28th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2021

My Dear People,

Today Jesus teaches a lesson about poverty. When Jesus tells the young man to give everything away and follow him, the young man who had many possessions was not ready for this new challenge. Not every disciple is called to give everything away. There were wealthy followers of the Lord. Women (Luke 8:3) helped support His ministry from their own means. But Our Lord knew that, in this man’s case, something more radical was necessary. 

At the same time, Our Lord’s message has two parts. It is not simply “sell all you have and give to the poor,” but also: “then come, follow me.” 

Acts of social justice or charity are good in themselves and are a necessary part of conversion. But charity can be done for wrong motives, and it does not necessarily lead us into a relationship with God. There are atheists who work for the Red Cross. So, it is not enough, in obtaining eternal life to become detached from the love of things; we must also develop an attachment to God himself. 

This teaching on poverty we now take for granted, but the disciples are “astonished” when Our Lord says it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Why? Because among many Jews (and later Christians, too) wealth was considered a sign of God’s blessing. Moreover, the wealthy had the leisure and the resources to fulfill all the rituals of the Law of Moses, including the burdensome sacrifices and washing, which were time consuming and expensive, far beyond the means of the average day laborer. So many considered wealth to be an unmitigated good, a sign of God’s blessing and the potential to follow the Law. 

Jesus reverses this scenario. Knowing the weakness of human nature, He recognizes that wealth exerts such a pull on our loyalties and affections that it can be humanly impossible to detach from goods and attach to the Good One. 

“How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Unprecedented wealth has helped to empty the Church. For the poor, the Gospel is Good News of peace and joy with God in the life to come. For the rich, the Gospel is Bad News about moral laws that limit their ability to satiate their pleasures

How do we gain eternal life? Jesus gives us three basic steps in today’s Gospel. Follow the Law of God, which weans us from our selfishness. Then, give up the idols of the heart: possessions, pleasure, power, pride. Then, Come, follow me.” Attach the heart to Christ.

 None of the three steps are possible without the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to us in Baptism and refreshed within us at the Eucharist. 

Our Lord wants us to have the spirit of poverty, so that we can be more open to the inspiration and the influence of the Holy Spirit. 

Yours in Christ, 

Fr. Vincent Clemente

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