Go, Sell, Give Out, Come, Follow Me
With today’s first reading, we take up for some days the book of Judges. Its author presents today a sort of theology of history of the Israelites, in four stages: 1. The people desert the God of the covenant and serve Canaanite idols. 2. God is angered by their infidelity and for their punishment hands them over to Canaanite domination and exploitation. 3. Now the people come to their senses and cry out to God for mercy. 4. God hears their cries and gives them a leader, a “judge,” to liberate them and for some time they serve the Lord, until the cycle starts all over again. Also, the Church knows times of greater fervour and renewal, alternating with stagnation and backsliding.
We probably pity the young man in today’s gospel for not having the courage to give up his wealth for a higher good. He was a just man, full of good will, eager for more than an average, contented life. Yet when Jesus’ call is directed to him, he cannot decide to give up his possessions to become fully happy. But are we better than he? Are we willing to share, also when it hurts, also at a cost of ourselves? We priests and the religious are we happy when transfers and posting lists come? I heard a priest carried a water reservoir when transferred. I mean, he got a truck to transport the metal water tank…Questions and questions…
1 Reading: Judges 2:11-19
The children of Israel offended the LORD by serving the Baals.
Abandoning the LORD, the God of their fathers, who led them out of the land of Egypt, they followed the other gods of the various nations around them, and by their worship of these gods provoked the LORD. Because they had thus abandoned him and served Baal and the Ashtaroth, the anger of the LORD flared up against Israel, and he delivered them over to plunderers who despoiled them. He allowed them to fall into the power of their enemies round about whom they were no longer able to withstand. Whatever they undertook, the LORD turned into disaster for them, as in his warning he had sworn he would do, till they were in great distress. Even when the LORD raised up judges to deliver them from the power of their despoilers, they did not listen to their judges, but abandoned themselves to the worship of other gods. They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken, and did not follow their example of obedience to the commandments of the LORD. Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, he would be with the judge and save them from the power of their enemies as long as the judge lived; it was thus the LORD took pity on their distressful cries of affliction under their oppressors. But when the judge died, they would relapse and do worse than their ancestors, following other gods in service and worship, relinquishing none of their evil practices or stubborn conduct.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 106:34-35, 36-37, 39-40, 43ab and 44
R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favour your people.
They did not exterminate the peoples,
as the LORD had commanded them,
But mingled with the nations
and learned their works. R.
They served their idols,
which became a snare for them.
They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to demons. R.
They became defiled by their works,
and wanton in their crimes.
And the LORD grew angry with his people,
and abhorred his inheritance. R.
Many times did he rescue them,
but they embittered him with their counsels.
Yet he had regard for their affliction
when he heard their cry. R.
Alleluia: Matthew 5:3
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are the poor in spirit;
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Matthew 19:16-22
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; honour your father and your mother; and you shall love your neighbour 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.
Today’s passage from Judges gives a summary of the sad tales that will be recounted in the book as a whole. There was a lack of constancy in Israel’s efforts to remain faithful. It was a ding-dong affair. As the book indicates, the people would fall into idolatry. They were punished by God. Efforts were made at repentance. Finally a judge would arise and deliver them. But shortly thereafter the whole process, like a pendulum, would repeat itself. This is a book with very interesting personalities, but is a sad testimony to Israel’s failures. With one notable exception, the judges were not magistrates but heroic individuals who “judged Israel” in the sense of giving expression to Yahweh’s judgment on behalf of Israel. The young man who approaches Jesus in regard to eternal life was undoubtedly well intentioned. He had been faithful in observing the Ten Commandments, but it was his wealth that stood between him and eternal life. Jesus invites him to divest himself of his riches and then follow him. But the man’s attachment to his possessions proved to be too much, and he walks away. It is one of the few instances in die New Testament where Jesus’ invitation was refused. The call is not for everyone to divest himself of his holdings. It is not the possessions but the attachment that is the problem. It does mean that if there is something standing between the individual and his goal, whatever it may be, it must be sacrificed in the interests of God’s kingdom. Here we can speak only in generalities—it may be a person, an occupation, or something that we treasure (possess). If it stands between us and the concerns of God, it must go! Lord, give us a love for you that will never be diminished by passing interests. You are the one good, the only good, the good that is at the center of my life.
“What do I lack?” We think perhaps that, in good faith and without boasting we have done much for the Lord. Have we given ourselves? What is there that we could not give up? May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!