The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Twenty-eigth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B - 14th October 2012


The question that the rich young man asks in today's Gospel passage has to be one of the most famous questions in the entire New Testament.  We can almost feel his disappointment when he ends up going away sad from his encounter with Jesus.  In fact, with the exception of the pharisees and other jewish notables, he is the only one to come away sad from meeting Jesus.

The question he asks is very interesting: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"  The verb "to inherit" is quite an unusual word which has a very specific meaning.  I can be left something in a will and that might certainly be seen as a windfall or, perhaps, even an acknowledgement of some relationship or service that connected me with the dead person.  I would not, however, regard such a bequest as being an inheritance.  An inheritance is something that, in one way or another, I have a right to.  Inheritances are received by children from their parents; they are, typically, something that exists within the family.  In fact, when someone chooses to leave all their worldly goods to someone outside of the immediate family, the will is often contested, precisely by those who think that they have been cheated out of their inheritance.  Those who normally inherit have a certain expectation that they are going to be beneficiaries and also are generally recognised as having certain rights to inherit.  Even our laws reflect this with a much greater degree of inheritance tax being levied on those who benefit from wills without having been family of the deceased.

Jesus makes it very clear to the young man that he has no rights with regard to the kindgom of God.  In fact, even though he has kept the law and has been scrupulous in all its observances, this amounts to his having done what he was supposed to do any way.  To claim that he has any right to eternal life is as ridiculous as trying to pass a camel through the eye of a needle.

 

To attain eternal life we are dependant on the entirely free gift of God (Grace).  This gift is not given according to human criteria and, as is shown so often in the gospels, can often be characterised as being unfair, unjust, or even exclusive.  God is the only one who can determine who may or may not have eternal life - and as far as we know, God has not turned anyone away yet.

This reading is a reminder to us that we are called to have faith that we will be saved by God and not by our own efforts.  Our own efforts can create in us a sensitivity that can help us to appreciate God's presence as we go through our daily lives.  The effort that we make to keep the law is an effort that can transform us and make us examples of the kingdom already present among God's people.

Possidius




Article posted on 13th of October 2012

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