IN THOSE DAYS, someone came to Jesus and said, “Good Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? There is only One Who is good – God. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Jesus, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother. Also, love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “I have kept all of them from my youth, what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you that it is be hard for a rich person 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 person to enter the Kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “For people it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
In last week's Epistle reading reflection I touched upon the place of the Old Testament Law in our life as Christians. One error some Christians fall into is to assume that since the Old Testament is "old," then it has no place in the New Testament, because it's "new." This is not the case, however, as you can see from a series of articles I mentioned at the end of last week's Epistle reading reflection. I do urge to go through those articles. They are short, concise, straight to the point, and do not require a theological degree to understand.
In the Gospel lesson for the coming Sunday, we again have the mention of the Law. This time by Jesus Christ, and the relevance of the Law is only reinforced for us. A certain young rich man was striving for the eternal life (if we are not, then we need to readjust our life; just follow Christ's advice in the above Gospel excerpt). The young man approached Jesus and asked, "What good deed must I do to have eternal life?" His problem was that he was ahead of his time.
If he lived today, this question would've made perfect sense. If nothing else, we always try to find the maximum shortcuts to get to a desired destination. Sometimes it may feel like a good strategy, but the point of a job or a journey is not always to arrive to the destination. Taking time to enjoy and learn from the process can be just as valuable. Our journey to eternal life is no different. It's a process and we need to take as much out of this process as we can. There is no cutting corners here.
In fact, to say that our journey is to the eternal life, as I said above, is already to miss the point. This life is not a precursor for eternity, it is already part of the eternal life. This present life, as temporal as it may be, is the beginning of the eternal journey. Very often, the outcome of the journey depends on how you begin it.
But I digress. So, the young man wanted a shortcut "one deed -> eternal life." Christ's response can be paraphrased as follows, "You know the deal. You are a Jew - keep the commandments." The commandments were originally given to Israel, but through Christ all of His followers become inheritors of God's promise to the Jews. And what was that promise? "You shall observe My statutes and faithfully keep My ordinances, and you will live in the land in safety" (Leviticus 25:18). "Give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you" (Deuteronomy 4:1).
God spoke these words to Israel as they were still on the journey to the promised land, after escaping the slavery of Egypt. The promised land was a specific piece of land that Israel was to occupy. The promised land also has been understood as that place where all the righteous will inhering. That is, the eternal life.
Therefore, what do we need to do to have eternal life? Keep the commandments. Yes, they were given to Israel, but they were given by Christ, since He is our Savior, then the same commandments apply to us today. Now, these commandments are not limited to ten. God did not give the Ten Commandments to Moses, He gave him the Law. And these commandments do not apply to Christians in the same way they applied to the Jews. After all, we do not circumcise or offer animal sacrifices.
The Law has been transformed by Christ in parts. It still applies to Christians. And the best way (I would say, the only way) to know how the Law applies to our life today is to live a life according to the Gospel of Christ. A life in the Church, which does not mean "I go to church on Sundays." Church on Sundays is just the beginning of the journey, and the outcome of the journey depends on how you begin it.
For last year's reflection, click here.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest