Continuing with the theme of peace, today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 19 : 16-22) presents a rich man still seeking to possess more than he has already accumulated, materially and spiritually. He asks Jesus what good he has to do to possess eternal life. Despite all the riches that he has gathered during his young life, the wealthy man is still in need and searches out Jesus for an answer.
Instead of giving an answer immediately, Jesus sets out to challenge the man with a searching question: “Why do you ask me about what is good?” (A question for all of us). This isn’t the response the rich man was expecting. And then the answer Jesus proceeds to give – keep the commandments – still leaves the man uncertain.
His religion is governed by a list of laws – do’s and don’ts. The commandments stretch way beyond the 10 that we are most familiar with today, so he asks Jesus which commandments he should keep. “These,” said Jesus: no adultery, no stealing, no false witness, honour father and mother, and love neighbour as oneself.
The wealthy man is quick to say that he keeps all these commandments, but demonstrates that something is still missing from his life by asking Jesus, “What more do I need to do?”
What is it that is missing from the wealthy man’s life that Jesus has not said?
Notice that when Jesus is reeling off the list he misses out one very important commandment – the first – Love God with all your heart.
Jesus is trying to demonstrate to the man that the heart cannot serve two masters – that there should be no other god in our lives except our Father in Heaven. When he says to the man – If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, in exchange for lasting treasure in heaven – the young man goes away sad. Whether this is because he does not want to part with the wealth he has accumulated, or because he realises his mistake in building treasure on earth instead of heaven, is open for debate, because what kind of man can leave the presence of Jesus unhappy?
The teaching that Jesus is giving in today’s Gospel can appear to be very challenging and confrontational, just as yesterday’s Sunday Gospel when Jesus said that he had not come to bring peace, but fire, and that family members would be set against each other. It is another example of Jesus teaching us that we are always to put God in the first place in our life.
At no time is Jesus critical of the young man. He simply makes him aware that accumulating material wealth is not the path to perfection or neccessary to possess eternal life. He real treasure awaits him if he is prepared to fully give his heart to Jesus and follow him.
Our Lady often states and confirms this in her Medjugorje messages:
Dear children! Rejoice with me! My heart is rejoicing because of Jesus and today I want to give Him to you. Dear children, I want each one of you to open your heart to Jesus and I will give Him to you with love. Dear children, I want Him to change you, to teach you and to protect you. Today I am praying in a special way for each one of you and I am presenting you to God so He will manifest Himself in you. I am calling you to sincere prayer with the heart so that every prayer of yours may be an encounter with God. In your work and in your everyday life, put God in the first place. I call you today with great seriousness to obey me and to do as I am calling you. Thank you for having responded to my call. December 25, 1987