So much of today’s gospel centers on men and women who depend on their wealth to see them thru life. So often wealth means power and power deludes us into thinking we can do whatever we want. We don’t need anybody, even God. If one is rich enough, one can begin to think of oneself as the center of the world. Who comes to mind is a braggart like Donald Trump.
Mark tells us of a good young man who kept the commandments all his life. Jesus saw the good that was in him and challenged him to do and be more. ‘Sell what you own, give your money to the poor and come follow me. This wasn’t what this pious young man expected. This was too much. He couldn’t bring himself to do this – end of conversation. His property ran his life, and he was not free enough to follow Jesus’ way of losing self to find oneself.
But let’s go back to when this young man approached Jesus and asked his question,’ what must I do to inherit eternal life? In a way he was asking how can I earn brownie points so I can be on God’s good side. We can get into that mentality sometimes. We say so many prayers, make so many novenas, visit this or that shrine and we get brownie points. In a way we think God owes us. In the early church there was a heresy named Pelagianism named after a 4th century theologian Pelagius. He taught a very strict, rigid moralism but he emphasized a natural, innate human ability to attain salvation. By dint of our natural abilities we could, so to speak, lift ourselves up by our own spiritual boot straps. He stressed human autonomy and freedom of the will and claimed that we have a [natural sanctity and a natural moral capacity to choose to live a holy life. He opposed St. Augustine’s teaching that good works can only come with the help of God’s grace.
As Christ told us,’ without me you can do nothing.’ St. Paul teaches that before the world began God chose us to be his adopted sons and daughters to holy and spotless in his sight such was God’s will and pleasure. St. Paul says of himself as we can say of ourselves,’by God’s grace I am what I am and his grace in me has not been in vain.’ Paul asks us,’ what have you that you have not received and if you have received it why do you act as if you had not receive it? Our basic reality is we are a graced and gifted people. Without me you can do nothing.’ That’s why we always seek the help of God’s grace to do what we must to gain the eternal life that is already ours thru the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. That’s why we answer the invitation of Jesus, ‘come to me you who labor and are heavily burdened and I will refresh you’, that’s we pray,’ give us this day our daily bread.
What must I do to gain eternal life? Jesus told the young man to keep the commandments. He tells us that if seek eternal life we are to live his great commandment, love all others as he has loved us. We are to be there for others. Spouses are to be there with love and patience for one another. Parents are to be there with love and patience for their sons and daughters. We are to be there for the stranger, the hungry, the homeless, those who mourn, we are to be there for the friend or stranger who needs us in any way. ‘As often as we are there for others we are there for Christ and Christ will be there us.
We are a graced and gifted people. We recognize that truth at every Mass when we are invited to give thanks to the Lord our God and we respond, ‘it is truly right and just our duty and our salvation always and everywhere to give you thanks Lord Holy Father almighty and eternal God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Can we make every day a day of thanksgiving knowing that we are a graced and gifted people? Can we begin each day remembering that before the world God chose us to be his adopted sons and daughters and that through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus we are restored to love and friendship with God? Can we spend a moment at the beginning of the day to thank God for the gift of life, the gift of family, the gift of faith, the gift of health, the gift of sight, the gift of mobility and so many other blessings?
What must we do to inherit eternal life? Be loving and be grateful.