28th Sunday of Ordinary time B
– by Fr. Fabien, sx
Today’s gospel presents us a man full of enthusiasm, fire and energy who comes running up to Jesus with an important question for Jesus: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
This man, whose name and age we ignore, can be anyone of us. The evangelist Matthew says that he is a young man but what we know about him is that he is an affluent man. Maybe what makes the difference between him and us is that he has many possessions and has observed all the commandments from his youth. His question, quest or concern is also ours. As priest, I would like to see one of my parishioners running toward me asking the same question.
The question unmasks his intention: “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” To inherit eternal life is neither a question of doing and having something, nor of feelings, but it is a question of inner disposition of being and becoming a disciple and a follower of Jesus and not simply his admirer or fan. Eternal life is not a question of merit but it is a gift to receive. This man could buy all that is nice since he had money. He now wants to buy eternal life! The question of this man must be reformulated, instead of “what must I do”, the question should be: “what must I be to inherit eternal life?”
To this question Jesus answers: “you know the commandments.” He replied saying: “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him with love, said to him: “you are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Each of us is rich in something and is lacking in one or two things. What is lacking in this man is detaching himself from his possessions and following Jesus, putting his trust in God and stop relying on his possessions as security. We can do all kinds of religious piety and devotion, but what we lack is our attachment to Jesus. It is not enough to be a good person or Christian who knows the commandments; it is neither a question of tithing, receiving the sacraments and doing all kinds of prayers or devotions. We still have many things around us that prevent us from being totally open to the Lord. Our life with Jesus and for Jesus does not allow any compromises.
The best way to be detached from one’s possessions is to “give”. The verb to “give” is at the center of the five verbs in imperative used by Jesus in his answer (go – sell – give – come – follow). To follow Jesus is to enter the logic of sharing, of solidarity and staking on charity; to free our heart from materialism that gets in the way to be closer to Christ. If we believe that Jesus is our security, we have to give all. We have not given anything if we have not given all. In the first reading, King Solomon preferred wisdom to gold or silver, health or beauty, because wisdom enables a person to know what is most precious in God’s eyes.
Jesus does not tell us that the wealth is bad and the poverty is good. If someone is poor it means that one possesses more and another less or even penniless.
In this gospel, we are facing the painful reality of bankrupt vocation and discipleship. This man, who represents each of us, came running with enthusiasm to Jesus, he went away sad because he had egoistic motivation and put his security in his possessions. The danger is desiring to enter eternal life without loving God.