Dear Ascension Family:
Blessings of good health! I hope that everything is well and safe in your family. As for our parish, in this challenging time, we are doing our best. Together with our Parish Pastoral Council and the Parish Finance Council, we are continuously finding ways and means to keep our parish family life going, active and dynamic as we remain committed to our parish mission to serve the Lord and one another.
As a way of helping us grow in our relationship with the Lord, let us reflect on the gospel reading for this Sunday.
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” a man asked Jesus. It is a question that haunts every human being. It is your question and my question. Of course the question can be formulated in different ways. But the basic thrust remains the same. Every person wants to know how to keep on living.
The answer of Jesus to the question is direct. Keep the commandments. The man answers that he has lived a decent moral life from his youth. He has made since childhood a sincere effort to keep all the rules of his religion. Even the way he approaches Jesus shows how religious the man is. Like a devout Catholic genuflecting to kiss the bishop’s ring, the man kneels before Jesus in reverence. Then Jesus, as the gospel says, looked at him with love. And then – here is the punch line – having felt such love, Jesus said to the man, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell What you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.” Jesus did not give him pat on the head, no thumbs up. Instead, “Because I love you, I am telling you this.”
It is an old posture that many of us have used many times.
“If I didn’t love you I would not care so. No, you cannot go out tonight. You have homework to do.”
“Honey, I know this will hurt you, but we have to get that tooth taken care of.”
“Love, I cannot let you do that to yourself!”
Why all these imperatives? We know why: because if we love someone we always want what is best for them. We cannot just stand by and let them settle for less. If we didn’t care, then we can let them go jump off the cliff. But we do care. We love them enough to care, and therefore to make demands.
Now we can understand why the gospel follows Jesus’ feelings of tender love with a strong command to give away what the man cherishes. Jesus loves him so much to let him settle for just being a “a good man.” Jesus is practically saying to the rich man, “Hey, you can do better than that!”
For Jesus, keeping the commandments was just the bare minimum. He saw that the rich man was capable of more. In fact, he was capable of greatness. So Jesus said to him, “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.” But the man could not give up. His wealth trapped him. “He went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
The theme of doing one’s very best is stated many times in the Bible. We read there how God loves us with all his heart, sharing with us all he has, and doing everything he can to help us. But the best God could give us was his own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus came, he also gave God the best thing he had. He offered his life on a cross so that we might have eternal life.
Jesus demands the best of us as he did of the rich man. He will not allow us to settle for anything less. The thing we might be called upon to give up in order to take that challenge could vary for each of us. Definitely, we all have something that stands in the way of our deeper following of Christ. For the man in today’s gospel it was his possessions; for us it may be something else. We have to look into our hearts to see what it is that we would have to let go. Maybe it is not money; maybe it is pride or arrogance; maybe it is lust, selfishness, envy, hatred, prejudice; may be a wrong relationship that stands in the way of our deeper following of Christ and of reaching eternal life.
My dear Ascension family, Jesus looks upon us with love, but it is not the gushy love of the greeting cards or love songs. It is a tough love that reminds us that, good people that we are, we can do better, must do better.
Don’t walk away sad. Accept the gospel challenge.
Praying for you all,