This is the question that the rich man asked of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ in today’s Gospel lesson. Indeed this is the fundamental question every Christian must ask; for it is the question that shapes our beliefs, relationships, view of the world, our understanding of morality and ultimately our whole way of life. The answer given by the Lord is twofold. First and foremost, Christ emphasizes the importance of keeping the Ten Commandments. In fact, He even goes as far as to go through the commandments, thereby asking the young man - and - us to take inventory of our lives. Are we, Christians living in the 21st century, following the commandments which have sustained the people of God for thousands of years? Does the society we live in abide by these basic principles? Do we as God’s “chosen people”, His “Royal Priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) help uphold the Commandments, speaking out against the wrongs that we see in the world?
“Thou shalt not murder”. Many will quickly answer that we absolutely uphold this commandment, but do we really? Every year in the USA 1.3 million of innocent children are murdered in the womb. These children aren’t able to speak for themselves. Do we find the courage to speak on their behalf? Will we turn to the Lord and ask Him for the Grace of His guidance in providing education, aid and help for those less fortunate than ourselves? Are we ready to take on the burden of helping single mothers who are struggling to sustain their children in these tough economic times? Moreover, Christ likens hatred of another to murder – do we approach all the people in our life – friends, family, strangers, and enemies with love?
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Indeed, does our society even recognize adultery, fornication, and pornography as a sin – much less stigmatize it? Far from it. Tragically the MTV culture of today has indoctrinated many into thinking that casual and pre-marital relations are all but the norm. Our Lord warns us that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:28). Sadly the world we live in today scoffs at this and dismiss it outright as unreasonable and old fashioned. Will we make the commitment to spend time with our children and teach them that the values that our parents and grandparents taught us still apply today?
“Thou shalt not steal.” Again our society fails this test. Think back to the recent riots in London where looting and stealing ruled the day. What was almost as horrible as the looting was the fact that many in the media justified breaking store windows and stealing plasma television through moral relativism, blaming large corporations and bankers who they claim make a living by stealing from the little guy. Closer to home, petty theft has been made so easy and anonymous by the internet that few people recognize stealing things like movies, software, and music through bit-torrent as wrong.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Once again our society would get a failing grade. Politicians, co-workers and even friends are all too quick to point their finger at one another, not realizing that charity is a surer path to the truth than prejudice, pride, and pettiness. Sensationalism, distortion and flat out misrepresentation of facts rule the day.
“Honour thy father and thy mother.” Do we honour our elders? Does society as a whole? Do we take the time to be together as families where many generations sit at the dinner table and share their love, fellowship, hopes and dreams with one another, or are we all so busy sending text massages, browsing the web and talking on our blackberries that we can not find a minute to spend some time with our mothers, fathers and grandparents?
Finally, do we “love our neighbor as ourselves?” Are our relationships based on humility, mutual sacrifice, trust and sincerity?
The man in the Gospel today did in fact keep all of these commandments since his youth. This is no small thing. Christ saw that this man was so very close to the truth. So the Lord gave him a chance to walk with Him, to be a disciple, an apostle! He gave him a chance to not only take part in his own salvation but in the salvation of others. What can be greater than that? And what did the Lord tell this man to do? What is he telling us to do? He sends us to feed the hungry. He sends us to clothe those who have nothing to wear. He sends us to the poor.
“Go, sell what you have, and distribute it to the poor!” Feed them, and through doing so not only will you help them but you will yourself be transformed by your love for those in need, by their love for you. You will change. You will be transformed. And after that come back, take my hand and follow me.
Christ saw that this good man needed to learn how to love others, how to have compassion for others, to learn how to bear the burden of others. This is what he was missing and his wealth and riches had kept him from that. He was a good man according to the world, but he could not understand the suffering of other people, he could not step into the suffering of the poor. He did not know how to bear their burden. He was like us, not really evil or mean but lacking the love needed take the extra step that he needed to take.
The first of the Ten Commandments forbids us from creating for ourselves “other gods”. This man’s many possessions became that idol that kept him from entering into the Love of His Lord. We risk making the same mistake today.
Just as Christ reaches out to the man in today’s Gospel, He reaches out to us every Sunday. In fact, He gives us so much more than he offered the young man. He offers us to partake of His most pure Body and His most precious Blood and become a member of the Body of Christ. Brothers and sisters, let us learn from the rich young man. Let us partake of the Lord worthily, and let us take His light, His love, His compassion with us and carry and become a mirror reflecting it to all those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Let us not be ashamed, but fearless in proclaiming the Gospel and the truth and let us strive to fight against that which is contrary to it. The young man could not do what the Lord asked of him, even though he had a guarantee of eternal life. We have the same guarantee. Let us not squander it away. Let us answer His call today!
Rev. Borislav Kroner