Fr. Athanasios Mitilinaios of blessed memory (+2006) delivered this homily “TODAY’S YOUTH AND ASPIRATIONS” on November 27, 1994 at the Holy Monastery Komneniou in Larisa, Greece, where he was Abbot. The homily was delivered in a free manner and recorded live. Most of the scriptural quotations are not direct quotations.

“TODAY’S YOUTH AND ASPIRATIONS” - a homily by Fr. Athanasios Mitilinaios

Thirteenth Sunday of Luke (Luke 18:18-27), Homily Β308

fr athanasios mitilinaios
Blessed Fr. Athanasios Mitilinaios

The account of the rich young man, my beloved, who approached the Lord seeking what he must do to gain eternal life, is truly very moving for us. Although the question, what must I do to inherit eternal life? is an enormous topic, it seems that the Lord’s reply is very mundane. What did He tell him? “Keep the commandments.” Very simple. Keep the commandments. Perhaps the young man thought there was some great, extraordinary, unknown law, and for this reason asked: “Which ones?” (Mat 19:18) And the Lord listed for him the laws from the decalogue which were very familiar to everyone.

It is the same today, my beloved, they dismiss the Ten Commandments because they are very familiar. It is a peculiarity of man to disdain something he already knows. Always. Is it something said in a homily? the commandments? the Divine Liturgy? They feel a need to set aside what they learned, disdain it. Why? “Eh, we know these things; we’ve heard them a thousand times.” This is because the person does not always see the same thing as if it were the first time! This is an enormous subject.

This is not only the case with spiritual things, but also with our nature. We like to go all around, to the mountains, to the forest, to the sea, always. We also want to see new people. How many times do we get bored being with the same person every day, whether our spouse, children or friends. They get boring. We are always interested in something new.

Eh, we know these things.” We do not see with new eyes. We should sense that we are seeing something for the first time. Where is this ability found? Within us. Only within us. It is the same with the Ten Commandments. “Eh, I know them.” What did the young man say? “I have kept them from my youth.” Yes, he kept the commandments from the time he was a small child. However, had he truly been keeping the commandments all his life, there would have been no need for him to ask the Lord which commandments to keep, because he would have known that the commandments are the road, the way, the conduct whereby we reach eternal life.

Boredom of the commandments is the mistake of this young man, his failure. “The commandments?” “Yes, my good young man, there are things which never get old – the commandments of Christ. They are timeless. They are always the same, yet always new.” It is the same with the New Testament, reading about the person of Jesus Christ. “Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8), the Apostle Paul says. The Ten Commandments must be lived, not just known.

Yet there is also something that surpasses the commandments, and this is what the young man was after. The Lord told him: “One thing you lack.” “What is it, Sir?” “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow Me.Where does the emphasis fall in this sentence? Not on the wealth, not on “distribute to the poor”. Where, then, does the emphasis fall? on come follow Me”. The estate of the rich young man was, quite simply, an obstacle, therefore it was necessary for him to leave the heart of it, in order to follow Christ

What is this “come follow Me”? It is a dedication; something that goes beyond keeping the commandments. It is no longer “what will I keep”, but “who must I become.” I repeat. It is no longer “what will I keep.” If the commandments are kept, they are not kept for the sake of keeping them, as many as they may be, but for “Who have I become? How have I been formed by them? How have I been built up?” The young man, however, stopped at “what should I keep”. He could not get beyond himself and his money. The Lord told him to sell whatever he had for no other reason than to free him from the “what do I have to do” mentality and to advance to “who do I have to be”.

In any case, more than whether the rich young man misses the mark or not, what is of interest in this young man is his search for an aspiration. This is very significant. It is about eternal life. “What must I do to attain eternal life?” In the Evangelist Mark’s account of this dialogue, he informs us that the Lord showed the young man sympathy, “and Jesus looked at Him with love.” (Mk 10:21) Who did He have sympathy for? The one who had an aspiration, and certainly the greatest of aspirations, eternal life.

What are aspirations? They are worthy desires. They are what draw a man toward the higher things. They remove him from what is mundane in life and show him “the good life”, in the spiritual sense of the term. (When we say “the good life” it usually means one eats and drinks well, but the spiritual meaning is to become a very spiritual man, a very lofty man.) Aspirations are those worthwhile things innate in us all; they are according to our nature. To say, “our nature” means “I am a human being, whether I want to be or not; I cannot be something other than my nature.The worthy desires, the aspirations, then, are things in accordance with our nature that are transferred, passed on, in order to reach the point of resembling God. Aspirations, worthy desires, make a person be that which he must become. It is what Pindar said: Become who you are.” (Pythian 2, line 72) Be what you are by nature. In other words, become a person.

The aspirations, the worthy desires, are many: religion, country, family, education, relationships, virtues, work; all these things are worthy desires. The Apostle Paul writes something marvelous to the Philippians. He shows us these worthy desires and lists them: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is holy, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasant, whatever is of good repute, if there is any virtue, if there is anything worthy of praise, consider these things and do the same.” (4:8-9) In the same epistle he writes: Our citizenship is in heaven.” (3:20) What does this mean? It means that the highest of aspirations is heaven, the highest of aspirations is the Kingdom of God, eternal life.

All of these worthy desires are attained either from revelation (whatever the word of God reveals to us) or from the natural innate ability. As human beings, we were made in the image of God, we have reason and we think; therefore we can be a perfect container for worthy desires and aspirations. What did the Ancient Greeks philosophize about? What did Pindar say? “Become who you are.” This is not from revelation, but from an innate ability.

We pose the question: Do young people today, like the young man we heard about in today’s gospel passage, have aspirations? What aspirations do they have? It well known that our times are characterized by cultural or spiritual decline. We are declining continually, and the result is a severely scarred society, decayed humanism. The scars are deep.

Other than the exceptions, of course, our youth today do not have aspirations. To be precise, their aspirations are faults, not worthy desires. They show their approval for things which, in other eras, people would feel shame. It is this which the Apostle Paul writes about to the Philippians: “whose God is their belly, who praise what they should be ashamed of, who think of earthly things.” (Phil 3:19) These are the aspirations of our youth today.

Furthermore, Saint Paul writes about the ancient world and its spirit, which our Christians today have surpassed. In his epistle to the Romans, he writes: “They have become vain in their thinking, their senseless heart has been darkened; claiming to be wise, they became fools. (Rom 1:21) Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts, to the uncleanness of dishonoring their bodies between them” (Rom 1:24) (he is speaking about homosexuality here). “So you want to be left to yourselves, wherever you end up.Just as they did not want to think about God, God gave them up to an unprincipled mind... (oh, this unprincipled mind, beloved, an unprincipled mind; an unprincipled, childish mind), ...doing not what it should, but filling up with every unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, greed, evil, envy, murder, quarreling, deceits, bad morals, gossip, backbiting, hatred of God, wantonness, pride, arrogance; they are inventors of evils, disobedient to parents, senseless, unfaithful, cold-hearted, stiff-necked, merciless.(Rom 1: 28-31)

The list is long. These are faults. Our youth people remain in these faults. Why? To honor their parents? “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12) is the Fifth Commandment, which we heard from the Lord today. Whose parents are honored today?

The aspirations of our young people today are always faults, a systematic, organized laziness, carelessness. Carelessness, laziness, is the sin of the second half of the twentieth-century. We see irresponsibility, unmerciful laziness, everywhere.

Go take look around the square at 10 in the morning in our city of Larisa. Whether it is winter or summer, young men and women go there to do what? They go there to sit... and sit... and sit. Don’t tell me, “they sit there because they are unemployed.” Don’t tell me this. They go there to sit. They sit longer than frogs. It appears that they exert the least possible amount of effort; whenever possible, they do less. At the same time they look for money. From where? From their parents, of course. They are thieves. Today this thievery happens on a grand scale. Why? In order to waste it on all kinds of pleasures: the cigarettes, the drugs, the hard liquor. They spend endless, wasted hours at the restaurants, the nightclubs, in front of the TV, at the dances and concerts, where they have demonic content; and they also have a demonic look: bedraggled, moronic, absent minded, with the boys deliberately tearing their jeans. Only serious boys and girls do not adopt this lifestyle, the earrings, the rings, the long hair, and intentional idleness – not unemployed – idleness, willful laziness. They don’t want to work. All of our young people today desire to acquire faults, to fill their souls with them. It is pitiful, very pitiful.

But how did our youths end up with these faults? How did this happen? There are many ways: The two world wars in our century, the confusion and realignment of foreign relations, the development of extreme individualism, are how we arrived at the borders of anarchy, like we know this anarchy and live in it today. God, religion, family and country are viewed as worthless; and where God is removed, then everything is allowedsays Dostoyevsky. It is true. If God is out of the picture, then I am allowed to do anything.

So we find ourselves in a climate of deep decline where the young people do not have aspirations anymore. Instead, they pursue faults. The family cannot help, because it too is, unfortunately, mixed up with rotten ideas (there are exceptions of course). Even good children from Christian families find themselves in this widespread bad climate which affects everyone, and they become corrupted also. The child will go down the street, into society; he will go to school and he will be suffer great harm.

Can we do anything about this? One time, beloved, the Lord said about a demon-possessed child: This kind of demon cannot be driven out except by prayer and fasting.(Mt 17:21, Mk 9:29) “Lord,” the disciples said, “why couldn’t we heal the child?This kind of demon cannot be driven out except by prayer and fasting. What does this mean? It means that people in our days are prey for the devil. Therefore, those who understand, those who are pained, those who still maintain within them their spiritual health, let them fast and pray, not neglecting Wednesdays and Fridays and the Lenten Fast. We also pray to the Lord to cast out the demons which are ravaging mankind, particularly our youth.

Furthermore, the Lord needs witnesses in everywhere, to speak to the young people, to wisen them, to enlighten them. The educational system we offer today is, of course, like one big paralytic (who will deny it?). The children cannot do a thing on their own. Perhaps we fear and disapprove of what they are taught. Those of you, however, who are teachers and who are listening to me, who have your spiritual health within, should present them an alternative. Tell the children, your elementary school students, your middle-school students, your high-school students, TELL THEM WHAT IS CORRECT. We will do whatever we can, nonetheless. We are beginning to see it, the value of boundaries, not to go beyond them...

Beloved, the young man of the Gospel is to be commended, of course, for seeking to attain eternal life. For certain, He did not attain it. He did not attain it because his heart was held captive by the passion of greed. Though he did have tenacity; he had tenacity. He saw things to aspire to and he desired them.

There are, of course, young people among us who have beautiful aspirations, with elevated thinking, with love for Christ. Glory be to God, they exist. We are to guard these young ones, protect them, praise them, and give them encouragement in these days which are so disappointing.

To conclude, we will do whatever we can, as each of us understands we can do, in order to save those who are left. So we will give our witness. Let them not pay attention to us at all. We will give our witness, nonetheless. There will always be people to find, there will be a remnant, there will be a people of God. There will be “the small flock”, as the Lord said. (Is 11:11) He will watch over it; they will benefit. Let God, beloved, let God be saddened over the new generation and let Him show them mercy.


Translated by Anthony Hatzidakis, Nov. 26, 2023, from a homily transcription by Ms. Eleni Linardaki and Mr. Athanasios K.

Text source in Greek: Aktines, Nov. 26, 2022, Audio source:
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