Imagine that you have a long-lost uncle who is wildly successful as a coffee merchant. You know almost nothing about this uncle, until he dies, and his lawyers contact you and invite you to a reading of his will. In his will, you find out that he has left you his entire coffee empire, which is worth tens of millions of dollars! There is a catch however! You cannot receive the inheritance unless you can honestly claim that you LOVE coffee. The lawyers are going to give you a lie detector test where you must say out loud: “I love coffee. Coffee is delicious, and I deeply enjoy drinking it” without setting off the lie detector test, which voids the entire thing.
The problem is that you hate coffee! From the very first time your parents gave you a sip of it as a young child up until this very moment! The lawyer continues the reading of the will which says, “If you cannot proclaim that you love coffee today, you may return in exactly one year and take the lie detector test again.”
You have one year to learn to love coffee in order to receive this incredible inheritance that will change your life. How do you go about doing it?
1.) We would start by drinking a small amount of coffee every single day. When I started to drink coffee, Matushka had to pour 10 teaspoons of flavored creamer and dump in half a bottle of Hershey syrup for me to swallow it. Eventually, I decreased the amount of sugar and creamer slowly, to where today, people who see me drink coffee would say that I now put in the “normal amount”.
2.) We would begin to learn all there is to know about coffee! Where is it grown? Who grows it? What kinds of coffee are there? There are coffees from all over the world. We would learn about iced coffees, French pressed, pour overs, etc.
3.) We would surround ourselves with people who love coffee, because that makes it easier to begin to like and tolerate something. We would go to cafes and coffee shops, talking to people about why they like coffee and what kinds of coffee do they prefer.
All these things and more would help us to develop a tolerance for something that we did not like. Eventually, we get to a begrudging appreciation, a few moments of pleasure here and there, and then towards the end, a real deep appreciation for the drink that is going to change our lives forever.
I heard this image on “The Arena” podcast by Fr. Josiah Trenham last week, and could not wait to share it with all of you today, especially when we consider the Gospel account that was just read for us. A young man approaches Jesus and asks Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life.” Our Lord responds by telling this man to keep the commandments, to which he responds: “I have done all these things from my youth. What do I still lack?
Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” Our Lord reminds us in the Gospel today how much are treasures and possessions keep us from the perfection that is found in the building up of virtues. So, he tells the Rich young man, and all of us living in the wealthiest country in the world, “sell all that you have, give to the poor, and come follow me.”
It is said that when St. Anthony the Great heard this incredible text, his heart was pierced to such an extent that he immediately walked out of the Church, sold everything he had, settled his affairs, and went immediately into the desert to follow after Christ. As an incredible of an example as that is, I wonder how many God-fearing Christians that have heard this Gospel Lesson read to them year after year, have followed suit? Who among us today is read to go home today, list our homes to sell them, clear out our bank accounts, and enter into a monastery? If we are honest with ourselves, we often leave these Gospel lessons in the same manner as the rich young ruler…a little bit dejected because this is too bitter of a pill for us to swallow.
How many other bitter medicines does our Lord offer us throughout the Gospels?
Jesus says love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you. Why would I want to begin to love someone who has caused me pain?
Our Lord and the Apostles constantly talked about prayer, calling us even to “pray without ceasing”. How am I supposed to do that with all of the other things I have going on in my life? Father wants me to come to Liturgy on a Wednesday evening and Thursday morning this week for a feast day? Is he crazy? Does he know what I have going on?
Our Lord, and through Him His Church tells us to fast from meat and dairy at certain times during the year. Jesus obviously never lived next to my neighbor who likes to slow cook ribs outside on Good Friday!
How do we learn to love the Christian Life dear ones, especially the things that our Lord teaches us that we simply do not want to hear?
Just as we started with small cups of coffee every single day, so it is a good practice to start small in the Christian life. Have we never had a regular prayer rule? Offer up one prayer in the morning and in the evening. Have we never read scripture? Read one chapter of the Gospels every single day. Do we not offer up 10% of our income for the Church and the poor? Tithe a percent of everything received to the Church, and another percent to a favorite charity…increasing by 1% every single year. Start small and stick with it.
Just as we learned all there was to know about coffee through study, so too should we study our Holy Orthodox Faith! When we want to learn to embrace something of great value, our desire should be to study and learn as much as we can about it! Most parishes offer educational courses and studies, and with the increased popularity of “Zoom”, there are changes to learn from classes all around the country! Find one and dedicate yourself to it!
Finally, we surround ourselves with people who love the Church just as much as we do. When we go to Church and leave immediately after the Dismissal, we do ourselves a tremendous disservice by not talking to one another afterwards. Always plan on staying after to have coffee and a small breakfast with one another! Learn about who others in the community are and what they are about. How did they find their way to the Church? How are they managing in their journey towards Christ? We have an incredible opportunity to do that in the parish community we are in, where there are no cliques or agendas…just people who are all trying to draw near towards Christ. This is an incredible gift…let us not waste it dear ones!
We just began the new Liturgical Year on September 1st. Like the example of the coffee inheritance, what will we do with this New Year that God has granted each one of us…these precious days that have been given to us for Metanoia (Repentance)? May God Grant us all the Wisdom to begin this year by increasing our Love for Him through the teachings that He preached to a world, that was destined for an inheritance that goes beyond imagination.