29th Sunday After Pentecost
In today’s holy gospel, a man comes up to our Lord and asks, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ This is an important question… And this must be the question for each of us… ‘What must we do to inherit eternal life?’
In answer to this question, our Lord reviews the commandments of God… Thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal, etc.
The young man in today’s Gospel declared that he kept all of the commandments. What else did he lack? Christ, the Great Physician, knew precisely the medicine needed for this particular soul and he told him that if he would be perfect, he should go and sell all that he possessed, give it to the poor, and follow Him.
This cut to the heart of the particular passion that weighed this man down: greed and love of money. And it was too much for him… the Gospel says he went away sorrowful for he was very rich.
The Gospel tells us that our Lord Jesus Christ was very sorrowful to see this young man turn away. For here was a good man, a man that obviously loved God and was zealous in keeping all of the commandments. Yet there remained a strong passion which anchored him fast to the earth and prevented him from ascending to the perfection to which he was called. Jesus’ loving gaze penetrated into the depths of the soul of this young man and saw what it was that hung there like an anchor, an obstacle blocking this soul from full communion with God. In this man’s case it was his riches and the love of money.
Christ lamented how difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the kingdom of God. And when the disciples replied: ‘Who then can be saved?’ – our Lord said: ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’
While the particular example given to us today is of a man weighed down by his riches, the real point of the story is that each and every one of us must examine our heart and identify what are those things, those passions, those worldly loves which hang from our neck like anchors and fix us to the ground, creating obstacles between us and the call of God.
What one thing do we lack? What is our primary obstacle blocking us from God? What particular passion of ours might Christ pinpoint if we were in this Gospel scene? Perhaps it is laziness, perhaps it is the love of comfort, perhaps it is sensual sins, or pride, or judging, or something else. Each and every one of us have one or more particular sins that anchor and weigh us down in our spiritual life.
I remember reading a little book when I was a teenager entitled ‘My Heart, Christ’s Home’. It was a story about a man who finally heard the knock of Christ upon the door of his heart and how he invited Christ into his home.
In the initial joy and zeal of having this Divine Guest, the man gladly allowed Christ to clean up the main rooms of his house… removing all that was inappropriate from his living room (which represented the main activities of his life), the kitchen (his eating and drinking habits), the den (representing his hobbies and recreation)… Bit by bit, room by room, the man worked with our Lord to clean up and make holy all the rooms of the house of his soul.
Finally, our Lord asked this man what was in a certain closet. The man panicked… not the closet! He had worked with Christ to address all of the rooms of the house of his soul and yet there remained one area which had not been offered and surrendered. This was a great struggle for the man because he held on to some things buried in that dark closet and did not want to give them up.
Our Lord would not insist… He offered to clean up and sanctify even this last stronghold of resistance, but He would not do so uninvited. This conflict within the man lasted for some time, but He knew through the experience of what Christ had done in the rest of his life what Christ could do with that last dark closet. And so, he finally relinquished it and our Lord went to work… perfecting and completing the work of salvation in the soul of this man.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ… what one thing do we lack? What might be that passion that we hold dear to ourselves and will not give up? What prevents us from fully trusting in the goodness of God? From understanding that He comes to us as a skilled and caring Physician… That the sword He holds in His hand is a scalpel used to cut away from us the diseases which are killing us. Surgery may be painful, but it is toward healing.
And be assured, brothers and sisters in Christ… There is no sin which cannot be forgiven if we turn to God with a repentant heart. There is no sin which is mightier than the strength and grace and will of God. Let us not be deceived into thinking that our particular sins are insurmountable or that we somehow cannot live without that particular sin or passion… This is a lie - for what is impossible for men is possible for God.
Christ has trampled down death and all sin… it is now up to us to unite ourselves to Him and thereby unite ourselves to His victory over all such obstacles to the love of God.
May we continue to focus our attention on that most important of questions – what must we do to inherit eternal life? May we listen to and heed the Lord’s call as he reveals to us those sins that weigh us down like an anchor and prevent us from ascending in our hearts toward God. And may we have the simplicity of soul to trust in God as our spiritual physician – patiently enduring the struggles of our life in a spirit of humility and love. If we can do so, then we will begin to experience that Kingdom of Heaven even now as it permeates and shines within our soul and illumines all things around us! May God grant it!