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12th Sunday of Matthew: Matt 19:16-26

Today’s Gospel concerns the young man who asked Christ, what it is necessary to do in order to have eternal life.

Our Lord tells him first of all to keep all the commandments which were given by divine inspiration to Moses.

However, our Lord sums up those commandments, by giving only two commandments: ‘Love God with all your heart and your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matt 22:37-40). These two commandments are linked.

As we know from the recent history of dictators and tyrants, World Wars and human misery, those who do not love God, do not love God’s creation. And the summit of God’s creation is humanity/the human being. Those who hate humans are those who have first hated God. And such haters of humans are also those who hate the rest of God’s creation.

All that is, exists because God thinks the world, and the world comes into being. Those who recklessly cut down forests and pollute the air, the water, and the earth are also haters of God and true life, since it is clear that they don’t honour God’s Creation. They don’t use creation in the right way, for the glory of God. They use creation selfishly, to turn themselves into gods by overpowering it, exploiting it, and capitalising on it. Hence, those who deny the Fatherhood of God, also deny the Brotherhood of humanity, and the common house of creation.

How can we know God as He is? Christ has shown us the way, asking us to dwell in holiness so as not to harm anyone else, to prefer others to ourselves, and not to struggle to lord it over them. If we wish to regenerate our nature, to gain likeness to God, the desire to serve others should dominate our life, not to spend our life dominating others.

The young man who spoke to Christ today kept the commandments. Probably, this was fairly easy for him since he had been well brought up, and well instructed. However, our Lord tells him that there is a higher way to salvation, a way to become perfect. This is for him to give away all his wealth. The disciples, not yet enlightened by the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Descent of the Holy Spirit, were astonished at Christ’s words about the rich, and asked who could be saved? His words seemed to them to be hard words, and that therefore no one could be saved.

However, if we examine more closely Christ’s words, we see that He does not say that the rich cannot be saved. Rather, He says that those who are attached to their riches cannot be saved.

And this is the tragedy of the soul of the young man, for he went away sorrowful, for he had ‘great possessions’. In other words, the discerning eyes of Christ saw that the young man was unlike those disciples who had abandoned their fishing-boat in order to follow the Saviour; it was not so much that the young man had many possessions, but rather that he was possessed or dominated by his material possessions, because they secretly fed his pride, and made him feel superior.

And this is the secret of wealth. In the history of the Church and in the Lives of the Saints, we can often read of many people who came into great wealth, but they did not allow themselves to become possessed of their wealth. They were wealthy for a time, and then gave it away, to orphanages, to beggars, to charities, to churches, to monasteries. They understood that wealth is granted by God, only for a time and only for a purpose. God calls the wealthy not to be possessors, but rather distributors, of wealth. We are called to be channels, instruments, agents of the grace and benefactions of God. Nothing should come from ourselves; we should be like mirrors reflecting God’s Good Will and Infinite Mercy.

Now, in this same Gospel, Christ tells us that in fact salvation is impossible through men, but that all things are possible through God. What do these words imply regarding our way of life?

First of all, we should not think that we are able to do anything by ourselves and certainly we are unable to save ourselves. Above all we should not think that what God allows us to do, we can do well, or even perfectly. Perfectionism comes from the sin of pride. Those who are perfectionists are too demanding with themselves, and too demanding with others. Such people often feel frustrated. They become disillusioned, falling into discouragement and even despair. We are to avoid the spirit of self-reliance, the pride of doing things only from our own power. In any important undertaking, we are to ask for God’s blessing, to ask Him for His help, for His guidance, the power of His grace.

On the other hand, we are not simply to sit back and abandon all efforts, expecting God to do everything for us.

Our Lord tells us how to live in today’s Gospel. He says: Do your best, and He will look after everything else. If we do first what is possible, God will do what is impossible for us.

Today we are all celebrating ‘father’s day’, and what does Christ say about this? One of the commandments is: ‘honour your father and your mother’ (Ex 20:12). But Christ also says: ‘He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me’ (Matt 10:37). It is therefore good for us to honour and love our biological father; however we must learn to go beyond the ties binding us to those closest to us. This means that we should not love and honour anyone else more than Christ. Otherwise we will not reach the universal and absolute love of God, our common Father.

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