Let’s put ourselves in the scene of today’s gospel. Jesus is off on another journey. He never stayed in one place, he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and they were in every town and place. This total stranger stops Jesus with his question; ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life.’
I read this statement a while back,’ there is nothing you can do that will make God love you more.’ God’s love for each of us is total. God loves each one of us with an everlasting, unconditional love. All we can do is try as best we can to respond to that love by loving each other as we’ve been loved. The question’ what must I do to inherit’ implies earning a gift that has already been offered.
Jesus reminds this person of the commandments we are all called to keep. But the man tells him, ’this is the way I’ve lived my whole life.’ Jesus looked at this man and loved him, admired him. We can imagine Jesus saying to himself, ‘boy could I use someone like you’ and he makes him an offer ‘go sell what you own and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and then come follow me.’ We can imagine this enthusiastic man saying, ’wow, this isn’t what I had in mind, this is a bit much.’ Jesus’ offer shocked him, set him on his heels. We hear he went away sad for he had many possessions. Jesus then makes the astonishing statement, ‘how hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.’ He then explains what he means. Simply put, possessions, no matter what they are, can control our lives. They can become our life and our identity. They can halt our journey to the highest value there is in life, God. There is that ancient truth, what does it profit a person if they gain the whole world and lose their souls?
What Jesus was saying to that young man could go something like this:
Come walk with me in the walk of love and service to others, come walk with me, uncluttered by your possessions, and let us tell others how loved they are, how important they are to God – come walk with me and we’ll show respect for the dignity and worth of every person we meet, we will accept them as they are – come walk with me and help me lift up, welcome and heal the outcasts and forgotten of our times, the homeless, the street people, those who feed in soup kitchens, the strangers, the victims of family violence, abused children, those who subsist on welfare checks, the separated and divorced, the gays, the different, those we call the marginalized of society – come walk with me and let us name the evil of racism, sexism, bigotry and prejudice and power. It will cost us because people don’t want to give up their old ways of thinking and relating to others. Come walk with me and be willing to be called a trouble maker, a heretic, a socialist, a dreamer. Come walk with me.
This past Wednesday the Holy Father celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and began the Year of Faith. The emphasis on the year of faith is the New Evangelization.
The new evangelization calls each of us to deepen our own Catholic faith, believe in the Gospel message of God’s love for each one of us and then go out and share our convictions with those who have given up on their belief in God or church because there are either caught up in the ‘good things’ of life or because they’ve been disillusioned by the abuse of power or sex scandals that have shamed our church. In this coming year we are challenged to deepen our own relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church and to share our faith with others.
This can be a challenging year for all of us. We are challenged to grow to a full maturity in Christ and share our deepened faith with others. We do this best when we live this Mass outside these walls by the lives we live, the work we do, the service we give and the prayers we pray.
As we continue to celebrate this Mass may each of us hear the invitation offered the man in today’s gospel – come walk with me and help me spread the good news, the wonderful news that we are all loved by God, Who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all.
- Father Paul Cusack, C.P. is the pastor of St. Gabriel Passionist Parish in Toronto, Canada.