TEXT: The Holy Gospel According to Saint Mark 10: 17-30
In the process of a move recently, I picked up a book written by Dm Hubert van Zeller entitled, "The Yoke of Divine Love." It was a study in conventual perfection. In its opening remarks, as I read, several statements leapt from the pages into my heart:
"The service of religion stands or falls by its impulse and direction. Unless love is its inspiration it has little to commend it. It will be on the quality of love that the religious will be judged."
Saint Peter exhorts all Christians to in fact - "purify your souls in the obedience of love."
Rules are meant to be obeyed, not worshipped. They are designed for our use, for our greater liberty; they are not meant to tie us up in knots. We are subject to rule because we are subject to God. Therefore, "a vocation from God carries with it the graces to go all the way in love. ONLY where self remains unrenounced can the letter take over from the spirit and impose a slavery."
There was such a religious man who felt and sensed a missing dimension in his life.
There was something more than the religious life he had known.
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
It was not the manner, nor is it still, to answer our questions in such a way as we meant to ask them. Jesus comes to the root of the problem, the focus of our reality - it is himself - our Creator, for the Creator knows his creatures. He coms to the very issue that is disturbing this seeker, a religious man who was not satisfied with all of his religion.
Religion carries with it when unmixed with love and humility that the SUBSTANCE of the religious life will be entirely missed.
Beloved, the true substance of true religion is found in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Can we see how Jesus immediately brings us back to himself rather than the focus of the question, "What must I do?"
18 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."
How awesomely true. Worthy in the Lamb... obedient unto death. (cf. Phil 2)
We know many things. We know, but, what does it mean to us and to God?
19 "You know the commandments: 'Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'"
Commandments. The Law. Jesus says, "You know" these laws right?
20 And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth."
Jesus never disagreed with him. This man was sincere. He knew the Law, but, there was a missing dimension that he could not live without and he was searching earnestly.
What is the response of Jesus?
21 And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
22 At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
Beloved, how many of us fail in our obedience when we suddenly are confronted with the ultimate test of following Jesus?
It is at this point that most of us fail.
The whole secret to religious life is to WILL what ONLY GOD WANTS.
Saint Augustine said -- "Our desires make us, we are what we will." It is not our feelings that make us. It is not our theories or theologies well thought out that make us. It is not our organizational abilities that make us. It is not our understanding of the laws of God as important as these are.
We are not what we wish we were, or what we imagine ourselves to be.
What we are is a matter of our will.
Is our will in tune with the will of God?
DO WE LOVE GOD - and show this through humility and love?
For this rich man, this was the essential question.
This is the question that HE NEEDED, therefore, Jesus asked this of him.
It is also apparent that WE NEED this same question asked of us in order to answer our question of "What shall I do?"
The problem persists.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!"
24 And the disciples were amazed at his words.
Yes, I would say they were amazed at his words. How was it possible for anyone ever to be saved, if this was the case? The wealthy know the formlessness and void of wealth better than any. IT DOES NOT SATISFY. It is wood, hay and stubble whose end is to be burned up in Purgatory and Hell, whichever is applied.
We take NOTHING with us!
Yet, we hang onto it for dear life, hoping that money will help us somehow in the end, a sort of graduated scale of our accomplishments in life that God will somehow smile upon?
Not so... it will mean nothing in the end, except fuel for the fires of Purgatory or Hell, as God applies either to the Judgment.
It is appointed unto men once to die and after that the Judgment.
But, he speaks of those who "trust" in riches.
But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!
25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Yes, it is easier for this hyperbole to be true than for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God.
The disciples knew exactly what he meant this time. They were not just disturbed, now they were exceedingly disturbed.
26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?"
If it was a matter of pelagianism, were we could work ourselves to heaven through our own works and efforts, then, we would still be exceedingly astonished.
But, thanks be to God for the graces of God.
27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."
Now, it is Saint Peter who speaks up, the same Peter that said -- "Purify your souls in the obedience of love."
You see, it is love that empowers us to live in obedience, not the mere keeping of rules and regulations.
I know so many who act so "put out" over the "rules" of being a Catholic.
For these souls, it is as though it is a terrible inconvenience and peevish "in their way" matter to countenance!
Not so with Saint Peter who left all out of humble love to follow Jesus.
28 Peter began to say to him, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you."
It s like Mary's response of humble obedience who said - "Be it done to me as you say," the fiat of Mary. Or, whatever he (Jesus) tells you to do, do it.
If we follow Jesus in loving humility, we will be ok. God grants us the graces to follow Jesus.
29 Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,
30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
Beloved, is our will in tune with the will of God?
"A vocation is a grace, For just so long as I co-operate with the grace as a grace, it remains something supernatural."
The terms of love are unconditional surrender - constantly repeated.
The expression of any kind of life which is founded on love and humility is inevitably that of sacrifice. It relied constantly upon the grace of God and not upon our human strength, that is, "What must I do?"
It relies upon God -- Ecclesiastes says -- "In every work of thine regard they soul in faith; for this is the keeping of the commandments."