The rich young man comes to Jesus looking for assurance of salvation: “What must I do to have eternal life?” It’s a question almost every person has pondered. Will I be saved? Will I go to heaven?
John Calvin and other founders of Protestantism reacted against the corruption they saw in the Catholic Church and wanted to find a way to be sure of eternal life, like the rich young man. Calvin argued that since the creation God predestined some people, by faith, to be saved. The rest of humanity would be lost. Calvinists soon wanted to know how they could be sure they were saved, among the elect of God on the right path to salvation. They began to teach that strict and right behavior indicated who were the chosen to be numbered among the elect. So this meant no dancing, drinking, swearing, or gambling. You need to work hard, save your money, and carefully observe the Ten Commandments. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Soon they threw out all the sacraments, feasts like Christmas and birthdays, saints’ days, and devotion to Mary and the saints and angels.
This led to a bleak and sorry understanding of the Gospels. We became “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” and lived in fear of the wrath of God and eternal damnation. Catholicism had a similar trend called Jansenism that stressed the evil nature of the flesh and a God of wrath ready to crush the sinner.
Jesus, on the other hand, offers the rich young man and each of us the grace to enter into a relationship with Him and the Father. This is a relationship of love.
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go and sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Who knows, this young man, had he followed Jesus, might have become a great apostle like Peter and Paul, or James and John, or Matthew or Luke, but there was an obstacle he could not overcome. For him it was wealth. For each one of us it might be pride, or envy, or lust, or anger at some hurt that is unforgiven and unhealed. It could even be gluttony, or alcoholism, or bullying others. Jesus offers the grace to move beyond the obstacle as individuals and as families.
Jesus is a man of joy. He experienced, appreciated and celebrated a whole range of human joys. He admired the birds of the sky and the lilies of the field. He extols the joys of the sower and the harvester, the joy of the man who finds the hidden treasure, the woman who finds her lost coin, the shepherd who recovers his lost sheep., the joy of a Cana marriage celebration and the joy of the prodigal father whose lost son returns home, the joy of the woman who has just brought her child into the world.
The joy of the Kingdom, for all who enter, replaces every sadness and emptiness. It radiates from the joyful heart who delights that little ones have received the revelation of the Kingdom which remains hidden form the wise and able.
The family home that has Christ, the Lord, and His Sacred Heart at the center know a joy that no poverty, or disaster or struggle or sadness can take away. Say grace before every meal; bless your children with the sign of the cross as they leave for school and return home. Take a few moments to pray with them for grandparents, relatives, friends, and neighbors before saying a prayer of blessing over each child.
The joy of the Gospel is real and fills the hearts of all believers who absorb and live the entirety of the Gospel. It is demanding and challenging but is also the source of all joy in this present world and the confidence of eternal life for all who follow Christ the Lord. Amen.
Each weekday, the homily from Daily Mass at Holy Cross Family Ministries is shared online. Visit Family Rosary: World at Prayer and sign up to receive notifications of each day’s homily.
Copyright 2018 Fr. Willy Raymond, C.S.C.