at night. I t is absolutely critical to do
so.  Read holy things together as a family  with your children or with
each other, and say prayers together at night to edify one-another.
Confess frequently , commune frequently, prepare yourself for the body
and blood with fear and trembling . Now, that-s all the beginning. 

The rich ruler was too overconfident in his own virtue, and said: 

?All these have I kept from my youth up.¦

In his case, he didn-t know Who he was talking to., He didn-t know that
the God-man could see right through him.  He didn-t keep all these
commandments from his youth up! Which one of us, would say, even among
the small list mentioned here (and remember, there are many more), that
we have never participated in even one of them? No man lives and sins


So this man is full of pride and vanity, and cannot see himself. He just
sees externally. I never committed  adultery, I have not stolen, I have
not killed anybody. I-m a pretty good person. I-m a good Jew. He is not
even close, because he has missed the essence of the law. I tell you, it
was there, albeit in  shadows and darkness, it was there even before
Christ. Many of the Saints in  Old Testament times became exalted in
virtue. Joseph the All-Comely, David, the prophet and King, Elias. It
was still possible for a man, even then, before the full light of Christ
had shone, to understand the depth  of the law, that is was much more
than just a few commandments. But now  more so we have the writings of
the fathers, the beautiful services, we have the whole witness of this 
incredible choir of Saints for the past two thousand years v even more
so for us, we  should know that just keeping a few commandments  is not
the Christian life. 

?Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou
one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and
thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. ?

As is usual in the Gospel, there is more than one meaning here. 
Externally, Christ  knows that the man is rich, and is speaking to his
particular vice, his greed. The internal meaning here, that  we must
grasp, is that the real Christian-s life is EVERYTHING. God said -Give
me your heart-. He want all of us. Christianity is not  some list of
rules that we should follow, that we should check off, that limits our
responsibility, as if we only have to do so much. Even if the rules are
lofty, we may erringly thing we only have to do so much., That is why I
have never told anyone that we should tithe, that  you must give ten
percent. I don-t think ten percent is enough! According to the early
church it isn-t. There is no percentage of  your funds that you should
necessarily allocate to the church v it-s all God-s money. 

Christianity is higher than mere laws. It is life. Christianity is the
breathing of the Holy Spirit, and Christ is showing to this  man the
TOTALITY of the Christian commitment. ?Thou shalt love the LORD thy God
with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.¦
Completely live in and imbibe the sweetness of Christ every moment of
your life. And if you are doing that, you wouldn-t be asking a question
like -what should I do to be saved-. You would be too busy struggling
against your passions, saying Lord have mercy on me!, feeling compassion
for your  brethren, weeping over the predicaments of someone else, and
asking God to help that person, even if, perchance, it would mean your
own damnation. You would be too busy with those things. The church  has
already told us what we need to do to be saved. We need to be everything
in Christ. We need to become perfect. 

?And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall
they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier
for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter
into the kingdom of God.¦ 

A camel, in this context, is a thick cable, as used on a ship,  and the
eye of a needle is  a part of something on the ship that the camel must
be threaded through. This is very difficult to do, but it is not
impossible for the rich to be saved. Christ isn-t saying this. What
about St. Philaret the merciful (we just read about him yesterday). He
was very rich, and  yet, his face shone like the sun when he reposed.
The prophet David was rich, the Patriarch Abraham was rich, incalculably
rich, the Tsar Martyr Nicholas - many saints have been very rich. It-s
not money that damns a man. Here, our Lord is not only exposing the
weakness of the ruler, but also comparing rich to being distracted.
Being rich in money, but  poor in virtue and the knowledge of the Holy
is what He is railing against here.  We must be rich toward God.
Remember the parable of the harvest of the rich man? He was not rich
towards God, and his soul was taken from him, and he was forgotten and

?And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The
things which are impossible with men are possible with God.¦

It-s difficult to be saved, and we ask this question sometimes. I-ve
asked it, and I daresay, everyone in this room has asked this question -
?How can I be saved?¦. Sometimes we ask because of humility, although
also with lack of faith, and one should never ask this question without
warm faith in the mercy of God. We ask the question of ourselves, how
can I stop doing these things that I am having so much trouble with. God
help me! I can-t stop! God will help you though.  You just need to
increase your faith, and God will bring you through the storm. 

Other times, we ask this question, not because of a religious  reason,
but because we want to keep doing those things we want to do.  And we
ask the question, wanting to hold onto our sins. Well, the answer is
easy. Stop doing what you are doing. Stop sinning. Give up these sins.
The rich ruler did not want to give up his sins, so he went away
sorrowful, very sorrowful. He encountered the God-man, and he missed
Him, he lost Him. 

God help us to be truly rich in Christ, and to know the answer to the
question in our  hearts v not like something we can write on a piece of
paper, as in an exam, but to know the answer to the question - what
should I do to inherit eternal life. It-s easy, very easy.  Take the
yoke of the sweet Savior upon yourself, and live  for Him,. And in him,
and He will help you. 



 ?Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke¦, St. Cyril, Patriarch of

This, and other Orthodox materials are available in booklet and
electronic form from: 

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas, Texas

Mailing Address	2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75070

Rectory Phone	972/529-2754

Email 	seraphim@orthodox.net

Web Page	http://www.orthodox.net

This particular text may be found at:


All rights reserved. Please use this material in any way that is
edifying to your soul, and copy it for personal use if you so desire. We
ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any
way. We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only,
including this paragraph and the contact information above, to any
electronic mailing list.

 This homily was transcribed from one given On December 2nd,  1996
according to the church calendar, being the Twenty Eighth Sunday after
Pentecost, and commemoration of the conception of the Prophet Habbakuk.

There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several
footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a
colloquial, ?spoken¦ style. 

It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the
reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as
attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the
soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the
preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such
circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read
on a page. 

 Luke 18:18

 Luke 18:19

 Cf. Ex. 33:22-33, ?And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth
by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee
with my hand while I pass by:  And I will take away mine hand, and thou
shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.¦. These word
were spoken to Moses when he was on Mount Sinai.

 Luke 18:19-20

 Luke 18:21

 Cf. Eccl. 7:20

 Luke 18:22

 Cf. Proverbs 23:26

 Deuteronomy 6:5

 Luke :18:23-26

 Cf. Luke 12:16-20 This passage is read on the 26th Sunday after

 Luke 18:27-28

What ShalI Do to Inherit Eternal Life

The Twenty Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

Page   PAGE  7