Judges 2: 11-19
Matthew 19: 16 – 22
Sometimes it’s difficult to glean the full meaning of a gospel passage in isolation. The line that follows today’s gospel puts things into perspective for me. “…..I tell you solemnly it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
As I reflect on today’s gospel reading, a number of songs come to mind, depending on what aspect one chooses to focus on; some with catchphrases such as “The road is long with many a winding turn; When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” But the one that speaks hits home is a Caribbean Gospel song by Sandra Brooks – The Road is Rough (YouTube it!)
Some folks would rather have houses and lands.
Some folks choose treasures and forget about their soul.
Yet of these things, I won’t let them hinder me not from serving my God ’cause I have decided to make Jesus my choice.
You know the road is rough, and the going gets tough
and the hills are hard to climb.
I started out oh a long time ago and I’ve made up, I’ve made up my mind
Yes in Jesus strong arms where no tempest can harm I’m safe and secure
I’ve decided to make Jesus my choice!
Let’s consider the questions asked by the rich young man and Jesus’ responses to him
‘Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’ The question we must ask ourselves is, is being good our guarantee of eternal life? In asking the question, the young man clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding in Jesus’ teaching and in his own human ability, suggesting an inflated self-ego! Jesus says to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good.’ There is one alone who is good.’ Jesus continues, ….. ‘but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He asks, “Which?” Jesus then exhorts the commandments, all relationally based. To which the young man replies, ‘I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?’ Honestly, who among us can say we are that perfect? ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’
Here lies the anticlimax! The young man chooses wealth over Jesus. In this encounter, the message of salvation is explicit; that is, salvation is not based on our goodness but on Jesus’ goodness and on his invitation to live out the commandment of love of neighbour. Put, we can never be good enough to get to heaven. Our invitation is to keep our eye on the prize. I quote Luke (13:24) here, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” To follow Jesus, “the narrow door” is no mean feat. On our part, it is a preferential option;” continually striving to follow him and detach ourselves from material possessions – to live simply so others can simply live to coin a catchphrase.
It’s also a call to spiritual poverty. I believe this is what Matthew refers to in the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-12) – “Blessed are the poor in spirit” It is a struggle, we’re not perfect; but relying on the goodness of God for our salvation is an imperative part of our faith journey. It is a call to live in this world without becoming attached to the idolatry things of this world, something the young man is not willing to do.
Jesus points out that “entering the door” is an invitation, a choice not forced on anyone but a preferential option based on faith. It is a conscious decision made by individuals who seek to better themselves through He, the one “who is good.”
Michael Schiano has been a member of St. Brigid’s parish since 1990. As a parish member, he has served on the Parish Pastoral Council, Liturgy Committee, and Bereavement Team and is a member of the Passionist Companions. He has been an educator in the Archdiocese and has held positions in middle management and executive leadership positions. He currently works in Aged Care in the roles of Pastoral Care Co-Ordinator at Brigidine House, Randwick; St. Anne’s Hunters Hill; and Chaplaincy, Pastoral Care Officer at Calvary Ryde.