28th Sunday - Year B
October 14, 2012
How would you respond to the young man’s question in today’s Gospel? Imagine that someone at work or school asks you how to get into heaven. How would your respond to this person? Is the sole criteria simply living a generally good life, a life without any grave sins, a life according to the commandments? Or, is there something more to it?
Our readings today teach us that eternal life is not about being good, it is about being with God.
Christ Expelling the Money-Changers from the Temple (1682)
In our Gospel we hear about a unique man who came to Jesus not wanting physical healing or food. He didn’t come to trick Jesus like the Pharisees. This man came with a question. He was a wealthy man, but he wanted something more. He wanted the greatest of all possessions: eternal life. Little did he know that Eternal Life was standing before him and inviting the man to come follow Him.
By the man’s reaction, we know Jesus found the man’s weakness. Sharper than any sword, Jesus penetrated the man’s heart and revealed that there was “one thing” he was lacking: an unconditional yes to God. He was attached to his earthly wealth and not attached to the ways of God. This zealous man who had run to the Son of God and knelt before Him was now walking away from Him sad. The young man was a good man, he followed the commandments, but now he turns his back on God’s love and turns towards his earthly possessions! He wanted eternal life, but he wasn’t willing to give up his earthly possessions to attain it.
What does Jesus have against wealth?
Jesus is not opposed to wealth. Wealth can give glory to God. There is the example of the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive oils before His death, and the example of Joseph of Arimathea who wrapped the body of Jesus in fine linen and placed it in a new tomb. Jesus is simply teaching us today that there is a danger that comes with wealth. Wealth can enslave a person. It can keep a person from following God. And frighteningly, it can even keep a person from entering into heaven.
With modern technology, this is even more of an issue. The world is ever more full of noise and distractions that lead us away from an intimate union with God. The modern world tries to convince us that we simply cannot be happy without this or that, or this that goes with that, or that which comes in three different colors. Yet, why is it that with all these time saving devices and apps, we still have so little time? Families still don’t have time to eat together. There still doesn’t ever seem to be enough time in the day for prayer. And why is it that with all these technologies that connect us with each other, people feel more alone than ever?
True happiness cannot come from material things. It simply can’t. We were made from love and for love. Anything less than love will inevitably bring us sorrow. Material things, therefore, are only good in so far as they help us to love more. I can’t help but think of the classic film A Man for All Seasons in which St. Thomas More says to Richard Rich, “It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the world. But for Wales?”
Before telling the young man what he must do to attain treasure in heaven, the Gospel says Jesus looked at him and loved him. Jesus didn’t reprimand the man, He loved him. And this was no ordinary love, this was God’s love. The same love with which God sent His Beloved Son and the same love with which the Beloved Son accepted the Cross. God loves each and every one of us with an inexhaustible love. This young man caught a glimpse of that, yet he turned the other way. Jesus gave him love, and the man gave him his back. God knows what will make you happy and He wants to give it to you, but He will never force it upon you. Jesus let the man walk away.
We don’t know what ended up happening to the young man in our Gospel reading today. We never even learn his name. We just know he left in sadness. Do not go away sad today. You have something this man did not. Jesus Christ, Eternal Life, gives Himself completely to you this day at the altar. Don’t turn your back on this Love. Strive each day to remove whatever will keep you away from this Love. In so doing, you will find true happiness.