How Hard It Is To Enter the Kingdom of God by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good by God alone. You know the commandments; You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother." He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to 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." At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They 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." Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you." Jesus said "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father of children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, With persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.
The rich man in today's Gospel was either a liar or a man of deep faith. I would argue that he was a believer. First of all, he runs up to Jesus, kneels down before him, calls him "Good Teacher," and asks about getting into eternal life. Soon after, he tells the Lord that he has observed the commandments since he was a youth. This is a bold claim, and is precisely why some might question his veracity. If true, then he was a man of deep faith.
Regardless, Jesus looks upon him with love. What more can you ask for? Don't we all want to have a moment in our lives when God's love is made abundantly clear? Don't we all want to be able to recall the day when God, loving gaze pierced our hearts and made us feel that, for one instant, there was no one else in the world but God and me?
Jesus then reveals His will for this rich man. You must go, sell your many possessions, give to the poor and then come follow me. Of course, we know that, tragically, he goes away sad "for he had many possessions."
Something goes terribly wrong here. Does he not recognize Christ's love? Does he refuse to accept it? After all, Christ's love is enough to melt the stoniest heart. How could he refuse the Master when He lovingly makes known His will for his life?
This leads Jesus to teach some important lessons about the kingdom of God. "How hard it is for those with wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" Why? First of all, it is hard for anyone to enter the kingdom, impossible even, without God's grace. We cannot do it on our own. Recognizing that requires true humility.
It should be noted at this point that most of the world looks upon the majority of us who live in Northern Virginia and says that we are very rich. I think they are right.
Pride, then might be the main reason why it is hard for us, the rich, to enter the kingdom. We can grow accustomed to getting what we want by hard work, intelligent planning and good connections. This reality makes it hard to accept deep in our hearts the truth that every good thing in life, even the fruit of hard labor, comes from God and that heaven, our life's goal and God's greatest blessing, is not something we simply can earn by hard work. "'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.'"
Additionally, wealth can be distracting. It often takes so much time to attain it, keep it, invest it and enjoy it that we lose sight of other things that are more important, like family, faith and the needs of the poor. We spend our energies chasing money and the pleasures it provides rather than investing our lives into heavenly treasures.
Finally, our possessions can grab a hold of us, steal our freedom and keep us from doing God's will. This is clearly Jesus' concern with the sad man in the Gospel. He is so attached to his possessions that he cannot do what Jesus asks.
Today's Gospel passage demands that we take some time to prayerfully, honestly examine our lives, (Perhaps a good retreat might be in order.) May God fill us with His grace this day, free us from all distractions and unhealthy attachments, and strengthen us to joyfully do whatever Jesus asks.
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