28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Mk 10:17-30) “Obtaining Eternal Life” PDF Version
Homily for 28th Sunday of OT, Year B (2018): Mk 10:17-30
When Satan tempted our first parents in Eden, he began to sow a seed of doubt in their hearts as to how they were to care for the gift of eternal life. Eden was much more than a garden paradise; it was a true living of heaven since Adam and Eve knew perfect communion with God, the gift of eternal life and freedom from the bonds of sin and death. Heaven was already theirs, eternal bliss was known with every passing breathe.
But Satan was able to cause them to question whether they had obtained all that eternal life had to offer. Was God holding back on them? Was there some joy they had not yet experienced? Could they really trust that God had given them all that everlasting communion with Him had to offer? They had not needed to ask the question of the rich young man “What must I do to obtain eternal life” for they already had it but in choosing to abide in the wages of sin that bring death, eternal life was lost and now humanity would have to learn what must be done to regain the paradise that was lost.
The lot of humanity was now to reach for eternal life, often through their own devices and machinations, be it through the worship of false gods, the occult or the vain fantasy that was the Tower of Babel, or they could turn to God and learn the commands and ordinances He would give them, in time, through Moses.
God’s people learned that to live the 10 Commandments and all the laws, ordinances and precepts of the Law of God was much more than a slavish obedience to obtain temporal reward and avoid undesired punishment. To abide in the Law of the Lord was to slowly regain the joy of Eden, knowing communion with God, freedom from the bonds of sin and the hope that eternal life could be returned if God’s people sought to be holy as God is holy and so welcome back into their souls the gift of heaven.
How often did the psalmists of the Old Testament sing of their love for the commands and precepts of the Lord! We might find it odd how affectionately they sung songs of praise and gratitude that God had shown them that His Law was a path to eternal life! I doubt many would sing with such affection that the 10 Commandments, the Catechism of the Catholic faith and the teaching authority of the Church is what now helps to guide us to eternal life!
Very often it is now ballads of resentment and protest for these precepts that bring eternal life that are sung by those who choose to reach for heaven and perfect rest on their own terms, yet in vain, for they have forsaken the only means that assure one can obtain eternal life…
The rich young man, like so many of his brothers and sisters in faith, knew this truth of the Commandments: if one followed them, they brought someone closer to heaven because to live them is to show that one seeks to love God with all of one’s heart, mind, body and soul. Thus Jesus affirmed the rich young man he was on the right path, just as He continues to affirm us that to follow His commandments and the teachings of our faith are truly what we will bring us to His Heavenly Kingdom.
Hence, we must make it a continual point of prayer and conversation with God to examine ourselves and ask whether I abide in all of the Lord’s Commandments or if I willing choose to forsake some of them? Even the whole hearted rejection of just one of Our Lord’s commandments could be enough to lose eternal life….
But then Our Lord reveals that much more is required than only abiding in His Commandments. Just as Adam and Eve had once known eternal life through the perfect love they had for one another, a love that was generous, fruitful, unselfish and detached from the goodness they saw all around them, so too does Our Lord wish for us to know that the path of eternal life will be obtained through the difficult ordeal of regaining that lost love of Eden and being on guard to the ways that the things of this world can be the means of our downfall and loss of heaven.
Our Lord congratulated a scribe who rightly said that the greatest of God’s commandments was to Love Him above all else and one’s neighbour as oneself. In inviting, but not forcing, the rich young man to make the free choice to sell all he owned, giving it to the poor and following Him, Jesus looked deep into the heart of that young man and showed him the path he needed to walk to love His neighbours and have the necessary freedom to become a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Our Lord does not ask every disciple to sell all he or she has to follow Him. He welcomes rich, middle class and poor into His ranks, and commands that each of us detach ourselves from whatever would drive us away from heaven and shows us how to love one another by giving freely of what we own.
Jesus also affirms His disciples that to live this life of detachment and charity for the betterment of the poor will also store up for us treasure in the Heavenly Kingdom. It is not promised that this reward will be experienced in the here and now, but it is assured that it will be given in the heavenly Eden, the paradise once lost but now regained through abiding in God’s commandments, loving one’s neighbour through charity and loving God by making sure nothing in this life would become more important than our Love of Him.
We may feel like the Apostles some days in asking can I really obtain eternal life? How hard it is to fully abide in God’s commandments, how hard it is to be charitable when there are so many things in this life that require my treasures such as simply providing for the basics of living in a dignified manner, and how hard it is to let go of all those material things that make me happy, even for but a flitting moment!
But as Our Lord said, all things are possible with God! He can teach us how to live fully all His Commandments! He can transform our hearts to love be charitable: to the poor, to our families, to our communities, to our parish, and even to our enemies! And He can help us use the things of this world well, letting go of them when need be and remembering they can not bring us even the faintest semblance of that happiness one knows when they obtain eternal life.
And so let us pray that we will not miss our opportunities to follow Christ as the rich young man did, for to miss them could very well mean missing out on the joy that is life eternal….