October 10, 2021
Part of our human nature wants a short, simple answer: What do I need? What do I have to do? How easy will it be? We ask the same questions for many areas of our lives as we face all kinds of different experiences.
Sometimes, all we can answer to each other is “this is what worked for me.”
“What, then, must I do to inherit eternal life?” is a very important question. The very question hopes for a clear list of things to do. The man had already done everything that he knew, like following the Torah and the commandments, but was still lacking confidence. There must be something more, he was thinking.
Jesus didn’t make him feel any more confident when he suggested that the man sell everything in favor of poor people. That was to ensure that he would possess the treasure of heaven?
Before we can answer the question of how we inherit eternal life, we have to ask ourselves how can I be happy living my life on earth and discovering my purpose for living? In one sense, we know that just accumulating more and more things is not a lasting answer, and we need more than things (and materialistic dreams) and work and money to give us personal happiness. We need person relationships as well that are nurturing and wholesome. We have a soul that thrives on love and respect and gratitude. None of us wants to be treated like a thing or an object or to be used.
We have to get through life first before we get to heaven. We need to live our present life generously, wholeheartedly and with great love! Our soul needs to include the souls of everyone, because life is not for me as one person; it is for all of us.
Our problem living at the beginning of the 21st century is the same problem of the man speaking to Jesus in the first century. Possessions, the desire for more possessions, using possessions, wealth and success as a buffer. Once we get on the path of more and more, we are never satisfied. Then, “more and more” becomes our game and our attitude for life. There is never enough!
The spiritual path that Jesus sets before us is to trust God, to put our lives, dreams and hopes in God’s hand, rather than in the pursuit of “more and more.”
To gain eternal life is not to gain a possession. To get to eternal life is to experience the fullness of the perfect or complete life. It is not a matter of what more I must do, but of how well I have placed my life in God’s hand and have understood his purpose for my life.
Sometimes, our Catholic faith gives us the impression that if I say someone’s prayer or assume their devotions, if I do something spiritual for 9 times, I will have lined up all my tickets to heaven. There is no ticket that I buy or earn! “All things are possible for God,” Jesus says. It is not just about simplifying our lives or purifying our egos, it is about abandoning our quests and finding our consolation and happiness in another way, the way of service and compassion, the attitude of blessing the world with our presence, rather than taking from the world for myself.
The requirement of entering heaven is a change of spirit in my life, to put life at God’s service rather than at my own. It is a different kind of change, a different kind of an attitude– to let God do the leading to the meaning and purpose of life rather than be led by a consumer or capitalistic spirit.
The story in today’s Gospel notes that the man’s “face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
The key is not the giving up of possessions, but how we use them, how we share them. “More” should enable us to be generous. Who needs all that we have accumulated?
Generosity and blessing returns to the generous person. Giving opens the human heart to participate in allowing life to be better for others, especially for the poor and for the immigrant trying to find their new place in our society.
Today’s first reading encourages us to pray for prudence and wisdom — to know how to live and what to do. That is how we change our perspective — more prudence and wisdom. That is how we get to eternal life. Wisdom and Jesus also promise: “All good things together came in their company and countless riches at her hands.”
In today’s Psalm, we hear the prayer: “Prosper the work of our hands for us! Prosper the work of our hands!” Our prosperity should not take us away from God and make us more selfish. We hear the prayer: “Fill us with your love, O Lord.” God wants us to be rich in his love, so that his love overflows from us to others.
We do not have a “right” to life. We do not have a “right” to love. We do not have a “right” to prosperity. All of life and all its opportunities are a gift.
Let me present you with the final challenges of God’s word for today. All Catholics need to read our Scriptures, often, and at best daily. We are never going to understand or accept Jesus if we do not read his word and take it into our hearts.
Anyone can go online and read God’s word for each daily mass or Sunday. We need more than just whatever our daily prayers might be or our daily thoughts.
When Jesus says today: “Go sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me,” Jesus is inviting us to think and believe like he does — God is first and living now in his Kingdom of goodness, truth, being enlightened.
“Follow me” is more than prayer, or a hope, or a devotion. It is more than the “same old, same old” of life. As the letter to the Hebrews invites us to let the “the two-edged sword of God’s word to penetrate between the soul and spirit, the joints and marrow and be able to discern the reflections and thoughts of the heart.”
When it comes to eternal life, God is the only one who can do that for us. Only God can help improve our focus. Life is not a game to play until it is all over. Life is a gift. Life is a wonderful opportunity to share life with others in a spirit of sharing and generosity. Life is about growing our souls into the soul of God — then eternal life will happen.