All Things Are Possible For God
by Rev. Jack Peterson, YA
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.
Jesus makes it clear in this week’s Gospel that God’s radical gift of Himself to us demands a radical gift of ourselves back to Him. Nothing, especially money or possessions, should get in the way of loving God with all of our hearts, surrendering our lives to Him and dedicating ourselves to following His will.
Mark the Evangelist recounts the story of the man with many possessions who approaches Jesus with great reverence and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus first mentions the importance of the Ten Commandments. After the man admits to the admirable reality that he has followed the commandments since his youth, Jesus looks on him with love and says, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The gentleman leaves Jesus’ presence a very sad man “for he had many possessions.”
This is a distressing story and an uncommon one in the Gospels. It is distressing because he is a good man whom Jesus looked on with love, yet he was unable to respond with all his heart to Jesus and His request. It is uncommon because when most people meet Jesus in the Gospels, when they encounter His powerful love, they respond rather generously.
Next, Jesus takes this opportunity to preach: “How hard it is for those who have wealth 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.”
Why would Jesus offer this startling challenge to His listeners? He is suggesting that the wealthy face a particularly challenging path to God’s gift of salvation.
The rich usually are very skilled at accomplishing certain tasks that earn a generous income. Consequently, they often have a variety of resources including money to throw at life’s many problems, for example, with the law, personal health or a struggling relative. Additionally, the rich usually are connected to others who have influence and power in this world whom they can turn to for additional assistance. All of these realities combine to tempt the rich with the illusion that they do not really need God to get through life. They are masters of their own lives and destiny.
When we lose that deep awareness in our gut that God is infinitely good and that everything good in life comes from Him, we come to a bad place in life. We fail to be properly grateful to God for His blessings. We are slow to admit our sins and our need for Jesus’ mercy. We don’t embrace the truth that Jesus has the answers to life’s biggest questions. We live as if we do not need God in our lives.
After Jesus warns His disciples about the dangers of being rich and how easy it is for them to turn away from the Lord, Jesus’ disciples ask, “’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.’’
This great truth about salvation is very encouraging. While we can’t work out our salvation on our own, with God’s grace, all things are possible. Salvation from sin, self-deception and hell is not something that we can scratch and claw our way to by good old-fashioned hard work or being extra clever. Rather, it is a gift from God. It is something that He offers freely to His children from the depths of His love and unexplainable goodness.
Our job as Christians is to fall on our knees and accept the gift of salvation with great humility and gratitude. Our job is to respond to His offer with conversion of heart and a spirit of generous service to our neighbor. Our job is to strive to love Him radically in return, even if it is with just a tiny glimmer of the amazing love that He has bestowed upon us.
The challenge for the rich is to recognize their need for God. In the end, it is the same challenge for every Christian. The poor can fail at this challenge as well. By God’s grace, we can overcome this challenge.
Lord, open my eyes to see and appreciate my great need for You.
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