Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?
He answered him,
Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.
He asked him,
And Jesus replied,
You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;
and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The young man said to him,
All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?
Jesus said to him,
If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.
— Matthew 19:16-22
The peace of the Lord be with you. Today Jesus has a conversation with a man who apparently has longed to be holy and to do what is right since the earliest years of his life. Some commentary suggests that he was being a bit arrogant, but it’s really not clear from the text what was motivating his question. It seems that Jesus takes his desire to do what is right and holy at face value, so I would suggest we need to think about the context of this reading in that light.
The stumbling block that Jesus and this young man identify is that he has many possessions and is reluctant to give them up. It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t say to him that his possessions were evil, but that it would lead him to greater holiness if he were able to let go of the importance they held in his life. It’s also interesting that the young man walks away sad because he continues to struggle with this burden. Why didn’t he ask Jesus for help? Perhaps that’s the true lesson here. When our hearts actually desire to be more godlike in our life, and we find ourselves struggling, maybe it’s precisely at that moment we need to ask God and the community of believers for their assistance. Christianity is a communal movement and we believe that the progress that we make comes in correlation with the grace that is poured out upon us by God.
Heavenly Father, you know the desires lying in the deepest recesses of my heart. When I am genuinely seeking you and do not feel as though I’m making progress, please remind me to call upon your help. You are the source of all goodness and want us to come closer to you. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.