Commentary on the Gospel of
Is it really possible to give our lives over to our Lord and Savior and to live for Him? That question has haunted Christians throughout history. Today’s readings provide clear examples of the results of letting our hearts fall away from God. We find insight through the history of the Jewish people and from Jesus himself.
God had miraculously led the Jewish people out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt and delivered them into the promised land. But it is amazing how quickly they forgot all that God had done for them, how quickly they let their focus slip from God to the world around them. In today’s first reading, again and again God provided righteous judges to deliver them from the evils of the world, only to see them fall away again. With honest reflection, however, I am ashamed to admit that I am really not that much different from these ungrateful people. I far too often lose my focus upon God and slip back into following the world’s idea of what is right – and there are always consequences for that choice! Why was it so difficult for the Israelites (and for me) to maintain a commitment to God with all the blessings of His presence in their lives?
That reality is carried on in today’s Responsorial Psalm. We are reminded that the Jewish people over and over again turned their backs on the Lord and followed the ways of the world – always with dire consequences. Yet when things got bad, they always pleaded to God to remember them – sounds all too familiar to me.
We can certainly see a pattern here. The stories contained throughout the Bible teach of the importance of maintaining our focus upon God. In our troubled world, one would certainly question why anyone would choose anything but God who promises us so much more. Yet in today’s Gospel, Jesus provides us with further insight into the question of “how do we live our lives for our Lord”. The young man approaching Jesus evidently understood the value of eternal life. It is interesting that Jesus did not initially respond with the first commandment of loving God with all our hearts, mind & soul, but rather Jesus listed off 5 commandments that the young man believed he had kept. Jesus however included a 6th command (actually the very important 2nd commandment about loving our neighbors as ourselves). Perhaps the young man got caught up in feeling pretty good about himself with the first 5 Jesus mentioned and glossed over that 6th directive about loving others. Jesus definitely did not miss the irony, so he responded in a more direct answer “…”go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.”
So - is it really possible to give our lives over completely to our Lord and Savior and to live for Him? I do not believe Jesus was baiting the young man – or us – with the impossible. The young man was likely a fairly “good” individual, at least in the eyes of the world. Yet Jesus saw past the young man’s outward image and gazed into his heart.
Thinking we are pretty “good” just will not cut it. It is only through surrendering out heart completely to Jesus that we can look forward to eternal life with Him. Jesus knew that even when we have given our heart to Him, we would still stumble – that is why He gave himself up for us on the cross. Such love is incomprehensible – the best reason of all for surrendering our heart completely to our gracious Lord and Savior.
Dear Heavenly Father help me to avoid the lies and temptations of this world and to keep my eyes and heart focused continually and completely upon my precious Lord and Savior.
In the name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.