This verse follows Jesus’ parable of the rich young man who has been a good person, following the commandments all of his life. But the young man has asked Jesus the universal question, our question: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (verse 17) Jesus stuns the young man (and the disciples) with his answer. “There is still one thing that you haven’t done. Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (verse 21)
With this, we begin to see that heaven requires more of us than obedience to the commandments. As we see in the gospels, it is possible to obey the commandments to the enth degree, and still fall short of righteousness. We see this in every encounter that Jesus has with the Pharisees. Though they follow the law in public and put great pressure and judgment on the people to do the same, they are quite different in private. He calls them “whitened sepulchers,” appearing to be good on the outside, while full of rot and decay on the inside.
No. There is something more that Jesus wants of us. It involves an attitude, and attitude of holy humility. He wants us to love one another as he loved us; completely, unconditionally, and mercifully. He wants us to give our all for the sake of those who are poor, or who are wounded in any way. He wants us to see the suffering of others and be moved in the depth of our being to sacrifice our all willingly, for their good. He is telling us here that the things of the world are nothing, let go of them. He wants us to let go of their hold on us. The highest law is the law of love. Love transcends the temporary things of the world. He wants us to learn to detach ourselves from the desires and imagined securities of the world, to let go and to let God work through our willing submission to his will. It is in doing this that God continues his work of salvation in the world. This is the virtue of humility in action.
Jesus loves this young man who has endeavored his whole life to be good, to honor the law of God. But he challenges him to go all the way, to go the extra step that will cause him to inherit eternal life with God that he so desires. Jesus knows that this is not possible through human will power alone. This challenge is greater than human will can provide. It is impossible without God. But with God “all things are possible.” We are to let go of the false things of the world, trusting in God to give us the strength, and the graces necessary to begin to love as Jesus loved. After all, he is our model. He “sold everything,” his divinity, and his very life, giving everything to the poor, that is, to all of us sinners, in order to make it possible for us to inherit eternal life with him again in Paradise. To live and to love as Jesus did is impossible for us in our fallen, sinful humanity, unless we turn humbly to his graceful help. We can begin to go this extra mile if we “sell” our trust in earthly things, and put all of our trust in Christ alone. If we do this, he will make all things possible to us. Thanks be to God!
Lord, without your grace we can do nothing. Help us to know this more deeply every day. Help us to deepen our prayer lives, and to let go of our hope and dependence on the temporal things of this world. Turn our thoughts more and more to you and your ways. With you, all things are truly possible. We pray these things humbly in the name of Jesus. Amen!
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