Posted by: Fr Chris | August 11, 2018

Jesus and the Rich Young Man – and me

12th Sunday after Pentecost, 2018

Image result for jesus and rich young man

Jesus gave him a list of the commandments which have to do with a man’s obligation to his fellowman. He was going about the task of bringing this man to conviction and showing him his need of a Savior. The young man quickly answered, I have kept all these commandments all of my life.” But Jesus had not mentioned the first commandment which says that we are not to have any other gods before the God of heaven. Nor had He mentioned the second commandment which says that we are not to bow down and worship any earthly thing. Nor the great commandment: love God with whole heart And soul and love neighbor as yourself. And right here the man’s supposed perfection broke down. He did have a god other than the God of heaven. He did worship an earthly idol. Money was his bigger god-he worshiped his wealth. And Jesus, who could see his heart, knew this, so He applied the acid test. “Go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come and follow Me.”

In 1st cent Judaism there was a heresy that the wealthy are blessed by God – this is NOT found anywhere in Scripture. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Protestant Reformers, and some Scripture “scholars”, dealt with this episode like this: ancient gates were called needles because they were pointed on top, so the camel had to get down on the ground to get through it, so Jesus really meant that the rich had to be humble. While rich folks and everyone else has to be humble, this is NOT what Jesus meant. Ancient gates had arches that were round or square – no narrow tiny spaces. This is the kind of twisting of the gospel we get in the US with so many mega churches that preach the gospel of prosperity – it was a heresy in the 1st century, it was a heresy in the reformation, it is a heresy today. God does not shower wealth on the saved! Nowhere does that appear in the bible, or for that matter, in church history. Because those who were convinced they were saved due to their status and power almost always ended up abusing the rest of humanity, and did so firm in the belief that since they were the only ones saved, they had the right to do so.

Image result for anawim

Jesus uses all kinds of hyperbole, of odd images in His preaching, which was a common thing to do in first century Palestine. He is telling the disciples it is impossible – why? the rich wanted to get richer, more powerful, at the expense of everyone else, and control more of the economy – and if my life is devoted to acquiring stuff and power,  God usually gets the leftovers of my energy.

God did not choose ancient Egypt, or the mighty Persian empire, or even the Roman empire as His chosen people –  God consistently chose the anawim in Scripture, and early Israel is definitely among the anawim! God chose twelve wandering clans descended from one elderly man and his wife who supposedly could not have children, who spent their days walking with their sheep and goats in one of the most heavily traveled parcels of land in the ancient world, to be His Chosen People. When ancient Israel rose into kingdoms, false gods were worshipped and the temple abandoned except for the priestly families and God’s little ones – the ones who continued to trust in Him. When ancient Israel hit hard times, the false gods were overthrown and the crowds returned to the temple. The wealthy young ruler knew he needed more, but once convicted in his heart that he had to give up his money and power, he refused to do it, even though it meant happiness and salvation.

The good deeds we perform mean nothing unless they are supported with love of God and neighbor. Even communists have a code of behavior – they rarely follow it, preferring to keep the Party and its members in power at all costs, but they do have one. The key is WHY are we doing what we do.

Image result for elizabeth of hungary roses

St Elizabeth Queen of Hungary: her royal relatives were angry that she gave bread to the poor, and her own husband pulled open her robes thinking he’d find rich food and instead he found roses – after that, he let her do whatever she wanted.

Image result for st zita

Saint Zita, incorrupt since her death in 1272 

St Zita was a maid in a wealthy house for 48 years – went to daily Mass, said many prayers, yet fulfilled all her duties perfectly. Servants were jealous of her and her employers were angry that she gave food to poor people and beggars – in the end everyone was won over to love her – why? Her work was prayer, she sanctified dusting, washing, cooking with her constant prayers and love for God. Her body remains incorrupt over 700 years after her death, a sign of just how much she pleased God.

Image result for karl and zita habsburg

Blessed Karl of Austria and his wife, the Servant of God Zita of Bourbon-Parma

Crown Prince Karl of Austria and his wife stopped to eat in a village inn in the early 1900s. He was in his military uniform, heading back to his troops. A woman recognized the regiment whose uniform he was wearing and asked if he could deliver clean socks and food to her son in that regiment. Imagine her shock when her son wrote to her that the future Emperor of Austria-Hungary himself had happily delivered her care package to him! How many of our 1% who control 40% of America’s wealth would do such a thing? How many of us would happily do so?

The poor are not perfect – they can be focused on getting rich or at least better than what they have so as to escape grinding poverty and forget God – but, why is it that we have so few saints who were wealthy and powerful, who had luxury of time and energy to supposedly devote to God since they weren’t working long hours? The few who were, were like St Elizabeth, Blessed Karl of Austria or St Henry the Emperor – they were people who took time out for union with God, to participate in worship, who treated the men and women around them as equals made by God, who raised their wealthy children to be grateful to God for everything and everyone around them.

The key for either rich or poor or middle or working class is this: what is our god here on earth in addition to God? too often we all have one. power, popularity at work or school, being a better athlete, controlling other people in my life, showing off with my skills to those who I think are not as good as me – we all have these gods, and they are all negatives.

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” – do I want to spend eternity in heaven with God and His angels and saints? The answer for all here is presumably yes – we must ask ourselves in light of this gospel, do I have one God, one Almighty God? How do I act towards others: do I behave to other students, co -workers, as if they are all equally important in God’s eyes, or do I respect only a boss or the local bully? Do I keep God’s commandments? How much time does God get from me? How much time and attention could He get from me? What have I taught my children? What am I teaching my children, my grandchildren now? How do I act towards others – politely, out of social harmony, or with respect and affection, because they are the children of God?

Image result for what must i do to be saved

What must I do to be saved? What must I be doing so that I can enjoy eternity with God, His angels, His saints?  I could be 90 and still ask that question, because we continue to change and grow. In our prayers tonight, let us ask God  that question: given who I am now, and where I am in life now, what must I do to be saved?

Image result for jesus open arms

Christ is among us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: