Friday, January 20, 2017


According to the Gospel, the baptism of John was "the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins."  The Baptist himself declared that One mightier than himself--even Jesus Christ our Lord, the eternal Son of God--would come into the world in order to fulfill the mission he himself had begun.  "I indeed have baptized you with water," says the Forerunner, "but He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

This is the Baptism of the Church, by which we the Faithful have been enlightened, having become partakers of the Divine Nature and citizens of the New Jerusalem above.  The gift of the Holy Spirit given at Baptism is the source of sanctification and holiness for all those who believe God's promise and who strive by His grace to fulfill His holy commandments.

It is a spiritual law, nevertheless, that it is impossible to serve God and Mammon at one and the same time.  Nor can one straddle the fence between a worldly and passionate way of life and a life of total devotion to God and that heavenly Kingdom revealed in and through our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ.  Sooner or later, a critical moment arrives for every soul when a choice must be made.  Such a moment arrives for the ruler in today's Gospel when he asks Jesus, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" 

Our Lord first states the obvious: if you would inherit eternal life, keep My commandments.  And when the ruler professes that he has done so since his youth, Jesus takes it a step further, and tells him: if you desire to be perfect, sell all your possessions, distribute the proceeds to the poor... and come follow Me. For this reason, the rich young ruler was sorrowful: because his heart was set upon earthly treasures, rather than those heavenly treasures we receive so abundantly when the Holy Spirit--the "Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life"--enters into our heart.

According to St. Seraphim of Sarov, the entire aim and purpose of the Christian life is to acquire the Holy Spirit of God, in the same way that a worldly merchant acquires his  wealth--by trading.  The means by which this heavenly wealth may be gained differs from one person to another.  The martyrs trade their own blood, receiving in return eternal glory in the Age to Come.  Others acquire this Gift through ascetic self-denial, almsgiving, hospitality, selfless service to the sick and needy, or through sacrificing one's own comfort and self-centered desires in order to bear and to raise pious and God fearing children.

The means differ, but the goal is one and the same: to be transformed and enlightened by the grace we received at Baptism as a deposit, and to multiply how ever many talents God has entrusted to us by living a life of sacrificial love, that we may proclaim with St. Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ in me."  Otherwise we shall surely be condemned like that unfaithful servant who dared to bury in the ground his single talent, thereby being cast out into that "outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

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