October 14th, 2012
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Only One Good
Our Scriptures today point us to the One Good, which is God. The rich young man in today’s gospel calls Jesus “good,” and Jesus playfully replies, “why do you call me good?” Our culture pretends that there are as many goods as there are vendors to sell them, and to be happy, we must own these goods. But there is only one Good. I walked into Lowes the other day to buy a beach chair. The store was stuffed to the rafters with good things, all with discreet price tags. A euphoria blew through me. I have a credit card, and any one of these good things can be mine. Each will make me happy. This was the feeling, the quite American feeling, that enveloped me as I strolled into Lowe’s the other day. I have been well trained to seek happiness in what the American economy can provide.
The Rich Young Man
A rich young man runs up. He throws himself before Jesus, barring his way with an urgency: “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus plays a little game with him—“why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” And Jesus lists God’s commandments. He knows the young man has practiced these well since his childhood. But: even keeping the law of God is not enough. Jesus looks at this young man, for whom he will die on the cross, with love. “You are lacking in one thing…” You hardly know God, because your wealth prevents you. Your many good things bar you from the One Good. Get rid of it all if you wish to enter into life. And the young man went away sad. His face fell. His goods could not make him happy, and he knew it, but he was not ready to trust God.
Camels and needles’ eyes
Jesus then looks at his disciples, with a stern love, and he says the same thing: “Children, how hard it is for wealthy people to get to heaven.” He says it again, because the disciples, believers in the prosperity gospel like all Jews of the time, are shocked. He says it a third time—harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle… This exceedingly astonished them: “then who can be saved?” Everyone depends on wealth. No man can live only by fresh air and the love of God. Yes, Jesus says, for you it is impossible. You can never wean yourselves from your attachments. But I can. For God all things are possible. Let me do it for you!
A Year of Faith
Brethren, on Thursday we entered a Year of Faith. We, who enjoy the goods of the earth to a degree unprecedented in human history. We, who have grown up delighting in the shiny packages our market offers rather than delighting in the things of God. We Americans, who check the stock market several times a day on our iPhones, who surrender immense governmental powers to a man because he promises us only one thing: to preserve our standard of living. We play lip service to faith, but really, Americans believe in the dollar above all. People with our kind of wealth do not need God. And yet, some wealthy people have been able to get through the needle’s eye. Solomon, for one, as recounted in the first reading. How did he get past his wealth? “I prayed, I pleaded, and the spirit came to me.” I deemed riches nothing in comparison … gold is a little sand, silver so much mire. Beyond health and comeliness I loved her. He pleaded with the urgency of the rich young man for true wisdom. We must pray for this kind of faith.
A Time of National Decision
In the presidential debates this month, I've noticed that we can’t seem to get past the economy. The candidates throw out fantastic and complex numbers. But who will speak about God? Who will say that America’s wealth cannot save her? Who will declare that this election is a battle for America’s soul, not her investment accounts? Who will say “in God we trust?” Who but us, Catholics, who have the fullness of Gospel truth? In this Year of Faith, in this season of national decision, Catholics must again play a crucial role in the battle for America’s soul. We can’t simply go along with the party line. We must testify to the Way, the Life, and the Truth, the supreme Good for our country.
Let us pray, as always, through the woman of faith, Our Blessed Mother. Let us pray the rosary for our country in these next few weeks, that at least all Christian Americans may vote according to their faith in the only good man, Jesus Christ our Lord.