What is Your Addiction?
Sermon preached by Fr. Nicholas Manikas on Sunday, August 23, 2015
Many people perhaps including us have wondered how nice it would be if we won the lottery, especially the big one. How wonderful it would be to be rich! We all like to read those stories in the newspaper or hear the news on the television about these lucky people winning the lottery tickets and becoming overnight millionaires. Those human interest stories are very appealing because we want to be part of that if we could. The question often asked by correspondents and news reporters is, "What are you going to do with that money?"
In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus often asked that same question in a different way. He asked that of the rich man that we heard about in today's Gospel, but now the tables are turned. Jesus is more concerned about giving the riches away. The advice that Jesus gave to the rich man was to give it to the poor if he really wanted to follow Him. For Christ, success was not a matter of one's portfolio or the money in one's bank account, but rather whether one was a good person, a good woman or a good man. Did you care for others? Jesus was more concerned about whether or not we had helped our brother or our sister; whether we had gone to a prison to visit an inmate. How often it is that we had gone to a hospital to visit someone who was ill? When was the last time that we had extended a helping hand to kids, perhaps orphans, perhaps widows as well?
Jesus often spoke about the dramatic reversal that was going to happen in Heaven. Those who were rich are going to be walking in rags, and those that were in rags will be sitting with Abraham at the head table. The demands that Jesus our Lord placed on those who wanted to follow Him were rather drastic. Yes, they were serious demands! It takes courage to give up one's addiction to riches or one's addiction to anything: power, glory, alcohol, drugs, gambling, whatever the addiction is, it is hard to give it up! That is why Jesus said today, "it is more difficult for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle." Pretty serious words! The rich man that we heard about in today's Gospel came to Him seeking eternal life. Knowing what his addiction was, Jesus said to him, "if you want to follow me, if you want eternal life, sell all that you have and give to the poor and needy."
Now, that was an invitation to a specific person with a specific problem. Jesus is not laying that heavy command on all of us. He is not talking to you and me and telling us to go home, pack up everything, and give it away! He is talking to a specific person with a specific addition. He was not condemning all possessions. He was trying to help a young man who was obsessed. He had an obsession and needed healing. Jesus knows what it's all, and so he says, "go, sell everything, and give the money to the poor."
Now, my friends, the question for us here at 8 Inman Street in Central Square is this. What is your addiction? What is the one thing that keeps you from coming close to God? What vice or fault is keeping you away? Is it some dark part of your life that you have a tough time thinking about giving to God, confessing, giving it up? Is it some love that is above the love for Christ? Is it our pride? Is it our arrogance? Is it some person perhaps even in our own family that we refuse to forgive? Is that our addiction? Jesus says today "give it up!" Give it to God! Seek God's forgiveness and you will have happiness and fulfillment in this life and the next.
Albert Einstein had this to say: "The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from his weaknesses." Henry Ward Beecher said, "It is not what we take up, but what we give up that makes us rich."
The rich man in today's Gospel refused Christ's challenge. He heard it, turned around, and then went home. He didn't take the challenge; he was not willing to take the risk. He decided to remain in the familiar surrounding of his own obsession. The tragedy of that story is that he never found the happiness and the fulfillment that he wanted neither in this life nor the next.
In closing, I ask myself and I ask also of you: what is your addiction? What is my addiction? Are we willing to give up that addiction? Are we willing to give it up to find the happiness that we really want, the happiness that we can only find from Jesus our Lord Himself? My brothers and sisters, we would do well to think about some of these things.