“What Shall I Do to Inherit Eternal Life?” (Matthew 19:16 – 26)

A homily that I gave at St. Joseph’s Melkite Catholic Church, Fairfield on the 19th of August, which was the 12th Sunday of Pentecost. –  Collin

When asked this first question, Jesus immediately sees problems with his question.  By referring to Him as a “Good Teacher”, the young man overlooks the fact that Jesus is God – so Jesus turns Him back to the source of all goodness by saying, “If you call Me good thinking I am merely a teacher, you’re wrong, because no man is essentially good. Nothing you ever do will be good, as there is only One Who is good, and that is God.”

Nonetheless, Jesus begins this “build-up” of the revelation that is God by instructing the young man to “follow all the commandments.” By saying this, Jesus brings the young man out of his self-centred comfort zone to a more outward view of the “loving thy neighbour”. However, the young man resists, and insists that he has been following all the commandments from his youth.

Still unsatisfied because he’s doing everything “by the book”, the young man still feels like he’s not getting anywhere and asks, “what do I still lack?”, Jesus lays down the hard truth and says, “if you want perfection, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

The young man gets this cold and hard answer, but this is too much for him. So, he walks away dejected as he could not detach himself from his possessions to follow Christ.

On the other hand, the disciples; who probably saw great value in this man being one of their benefactors, were astonished when he walked away, and asked – Who can be saved?! Jesus responds simply – with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

It is obvious, that from today’s Gospel passage, there are some inherent problems with the questions that the young man asks of Jesus. After all, Jesus has been preaching “repent and believe, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” for a while, and here comes a young man who thinks that there is another way around getting eternal life. Whatever the reality of the young man is, it is also equally unfortunate that we can see a lot of ourselves in this young man.

This brings us back to the point of our faith in God, and our level of desire to know God as “the source of all Goodness”, and also “the One through Whom all things are possible”. Very simply, these can be the response to all the questions we’ve heard in a nutshell.

This point matters greatly, as they help us get out of the mentality of the rich young man in today’s Gospel. And here’s why I believe so:

  • Eternal life cannot be earned – Heaven and eternal life cannot be earned as our faith is not a loyalty programme or even “life insurance”. Our faith is not a faith of terms & conditions, where we have to do something to earn something. Additionally, we do not enter into this relationship solely to be saved. After all, If I had friends only for what I get from them, that is not real friendship.  We love Jesus Christ because He first loved us. Instead, this relationship with Jesus Christ is a “free, total, and faithful” relationship. Just like any relationship, we do not, and should not enter into something unless we are doing it out of our own free will, giving our total selves, and are planning to remain faithful. And if we are totally sincere and committed to that relationship, we will do our best to strip away all that stands between us and that other person in that relationship.
  • Don’t worry about the treasures in Heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven, and Salvation until we truly dedicate ourselves to getting to know God. Surely, these are promised to those who truly faithful and believe in God. However, it shouldn’t be our main focus. Our relationship with God should be the first and foremost desire of our hearts, and concern of our minds. These things will come to mind eventually, at the right time. Let us start by opening the Word of God and reflect on what He has thinks of us and what He has to say to us, spending time in prayer, receiving the Eucharist, and joyfully meeting Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

 Does this sound like too much? It sounded like too much for the rich young man, and it might be for us. Are we prepared to give up everything to follow Him?  It is not about quitting your jobs, putting your life plans on hold, or giving up on your education. Instead, it is about giving up anything that might stand between us and our relationship with Christ. There are “possessions”, and even flaws that possess us that distance us from Jesus. When you have the most important thing in the world, you should be willing to suffer all things to keep the most important thing. Amen.

 

 

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