UOC and UOL: Dedicated to Our Youth

OrthoAnalyika Shownotes: 15 August 2010

Homily: 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11; St. Matthew 19: 16-26

Today I would like to offer three observations that help us draw out the meaning of Christ’s words; “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (St. Matthew 19: 24).

1. First, this man was what we would call a “good man”. There is no doubt that he was recognized for his piety and admired for his success. After all, we read that he was good to his family and his community; he did not lie, steal, or murder; and he was pure and chaste. How many of us can claim never to have lied, never to have stolen, never to have murdered [at least through anger/hatred], and never to have sullied ourselves with the shame of sex outside marriage [to include pornography]. So when we hear this story correctly, putting ourselves in the place of the “villain”, we have to recognize that we do not live up even to his poor example. God points out the inadequacy of this man’s life – do you really think he will give us a pass on the way we live our lives? We may qualify as “good” in our own eyes or in the eyes of our community, but we cannot fool God. He sees our hearts, and while He loves us, He will not lie for us. There is no grade inflation with God; “not good enough” means just that; “not good enough”. If the rich young man’s life didn’t make the cut – what makes you think ours will?

2. Which brings me to the second observation; “not good enough” for what? The question that the man asks is “what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”; but that isn’t quite the question the Son of God answers. Just look at how Jesus frames His response: He didn’t say “if you want to go to heaven [do these things]”; He said; “if you want to enter life.” This simple response helps us to understand something about how the world works that I am not sure is generally understood or appreciated. Only God is eternal. Only the real love and truth that are In Him are eternal. Nothing else can last because nothing else can possess the property necessary to endure. “Moth and rust” destroy everything else (St. Matthew 6:19).

We were created in the image and likeness of God, born to grow in love and truth [through grace] so that we can become one with the perfection that is God’s by nature. This will not happen automatically – our world is so full of disease and distractions that we give up our birthright as children of God in favor of the inheritance offered by this fallen world. Instead of becoming perfect in love and truth through union with God; we become perfect in sin and disease through union with this world. And as St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans (6:23a); “the wages of sin is death”. We cannot truly live unless we live in the perfection that is in God. And because our attraction to sin is so strong, we cannot experience this perfection except through a life lived within the God-man Jesus Christ. We have to give up everything – all the things that tie us to this sinful world – and follow Him. This is what Christ told the man in our Gospel lesson two thousand years ago, and this is what He is telling you right now.

3. What is it that is keeping you out of the “Kingdom of God”? Whatever it is, it will not just keep you from passing through the “eye of the needle” into eternal life, it is keeping you from entering into the peace and joy that God created you to enjoy right now (St. Luke 17:20)! What is it that you have decided that you enjoy more than this? Is it your big house? Your comfortable retirement? Your addiction to sex, pornography, alcohol, narcotics, stuff, or who knows what? Your ideology or personal opinions about how the world should work? Your lack of faith? If you will not trust Christ, then please trust me [His unworthy servant] – NONE OF THESE are more enjoyable than the Kingdom of God. But in order to enter into that Kingdom, in order to shake off death and enter into life, in order to learn how to love something other than yourself and the fallen distractions of this world, you must become perfect. And this grade is not computed with a curve. You cannot pass on your own any more than the virtuous rich young man could. But know this: “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible”. Repent of your sins; give up your attachments to this world; and enter into perfection through Jesus Christ.

Without Christ, even your Orthodoxy is only as good as the rich young man’s deeds; with Him, Christianity is the impossible made possible… and the Sure Path to eternal joy.


Interview: Talk with Kira Senedak, co-director of the Mommy and Me, Daddy and Me encampment at All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Camp.


Vol’ya Moment: A Reflection on the 2010 UOL Convention Theme, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

A Word to Our Youth

This year’s convention was really special – and many of our spiritual leaders offered up words of wisdom on the theme. Most of them revolved around the relief that our youth are not departing from from the way that they should go. My observation is not so sanguine: I fear for you, our youth, precisely because I fear that you will follow the way we have shown you.

What is it that I – and my entire generation of “adults” have taught you about “the way [you] should go”? Have we demonstrated the Christian Way of forgiveness? Of humility? Of self-sacrifice? Personally, I have seen very little of these things in my life or in the lives of other adults. No. Instead of teaching you the way of salvation through Christ and His Cross, we have taught you the way we actually prefer, the way the devil prefers, the way that comes naturally to all of us in this fallen world: we have taught you through our words and deeds the ways of Complacency, Hedonism, and Pride. To cite just a few examples,

It was the complacency of the adults you admire that led to the radioactive devastation of Chernobyl.

It was our hedonism and faith in our ability to manipulate nature and the economy to satisfy our own selfish and artificial desires that brought about the economic meltdown that has strapped you with crippling debt and has ravished our environment in places like the Gulf of Mexico.

It was our pride that has decimated so many of our parishes, turning them from thriving centers of worship to ethnic cemetery clubs; [it was our pride] that, despite 100 years service in this country, has left you without thriving monasteries or a real sense of what it means to be an Orthodox sojourner in a fallen world.

To be quite blunt, I have failed you. I – and the entire generation of adults that go before you – have let you down. If you follow in the way we have set for you, then the inheritance you leave for your children will be even worse than the one we leave for you. But this need not be your future.

Our hierarchs are fond of saying that you are not the FUTURE of our Church: that you are the PRESENT of our Church. They are right. So do what we could not. Do not see this as an opportunity to simply replace your ideas and will for ours. Rather:

Teach me humility and self-sacrifice. Give up the things you love – to include your sense of entitlement and self-righteousness – in service of Christ and His people.

Teach me how to serve and lead others to the glory of God rather than than the glory of yourself and your pride.

Most of all, teach me, through your constant witness, the blessings, strength, and unity that come from completely dedicating every aspect of your life to Christ our Lord.

Yes, you ARE the Church. Do what I failed to do. Teach me – by the way you yourself walk – the way in which I should go, so that as I grow old, I will not depart from it.