The Search for Self.

Homily 276 – 12th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
August 27, 2017

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

In the account of the Rich Young Ruler, we should all probably see ourselves.

And we should all probably be concerned about our fate as we hear the words of our Savior.

We hear Jesus say that “it will be hard for someone who is rich to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

And, by any stretch of the imagination, we are all quite rich. We have places to live and clothes and food. Most of us have distractions galore.

Television, radio, internet, music, games.

These are signs of wealth. Ultimately, they are revealed the same way as the wealth of the rich young ruler.

They are things that create a choice between them, and God.

What Jesus asked of the young ruler was to choose between wealth and salvation. The ruler chose wealth.

And that is the same thing that Jesus asks of us. Perhaps it is not wealth that we are attached to. Perhaps our attachment is to our entertainment, our diversion. Movies, sports, video games, news, politics.

We choose them instead of following Christ.

St. Paul writes to the Philippians – whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Think about Christ, nothing less.

Don’t get me wrong – Jesus didn’t say that having wealth – that holding wealth – was a problem.

Rather, he said that our attachment to wealth – our enslavement to our possessions – is what keeps us from being saved.

Perhaps we don’t want salvation. What is salvation, anyway?

Salvation may be different for each of us in the way it manifests itself. But ultimately, salvation is our fulfillment, our completion, as persons.

Many of us speak of holes in our lives. We have a sense that we are somehow missing something.

We aren’t happy, much less joyful. We are constantly wanting something – never satisfied, never content.

Never peaceful.

And for me, that is what salvation is. Peacefulness.

In the 1960’s people used to run away from technology and modern life and try to – quote – find themselves.

They had the right idea, but were looking in the wrong place.

I’m reminded of the story of the Tower of Babel. The people wanted to build something that would fulfill them – that would reach God, reach heaven.

We may be attempting similar feats today. We are trying, as humanity, to make our world better – higher – to reach fulfillment and reach peace and contentment.

To find ourselves. To find Heaven.

We may believe the only thing wrong is to allow some to reach those heights and not others. Income inequality is a problem – no doubt.  Freedom and equality are problems – no doubt.

But it isn’t the problem. The problem is that we try, as humanity, to pursue the heights, to pursue heaven, without God.

Business isn’t the problem. Science isn’t the problem. Social Justice isn’t the problem. All of these things are symptoms, not the disease.

The problem – the root of our discomfort in every instance – is the rejection of God. Our rejection of God.

We reject God in the pursuit of business, the pursuit of science, the pursuit of Social Justice.

We think we can achieve it on our own. And we can’t.

That is the cause of frustration. That is the cause of discontent. That is the cause of burnout.

We are expecting ourselves to accomplish that which we are not equipped to accomplish on our own.

Jesus says it plainly: By human resources, salvation – the building of our tower – is impossible. But with God all things are possible.

God is the source of our contentment. Our joy.

But God also will not force us to follow him. He will not compel us. He will only love and encourage.

Jesus didn’t run after the Rich Ruler, or try to convince him to make a different choice. Or change the expectations of him. Nor will he do that to us.

We have to freely choose to reject the distractions and follow Christ.

In my own life, that choice is made every day – every moment. And I confess, sometimes I make a poor choice.

But the mercy of God is boundless, and he has already forgiven us for those failures.

All we need do is turn around – that is, repent – and follow Him again.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.