My dear People of God, we heard in the second reading:
The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart;
and In our passage from the Gospel we learned something of what those words meant in real life for Jesus.
The rich young man had, according to the Law, lived a good life, but now he found that his appreciation of the word ‘good’ was superficial and perhaps even somewhat blasphemous, when Jesus said to him:
Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, God.
Such a statement can seem, for many, to be obvious but purposeless; that however is far from the truth with Jesus: His words are fundamental for our very life and total well-being:
No one is good but One, God. No one is good but God.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we as the People of God, are called by those easily overlooked words of Jesus, to recognize that we do not learn from popular films, from pagan social media, from the faith-less majority around us, what is truly good for us and for our children, what will help us and them to experience a life of authentic human peace and joy leading ultimately to the divine fulfilment of eternal life in the family of God.
Today, most people around us adapt, model, and justify their personal and family behaviour in accordance with those popular presentations portrayed by American films and social media: good parents like to buy for their children whatever they – the children that is -- think they need or whatever they say others at school have; again, other good parents under the similar pressures, accede to their children’s assessment of their trials and difficulties: not daring to teach them, they pretend to fully understand those difficulties as their children experience them, to such an extent that they would never require their children to learn personal discipline or practice obedience, for that might cause upset and disturb peace in the family; and ‘peace’, of course, is another Gospel word for heavenly reality. In like manner, the ‘joy’ imagined by screen and video presentations of personal and family love always adds to the fullness of our experience of life and the development of our personality, how then could Christian joy ever be said to result from self-forgetfulness, let alone from self-denial?
People of God, there are also others not themselves faithless but who, aiming to achieve Gospel ends by human measures, seek to make Christ and the Gospel popular; they present the Christian life as something almost second nature to us, and the salvation offered us they portray as a reward to be almost automatically acquired after a life of even minimal devotion. Moreover, their use of Gospel words such as ‘good’, ‘peace’ and ‘joy’, all derivatives of ‘LOVE’, is usually so coloured with predominantly human overtones that there would appear to be no possibility of conflict between those heavenly realities and our human experiences here below, except, of course, for their heavenly abundance and eternal permanence.
And yet, once again, for Jesus Himself things are much different:
Jesus, looking at (the young man), loved him, and said, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow Me." At that statement his face fell and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Thereupon Jesus addressed His disciples concerning the difficulty of reconciling personal wealth with a Christian appreciation of, and desire to enter, the Kingdom of God.
(The disciples) were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."
Thus, popular presentations of Gospel Christianity and human happiness are usually found to be emasculated and inauthentic versions of Catholic Christianity when, thanks to Mother Church’s use of her Scriptures in the liturgy, we listen again to Jesus’ own proclamation of the Gospel of salvation:
For human beings (salvation) is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.
The young man believed he had always loved God, but Jesus told him:
You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow Me.
Those words pierced the young man so deeply that, we are told:
At that statement his face fell and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
He went away because he had just been brought to realise how much he loved his earthly possessions: indeed, the exercise of those earthly possessions meant more to him than any heavenly aspirations. And so, he went away sorrowful because he knew that he was turning away from the best option, for the call of Jesus to personal discipleship was, he realized, though not a command, certainly a wonderful offer, a supreme opportunity. Nevertheless, he could not turn his back on his money and all the good things of life on earth that it afforded him: above all, perhaps, that prominence which brought him the esteem and subservience of others.
If you now recall how we began Mass you will remember that we said, “Lord, you were sent to heal the contrite”, “You came to call sinners”. Jesus is continually calling all -- be they contrite or sinners -- to open their hearts and minds ever more and more to the healing power of His love. The Word of God proclaimed at Mass to the contrite, --
is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart;
and, as such, it is meant to pierce all mankind and, having penetrated through manifold layers of human sinfulness, self-satisfaction, and personal ignorance, to thereby enable each and every one of us to see our own sinfulness more clearly, just as it did with the rich young man. That young man had to be shown the depth of his attachment to money in order that he might appreciate and be able to respond to a higher vocation in life here on earth, namely, with Jesus, to learn to love the Father above all else, and in Jesus to attain to eternal life and glory before the Father in heaven:
Sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow Me.
Now, Jesus does not say the same words to every person who turns to Him for salvation. The Word of God, which Mother Church proclaims here at Mass and throughout her liturgy and public ministry, can be of special significance to any and every one of us who hear it aright: it can, at any stage in our life, open us up to ourselves anew, showing us how much His healing is still needed in our lives, and enabling us to respond to a further and yet more wonderful call from Jesus.
Jesus, remember, does not look bleakly at us with a cold eye and critical appreciation, for we have already been called and guided to Him by the Father:
No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)
Therefore, Jesus loves us, just as He loved the rich young man, as we heard:
Jesus looking at him, loved him.
Jesus loved him because He saw what He could make of that young man if he were to become a disciple and learn to give glory to the Father. The Word of God had penetrated to the core of his being for his greater blessing; if only he could have accepted that Word and the revelation of his present self generated by it.
People of God, never turn away from God’s Word heard or read in the Scriptures and in the teaching of the Church because it makes you feel uncomfortable, because Jesus does not seek or plan our ultimate discomfiture. He loves us and wants only to help us glorify the Father with Him, to lead us to the fullest realization of our divine potential; and to that end we must never forget what we heard in the second reading:
There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account.
Like foolish children, we simply do not know either the truth about ourselves, or what is truly good for us. All things are “naked and open to the eyes of God”, and His holy Word comes to us, at times, to cut us to the quick and thereby help us first to realize, and then hopefully to embrace, what is best for us, for:
(It) is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow;
it is, however, only piercingly sharp at those times when God wants, by that Word, to help us, as Scripture says:
(to) discern (the) reflections and thoughts and intents of (our own) heart.
And this He does because, to all those who will lovingly accept His Word and humbly acknowledge what they have been led to recognize about themselves, the words of the prophet Malachi will apply, who declared in the name of the Lord:
To you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings. (Malachi 4:2)
People of God, if -- as yet -- you don’t truly appreciate the dignity of your calling as a Catholic disciple of Jesus, then allow the Word of God to be active in you, do not reject its occasional piercing, penetrating, and yet healing, smart. Remember the advice given us in the first reading from the book of Wisdom:
The spirit of wisdom came to me; (and) all good things came to me along with her: in her hands uncounted wealth. I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases.