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BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MAKE THEMSELVES POOR FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 28th Sunday of the Year, October 14, 2012
Wis. 7:7-11, Ps. 89, Heb. 4:12-13, Mark 10:17-30


"You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mark 10:21).


This is the gospel about the rich young man, the example par excellence of the life of perfection or the state of perfection; that is, those who literally and radically renounce everything of this world, including family, home, and marriage to live exclusively for God with an undivided heart, not divided by the love of a woman in the sacrament of matrimony, nor by the things or pleasures of the world. This is the state of perfection, the consecrated and celibate life, the priestly and religious life. In St. Matthew's version we read, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor" (Matt. 19:21). Although all are called to perfection (Matt. 5:48), there are some who are called to the state of perfection, which is the consecrated life; that is, there are some who are called more radically, or are called to live a life of perfection in a more radical, more literal, and more complete way than the rest; and this more radical calling includes the renunciation of marriage to embrace celibacy for the kingdom of God. They are the "eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 19:12). This is the highest state in life, the highest vocation (1 Cor. 7:32-34, 38), for it enables one to fulfill the first and most important commandment of Jesus in the most radical, most literal, and most complete way; that is, to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30), to which we may add, with all your time and with all your interest, without any division of heart with a wife, and without entangling yourself with the world.


So it is, for "the unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband" (1 Cor, 7:32-34). So concerning fiancées, "he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better" (1 Cor. 7:38).


In the consecrated life all our concern can and should be about the Lord. We do not have to concern ourselves about worldly things, about how to please a wife. In this way we can live with a completely undivided heart in our love for God and in our dedication to him, and we can express our love for him through our love and service of our neighbor for the love of God.


But this text about the rich young man is not only for celibates and religious, for priests and consecrated persons. It is for every Christian, at least in spirit, for all are called to perfection (Matt. 5:48), although not all are called in such a radical, literal, and complete way. Not everyone is called to celibacy. Jesus said to all, "You, therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). All are called to love God with all their heart (Mark 12:30) as best they can with the responsibilities of their state in life. All are called to renounce the pleasures of the world to be focused on God (Mark 8:35; John 12:25; Luke 9:23; Gal. 6:14; 1 John 2:15; James 4:4; Matt. 13:44-46; Luke 5:11, 28; 14:33; Matt. 7:13-14). All are called to renounce themselves and carry their cross. "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).


So all can be inspired by the call of the rich young man and try to follow it as best they can in their state in life. In fact, all the New Testament texts that call us to a radical following of Jesus are for all Christians, although not everyone is called to respond with the same degree of radicalism. Not everyone is called to celibacy. But all are called to a life of sacrifice and renunciation in which we renounce the worldliness of the world and the delights of this creation for the sake of those of the new creation and of the kingdom of God. All are called to seek the things that are above, not those of the earth (Col. 3:1-2), and all are called to renounce a worldly life, which is an endless quest after pleasure, a superficial life, to live from now on for the love of Christ.


Married couples can collaborate together in this new quest for the kingdom of God as two in one flesh, helping one another to grow in the love of God and of their neighbor for the love of God. They are one flesh and work together with one mind and one heart for the kingdom of God. They live together in simplicity and evangelical poverty for the love of Christ. And in their normal daily work they can imitate the Good Samaritan, acting with love for all with whom they work.


But the life that will receive the hundredfold reward is the life that more radically, more literally, and more completely renounces the world, family, home, marriage, and the pleasures of the world for the love of God, namely the life of consecrated persons, those who live with devotion and dedication the celibate, religious, and priestly life, for "everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life" (Matt. 19:29 NKJV). These are the ones who have made themselves the last in this world for the love of God, and they will be the first in the kingdom of God, for "the last will be first, and the first last" (Matt. 20:16). These have renounced more, for they have renounced their consolation here below to have it in God.


The rich who live in their banquets and pleasures have already had their consolation. So it is better to be detached from and divested of worldly riches and pleasures and find all our joy in the Lord, not here below, for "blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God ... But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation" (Luke 6:20, 24). It is better to live a simple life and renounce the pleasures of the world in order to have an undivided heart in our love for God, for "it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven ... It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matt. 19:23-24). This way of detachment and evangelical poverty is the strait and narrow way of life, chosen by the few who have left the wide and comfortable way of worldly pleasures, the way of the many, that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14).

 

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