Posted by: fvbcdm | June 17, 2014

Feast of Saint Teresa of Portugal (17 June 2014)

I would like to give a little more thought today to the gospel on which we reflected yesterday, in which the young man asked Jesus what he had to do to gain eternal life. After Jesus had enumerated the commandments and the young man had told him that he had kept them all from his youth, Our Lord invited him to get rid of all his possessions and become one of Jesus’s followers. But that was asking too much, so the young man’s face fell and he went away sad, because he had many possessions as St. Mark tells us.

Stop and think: why was the young man sad? He was a devout Jewish fellow, a faithful observer of the commandments. But he wanted more in the realm of the spiritual life. He seemed to think that he wasn’t doing enough and he should do more. Our Lord tells him that if he keeps the commandments, he will be fine, spiritually.  But what else can I do? Well, if you really want to devote yourself to God totally, then go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and then come and follow me. Presumably he is sad because he can’t follow Jesus as an apostle or disciple— addicted as he is to his possessions.

He can’t have it both ways. He’d like to do more, but his wealth stands in his way. Now, if he wants to hang onto his possessions, one would think that they must make him happy. But, choosing them over the closer following of Jesus, he goes away sad. Therefore his wealth does not produce the happiness that he is seeking. Nonetheless, he leaves Jesus to go back to his wealth. I wonder if, five years down the road, or ten, or maybe at the end of his life, he didn’t regret his decision. Who knows? Maybe at some future date, as he watched the Church grow, he might have had the strength to give up his worldly possessions, thereby gaining heavenly ones, and then become a follower of Our Lord. It will be interesting to find out in eternal life what ever became of him.

About three years ahead of me in the seminary there was a young man who came from a very wealthy coal-mining family in southern Illinois. His family was not Catholic, but he had entered the Church as a college student and then decided to become a Dominican priest. When he reached the moment of solemn vows, when we have to renounce all that we own, he signed away about nine million dollars as his part of the family legacy. In those days that was an IMMENSE amount of money! But he signed on the dotted line with the same willingness as his classmates who might have had a few dollars in the bank, and he never looked back. He was always a happy priest who, unfortunately, did not live very long. He died in a plane crash near Alexandria, Louisiana, when he was not yet fifty years old.  And I’m sure that if he had had to do it again, he would have done the same thing.

God gives us a certain amount of riches in this life—our family, our education, our gifts and talents, our ability to do well financially, our profession. We have a right to live comfortably, but we must always remember those less fortunate than ourselves, and we must especially keep in mind that wealth does not bring happiness. The wealthiest people are not the happiest, nor are the happiest the wealthiest. The greatest wealth that we can possess is Christ, our Lord. “Come,” he invites us, “follow me.” Keep my commandments; live by my virtues, my sacraments, be a man or woman of prayer. Know, love, and serve God in all things. For this you were made; only this will make you as happy as possible in this life, and totally happy in the next.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you, Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago

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