Homily for August 20th, 2018: Matthew19:16-22.
“What must I do to gain eternal life?” the young man asks Jesus. Keep God’s commandments, Jesus responds. I’ve kept them all, the young man responds. Has he -- really? That is more than doubtful. That would make the young man sinless. And according to traditional Catholic belief, the only completely sinless human being in all history is the Lord’s immaculate mother, Mary. Even the greatest saints have sins and fall short of God’s standards in some way. Indeed the saints are the first to acknowledge their sinfulness.
So the young man in today’s gospel is actually mistaken about his spiritual condition. But his goodwill is clear. He sincerely desires to do what is right and what the Lord wants for him. With his unique ability to read the human heart, Jesus sees in this young man an attachment to possessions which is holding him back from offering himself completely to God. That is why Jesus tells the man to sell all that he has, and give to the poor. Relinquishing earthly treasure will secure him treasure in heaven, Jesus says. And it will free the young man to follow Jesus without hesitation or reserve. The young man's reaction shows that there are still limits to his desire to serve God completely. He "went away sad, for he had many possessions."
The Lord gives this call to some in every generation. Others he calls not to total renunciation, but to something equally important, and no less difficult: detachment. That means enjoying the good things the Lord gives us, thanking him for them; but not clinging to them tightly or fearing their loss.
Show me someone who has discovered the secret of deep and true happiness, and I’ll show you someone who lives with open hands, and a heart open to others in need. Ask the Lord to help you live like that, and you’ll be happy too. The Lord is inviting you to begin – today!