Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"Lord, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

28th Sun OT Yr B/2015
Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center

What would Jesus say to us if we came to Him and said: Lord, what must we do to inherit eternal life?  “Well – let’s see.  You shouldn’t kill or commit adultery.  You shouldn’t steal, bare false witness, or defraud.  You should honor our fathers and mothers.  And –remember what I said to that young man in Mark’s Gospel – you should give from what you’ve been given to support the poor.”  Great Lord – we’re doing that!  We’ve been doing that all along, since the ‘youth’ of our now mature parish.  Excellent! We’ve got it all figured out.  Nothing more to do – except perhaps write a bigger check.
Is there really nothing more in today’s Gospel?
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When the young man approached Jesus and asked his question, Jesus summarizes for Him the basic requirements for the Kingdom of Heaven that the young man was already aware of and already doing.  It seems as if Jesus creates a space to honor the great strides toward holiness the young man was already making.  I’m pretty sure Jesus would do that for us, as well.  But what does Jesus do next?  What would He say to us next?  What happened next in today’s Gospel?
Jesus looked at him – Jesus saw Him – Jesus loved Him – and then Jesus pointed out the one thing that was keeping him from what he most desired.  In this young person’s case it was his attachment to possessions:  “You’re lacking one thing – go sell your possessions and give them to the poor.  Then, come follow me.”  When Jesus looks at us – (and all of the good we’re already doing, and all of the growth in virtue and holiness we’ve achieved) – when Jesus sees us, I believe He loves us the same way He loved that young man:  by revealing what is keeping us from growing in relationship with Him on our journey toward heaven.
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We are all saints in the making – but we’re not saints yet.  And that means there’s always something more for us to surrender, something more that we can give to God.  For some of us, that is a greater surrender of material possessions – and so for some of us, Jesus is inviting freedom from our attachment to wealth by giving from our possessions and financial resources for the good of the poor.  You’ll hear in your hearts as I say that whether or not that’s the case for you. 
But for many of us, there’s something else holding us back.  Maybe it is an attachment to career, or success, or perfection – and Jesus is inviting us to be freed from that so we can be more generous with our time and talents, and make use of them for the Gospel.  Some among us are enslaved to the flesh, attached to drink or drugs, to pornography or sexual satisfaction – and Jesus is inviting us to be freed from our attachment to those things so we can be more open to real life and true love and freedom. 
Some of us are attached to ways that thinking and believing that close us off from the teaching ministry of the Church.  Some of us are attached to the past, leaving us closed off to who God is calling us to be today and tomorrow.  For some it is attachment to old hurts, old habits, old relationships – for some it is an attachment to comfort, or control.  Some of us miss our departed loved ones so much – the grief hurts so much – that we have a hard time walking with Jesus into the future.  Some of us just can’t seem to be freed from our anxieties, or our perfectionism, or our false ideas of what it means to be “good” – and they keep us stuck.  Whatever it is – Jesus honors the growth in holiness we’ve already experienced, and then looks on us with love and invites us to go deeper by to letting go of what is getting in the way, and to follow Him more completely.
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And almost always, that seems impossible.  When we really hear Jesus’ invitation to go a little deeper, we’re almost always left in the same position as the young person in today’s Gospel.  We hear Jesus ask us to let go of that thing we just can’t seem to let go of – or don’t even really want to let go of deep in our hearts – and when we hear the voice of the Lord asking us to let it go – our hearts fall, and we turn away sad.  Because we think it’s impossible.
Isn’t that the Good News Jesus really brings today:  Nothing is impossible with God!!  It’s easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needed than for us to let go of our attachments to follow Jesus more completely all the way to heaven.  But nothing is impossible for God!
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In one way or another, we’re all here today asking Jesus the same question.  Even if we think we have it all figured out, somewhere deep inside we know that there’s still some distance to travel.  And so we ask – with the young person in the Gospel – “Lord, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Hearing that question, Jesus turns to us – right here, right now – He turns to us and honors the journey we’ve already traveled.  And seeing you – right here, right now – seeing you, He loves you!  And He invites you to go just a bit deeper.  How is Jesus inviting you to go deeper?  I know it seems impossible – it always does.  But you know what?  Nothing is impossible with God.  

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