A young man approached Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”
He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He asked him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;
and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him,
“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.
This Gospel elicits a response that we know all too well as Christians: What did you just ask of me, Lord?!?!
This Gospel also elicits controversy. How, after all, can we take these words literally? My parents have three children to feed and four college degrees to be paid for. I can’t give up my car and walk from the suburbs to Dallas every morning for class. The question is then, how can we possibly live out this radical call? It is frightening to think that we are living in a manner inconsistent with the demand Jesus gives us. We shouldn’t be afraid, though. Instead, we should look at this Gospel as Jesus’ call to go outside of ourselves in the spiritual life.
Jesus replied, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness;honor your father and your mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is something to be said about the rule-followers of society. After all, rules are rules for a reason. The Church gives us certain guidelines and instructions for our own welfare– not because the male-dominated hierarchy loves to micromanage every aspect of our lives, as popular opinion would have it. However, we cannot be so caught up in following rules that we become spiritually self-absorbed.
So many Catholics, especially among the youth, resist temptation and sin so vehemently that they become spiritual introverts. The faith becomes a constant examination of conscience. I have seen people refuse to receive Communion because they said a bad word when they stubbed their toe. It is great that some people strive for virtue. But is this introversion really heroic virtue—the cause for sainthood?
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me.” The word ‘heroic’ comes from the same Greek word meaning “warrior, protector, or defender.” You probably didn’t need that explanation, but think—what is a warrior, protector, or defender? Do they fight battles that lie solely within themselves? What great Christian spends his entire life defending himself? Jesus Himself lived in a hostile time, much like we do. He was surrounded by temptation as well. But yet, his entire life was poured out in service for the poor—that is why we know that He is infinitely holy. And He demands the same of his followers.
There is a hospice near my house that I like to stop into on Saturdays. This past Saturday, I was running late getting there, so I worked a different job. I normally work in the kitchen, but the kitchen was closed at that point.Instead, my volunteer director gave me a list of rooms that I should go to for manicures. I don’t even do my own nails anymore, given that I go to school with girls and play sports and instruments and whatnot. Needless to say, it was interesting. I ended up spending at least a half hour in each room trying to fix the mess I made on each patient.
There was something that really struck me that one of the patients said. She wasn’t someone I normally work with, but she immediately caught sight of the Miraculous Medal that I wear, and began talking about religion. Many of the patients are very strong Christians. She told me about how that morning, her preacher lady (so I immediately knew she was not Catholic) came to visit her and pray with her. She said she had been a Baptist for eighteen years, having left the Catholic Church. She said that the preacher lady visited her every week, and all the members of her community loved to pray for her, call her, and visit her. She said she had never been able to find a Catholic community that was accessible and supportive to her.
Ouch!!! I didn’t know what to say. It seemed surreal that she had told me all of that, a complete stranger. I promised her I would “work on it.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions. Are we working on it? Are we going to let more people leave the one true Church because we cannot step outside of ourselves in service and in love? I think I know why service is uncomfortable. Sometimes I do not want to go to the hospice because I am unable to face the depth that I find there. Faith becomes reality in the faces of suffering people. Their life is their faith that they will be saved. Seeing faith as reality forces you to change your ways and your perspective—and that is so uncomfortable. You can kill two birds with one stone—service brings about self-conversion while positively affecting the lives of our brothers and sisters.
Don’t go away sad and fearful from the call of God. Jesus is telling us this: it is great to be holy and follow the commandments to the letter, but we can do more. We can attain heroic virtue. Yes– take time to make sure you are spiritually squared away, but after that, never neglect to go outside ofyourself in service. Push yourself.
Pope Francis recently said this: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things… Ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.” As Christians, let us live every day in service. Just as a side note, the Church has a nifty list of “works of mercy” that are awesome to reflect on and strive for. You can find them at this link:http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10198d.htm
Katie Gross is a junior at a Catholic high school in Dallas. She loves to sing, read, and run cross country.
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