Ps 106:34-37, 39-40, 43ab, 44 (with 4a)
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
A young man approached Jesus and said,
“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, “Which ones?”
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.
Good News Reflection: How to reach heaven
The young man in the Gospel reading today thought he was doing everything right, yet something made him feel uncertain about it. Something made him ask Jesus how to gain eternal life.
When I pose the question to Catholics, “Do you know if you’re going to heaven?” many say no, they hope so, but they’re not sure. These are good Christian Catholics, not pew-sitters who show up at church only out of the fear of hell, unaffected by the transforming power of the Eucharist, doing little during the week to grow closer to God. These are people who dearly love the Lord, confess their sins, and happily serve the Church with their gifts and talents.
When I ask if they mean they’ll probably stop in purgatory first, they usually reply that they just don’t know. Purgatory is not the problem. What if — this is what they ask me — what if, before they die, due to their imperfections they turn away from Jesus?
Notice that Jesus didn’t tell his young questioner that he wasn’t going to reach heaven unless he became perfect. Keeping the commandments was enough, but to add treasures to his home in heaven, he would need to detach himself from earthly possessions.
Jesus wasn’t concerned about the guy having too much. He was concerned about his priorities. Here was a good lad who dutifully obeyed all the laws. Why? So that he could gain something (everlasting life). Notice that it was all about Self: What do I get out of it?
The real treasures of life are the ones we share with others. Consider which commandments Jesus quoted on this occasion. He left out the ones that focus on our relationship with God. He listed only those that deal with how we treat people. Jesus gave him a challenge that, if he worked on it and wrestled with it and accepted it, would help him outgrow his selfishness.
As long as we love others, we can be sure that we are not turning away from Jesus. And if we love Jesus and understand that he died because he loves us, there’s no doubt about it, we will get into heaven (although probably with the help of purgatory’s purging), for God is love, and if we have love, we have God, and if we have God, we have eternal life with him.
If our fears are true about someday turning our backs on the Lord, then it’s because we’re already doing it by turning our backs on the people who need our love. Lawful obedience to God’s commandments produces loving actions toward others unless we’re obeying merely for “What do I get out of it?”
Our heaven-bound holiness shows up in the way we treat others, what we share with them, and the mercy that we give to those who are difficult to love. This is the treasure we will never want to give up, for it means we have truly embraced Jesus and the reasons why he died. Eternal life in heaven is a sure thing.
To learn more about life after death, we have a short selection of WordBytes at wordbytes.gnm.org/FAQs/
Lord Jesus: Make my heart be always rooted in You. Deliver me from everything that might take away my freedom to follow You wherever you lead me. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica