October 11, 2015 – Hitting the Spiritual Wall
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Father James Swanson, LC
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.'” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”
Introductory Prayer: I come to you Jesus, my friend and my teacher, so that by listening to you I will discover you more, learn from you more and fully accept the demanding conditions of following you. I love you Lord, and I trust myself entirely to you.
Petition: Help me, Lord, to accept generously the sacrifices that you ask of me today.
- A Sincere Question: Jesus meets a man who wants to do whatever is necessary to obtain eternal life. How do we know this? When Jesus lists off the commandments for him as examples of what he must do to obtain eternal life, he replies that he has observed all of them since his youth. Mark goes on to tell us that, “Jesus looking at him, loved him.” If the man weren’t telling the truth, Jesus would have said so, perhaps jogging his conscience and helping him to see where he still needed to improve in his following of the commandments. Jesus does this with us every day if we are sincere and ask ourselves daily if we are truly doing God’s will. He has no qualms in telling us where we are failing and helping us to do better.
- A Sincere Life: Apparently this man is telling the truth. He has always made an earnest effort and has been successful in following all that his Jewish faith asks — at least insofar as he understands God’s Law. Perhaps we wish we could also respond with a clear conscience, “I have kept all these.” Yet as human beings, we are weak. We can fall at any time. What God expects to see from us is not a life without sin, but that we seek repentance and a quick return to obedience when we do fall. A person who makes light of his sins against God, even in just little things, is destroying his conscience. In contrast, by taking responsibility for our sins, repenting and quickly getting up from our falls, we show our commitment to respect the moral demand of God’s commandments, and we prepare the ground to receive the grace of moral perfection that we cannot achieve by ourselves.
- But He Can’t Step Up: The man is doing everything that his Jewish faith requires and still he wants to do more for God. He has never refused God anything. Jesus sees he is ready for the next step. He calls him to be an apostle. He calls him to give up everything else in his life and follow him. You would think that since he has never denied God anything, he would be able to say “yes” to this. But he cannot. It is too much. Although he doesn’t realize it, there are things he possesses that he loves more than God. Sometimes we progress in our spiritual life, giving everything that God asks for, until the day he asks for something we aren’t prepared to give. Our spiritual life stalls — sometimes for years — until we are willing to give what Jesus asks for. Christ calls all people to perfection, to place God above all things. He promises that if we give up our own selves to follow him, he will fill our lives with himself.
Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, I have tried to follow you faithfully. You know that sometimes it has been a struggle. Help me to leave my comfort zone. Help me to give up the other loves that come before you. Help me to be as generous today as you hope I will be.
Resolution: What is the moment in which I usually fail God on a Sunday? I will make sure to be faithful in that moment today.