“Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” To which Jesus responded saying, “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments” – Matthew 19:16-17.
The month of September in our lives is a very busy time, we are winding down our vacations and summer relaxed pace and are now going into high gear. School is starting, the weather is changing, students are returning to college and the pace of our lives are accelerating as Fall approaches. Even in our own parish, we are beginning our preparation for our Annual Food Festival in November, with numerous workshops and planning. As I wrote last week we began the ecclesiastical New Year on September 1, 2021 with its new liturgical cycle. It seems everything is revving up for an eventful and busy season.
The young man in our gospel lesson seems to be anxious too but in his case about inheriting eternal life by his question. However, Jesus does not correct the young man’s idea that he must do something good to receive eternal life. You see faith and good works are not opposed in the Gospel or in Orthodox teaching. The Kingdom of heaven is always a gift, but it is given to those who do something beginning with a permanent commitment of faith and followed by ongoing obedience to Christ’s teaching.
In the Letters of St. Paul, where faith and works are sometimes contrasted, “works of the law”, refer to actual stipulations of the Jewish law, such as dietary regulations, but not ethical good works which St. Paul everywhere requires. We must remember that faith and good works go together, but it is God who always provides the saving grace. We cannot save ourselves! We can only receive salvation but must receive it actively and energetically in faith, prayer and loving deeds – in a total growing Christian lifestyle.
So as we ponder this gospel lesson let us recall the words from 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, 23-24, where it says, “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be brave, be strong. Do all your work in love…The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with all of you in Christ Jesus”.