(Matthew 19: 16-26)
“What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (verse 16). This question was addressed to Jesus by the rich Jew in today’s Gospel reading. To receive eternal life is a key issue that everyone should be concerned with, especially since our earthly life is short. Our life will continue forever in our future homeland. As the Apostle Paul writes: “here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Hebrews 13:14). How then will we obtain eternal life? What answer did the Lord give to this vital question? "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments...and come follow Me" (verses 17 & 21).
Usually, when people hear that we have to apply God’s commandments in our own lives, they feel unsettled. Is it even possible in our days to apply the commandments of God? But if it were not possible, would God give them to us? Would God, who is a loving Father and full of such love and wisdom, force His children to do things they cannot do? What reasonable father gives rules to his children which are impossible to obey? The Evangelist John confirms this from his personal experience: “God’s commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). The Lord has said it also: “My burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). Besides, the Lord does not leave us alone in this endeavor. In every difficulty, He comes with His divine Grace and strengthens us. So when something is difficult or impossible for people, we can see that “with God all things are possible” (verse 26).
We must understand that God gave the commandments to humanity for our sake, as any affectionate father does when they instruct their child. It is for the child’s benefit that a father does this, not for any personal interest. Whether we keep the commandments of God or not, it does not affect God’s divine essence. He does not gain or lose anything by our obedience. It is His children who are affected by obeying or disobeying God’s command. We could say that the commandments of God are like “Instructions to Mariners.” As it is known, at any moment there are worldwide instructions issued to seafarers, who are informed of the weather conditions in the oceans of the earth, in order for them to take their measures and regulate the course of their ships. This is the role of God’s commands in the course of our own “ship,” which opens up in the ocean of life. They guide us how to safely get to our final harbor.
Yet the Lord, in answering the rich Jew who was following the commandments, added this: "And come follow me." It is not enough to just obey the commandments of God. If we are cut off from Christ and His Church, we will not be able to keep the commandments in order to reach the harbor of the Kingdom of God. As we heard today, when the disciples asked Jesus ”Who then can be saved?” He answered: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (verse 25-26). The Lord had also said to His disciples: “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
My dear brothers and sisters, these promptings of the Lord are interrelated: “keep the commandments” and “come follow Me.” You cannot say that you believe in Christ and follow Him if you do not keep His commandments! The Evangelist John clearly writes: “He who says ‘I know Christ,’ and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not with him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are with Him” (1 John 2:4-5). With all the means offered to us by our Church, let us struggle to follow the steps of Christ in obedience to His will. Then we can be sure that His love will give us a happy eternal life with Him. Amen.