Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. ( Matthew 19:16-22)
I too am always saddened a bit when I read this Gospel. Here was a wealthy young man who followed the commandments but was seeking something deeper in life. He hears of Jesus, believes that Jesus had the wisdom to help him. But when Jesus tells him, he realizes that he could not do as Jesus asked.
In the end, he really did not understand what Jesus said. The statement that Jesus made about seeing all the riches the young man was meant to focus the man on the interior of his being. His treasure and his hope for happiness were misplaced. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. The Lord himself is the greatest treasure we can have.
Jesus does call some people to literally sell all their possessions and give them away. We certainly know how Francis of Assisi, similarly a wealthy young man, gave away everything and dedicated his life to working for and among the poor. Their vocation is a sign to all of us of the radical change in our that each of us is called to.
What is that radical interior calling given to us by our Lord? It’s a calling to spiritual poverty. By “spiritual poverty” we mean that each and every one of us is called to detach from the things of this world to the same extent as those called to literal poverty. The only difference is that one calling is both interior and exterior, and the other calling is only interior. But it must be just as radical.
What does spiritual poverty look like? It is a Beatitude. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” as St. Matthew says, and “Blessed are the poor,” as St. Luke says. Spiritual poverty means we discover the blessing of spiritual riches in our detachment from the material enticements of this age. No, material “things” are not evil. That’s why it’s perfectly acceptable to have personal possessions. But it is quite common for us to also have a strong attachment to the things of this world. Too often we want more and more and fall into the trap of thinking that more “things” will make us happy. Too often we fall into the trap of outdoing everybody.
Why is it that so many of us fail to understand that it is not about what we do but rather who we are. What does it matter if we spend our life doing but our interior is not a mirror of God’s love? If there is not peace in our hearts? If forgiveness is begrudgingly given? If envy, jealousy, meanness and constant judging of others is part of our us.
The radical change that Jesus is all about calls for a radically changed heart. Stop doing for a moment and reflect. Reflect on that moment when we meet Jesus. In the blinding reality of that moment, our hearts are measured by their interior beauty. Our hearts and lives are measured by the purity of our dedication to following Christ on earth. The doing is the exterior. But the exterior actions must match the internal purity of our love of Christ.
Prayer of The Day
“Forgive me for putting so many things before you. Thank you for your mercy and love. My prayer today is that You help me put You before everything in my life. By doing this I will hope to know You better and discover why you created me. Amen.”
Those who are generous towards God and others find that they cannot out give God in generosity. God blesses us with spiritual goods that far outweigh the fleeting joys of material goods. He alone can satisfy the deepest longing and desires of our heart. Are you willing to part with anything that might keep you from seeking true joy with Jesus?