“All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:20-21).
Religiosity without charity amounts to mere lip service before God. It is not enough that we keep God’s commandments, we must also ensure that we do not make a god of our material possessions. Like the Israelites we read about in our first reading, we become idol worshippers when we seek security in our possessions.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of this young man and allow the words of Jesus resound once again in your ears: “If you want to perfect, go and sell what you possess and give to the poor.” Why not take an excursion to your wardrobe (your possessions) and try to sort out things you know might be of benefit to others? Why not take a visit to any hospital close by and just be an Angel to someone in need?
According to St. John Chrysostom, when this young man first met Jesus asking about what he has to do to have eternal life, Jesus led him to the truth in various degrees. First, Jesus taught him the need to let go of false flattery by saying: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark’s version brings it out clearer).
Secondly, Jesus proceeds to remind him of his basic Catechism: “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” St. Augustine commenting on this statement, says Jesus said “if you want to enter into life” meaning that at the moment what we have is not really life but a miserable and finite existence on earth. The only life is that which we shall begin to live in heaven.
Thirdly, to prove that he has passed Stage two, the young man said to Jesus: “All this I have observed since my childhood days, what do I still lack?” That was when Jesus told him of a higher degree of perfection; to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor.
Dear friends, it is very important that we take note of the sequence of steps Jesus outlined in this conversation with the young man.
There are some Christians who have this false notion that all they need to enter heaven is to be charitable. The truth is that without Stage Two, there can be no Stage Three. God cannot be bribed. We cannot afford to live in total disregard for His commandments and assume that charity takes care of everything else.
That the Bible recorded the sorrowful disposition of this young man shows that in truth, attachment to what this world has to offer only brings sorrow, pain and sadness. The man had made his possession his god and he could not imagine being alive without them.
There is a story of a man who once stumbled upon a fortune. He found a box full of money and every morning he would lock himself inside his room, bring out the box, count the whole money and put it back again. Counting his money became his morning and evening devotion. Nothing else mattered to him anymore. This is an example of how our possessions become our gods. Shun idolatry, stop worshiping your properties. Let go and Let God.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my trust in you, Amen.