28th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Lay Carmelites, MCA
What starts out sounding like a step-by-step multiple ingredient recipe for “getting saved” ends up being a two-step dance between the human person and God. The rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus gives him the answer he's expecting. Follow the Law. A good Jewish answer. The young man says, “Check. Done that.” Jesus says that he must do more. Sell everything you possess. Give the money to the poor. Then follow me. The young man walks away from this multi-step process b/c he's rich. He possesses a lot of stuff. Jesus amazes his disciples when he tells them that rich people will have a difficult time entering the kingdom of God. Why? Why is it difficult for the rich to inherit the kingdom? Jesus doesn't say. Nonetheless, the disciples are exceedingly astonished by this revelation and wonder aloud who then can be saved. Jesus introduces the two-step dance of salvation. Step One: nothing we can do can save us. Step Two: only God Himself can bring us to heaven. Like the young man, we expect there to be a process to salvation, a method or a procedure. Some sort of instructions or script for us to follow. But God alone saves us. And that's been the plan all along.
God offers us His mercy. And we receive Him as grace. This reception of God's mercy as grace is salvific and sanctifying. It saves and makes holy all who receive it. So, the question the young man should've asked is: how do I receive the inheritance of eternal life? Jesus actually answers this question. Remove from yourself – your body and soul – all attachments that prevent you from seeing and hearing the Word of God spoken to you through the Law and the prophets, and through the Word Made Flesh. Attachments to the things of this world interfere with our reception of God's mercy. Salvation is not about “following a procedure” to get the results we want. That's impossible for us. What is possible for us – with God's grace – is to detach ourselves from anything and anyone that prevents us from fully receiving God's mercy for our sin. He has willed from the moment of creation that we return to Him and that we return to Him freely in love. Therefore, to love anything or anyone above God is to attach ourselves to the things of this world. Love God first, then everything and everyone you love becomes a source of grace.
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