The “13th Apostle” and Possession by Way of Our Possessions
“Earthly riches are like the reed. Its roots are sunk in the swamp, and its exterior is fair to behold; but inside it is hollow. If a man leans on such a reed, it will snap off and pierce his soul.” ~ St. Anthony of Padua
In today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:16-22) we revisit the story of the rich young man who is in search of answers pertaining specifically to his eternal fate and how he might secure the outcome he desires: Heaven.
By virtue of his very question ~ “Teacher, what good must I do to earn eternal life?” ~ we know that he has a clear hunger for answers, answers that go far beyond the mere secular trappings of life. He knows too that he is not justified by his faith alone, that eternal glory is about one’s response to God’s goodness, not a mere acknowledgement of it. The action verb “do” that we find embedded in his question tips us off accordingly. And finally, he knows precisely where to go for the answer to his question, promptly seeking Jesus, the Son of God.
Many have called this man the 13th Apostle, the man who tragically walked away from his call to discipleship. Perhaps. Scripture tells us no more of this man’s journey or his ultimate fate. Could he have had a change of heart and returned to Jesus? Possibly.
But the question the rich young man poses is a good one for all of us to reflect upon. What must we do to gain eternal life? Fact is, the answer to that question is typically different for one person than it is for another. Some are called to a deeper and more profound prayer life. Others to use their financial position to contribute to the church and assist the poor. Volunteerism is the call of others, using their time and good physical condition in service to groups like Habitat for Humanity or perhaps a local pregnancy aid clinic. Still others are indeed called to follow Jesus by way of Holy Orders or Vows, pursuing Priestly vocations and Sisterhood respectively. All for the greater glory of God, all in service to the Mystical Body of Christ, that intricate mosaic that makes up his church here on Earth.
Do you possess your possessions or like the rich young man, do your possessions possess you? Our Holy Father Pope Francis warns us against the danger of complacency, comfort and worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives. “The human person is made in the image and likeness of God, not in the image and likeness of material objects, not in that of idols” he once said.
Our Blessed Mother offers a pure and perfect example. Mary sees God’s wondrous works in her life but doesn’t contemplate honor, prestige or wealth. She certainly doesn’t become self-absorbed. Instead her focus is on the mission, God’s will for her, a path that would ultimately lead to her eternal Queenship in Heaven.
Many other saints serve as role models as well, including the great Saint John Eudes, whose Feast Day we celebrate today. Saint John Eudes would go on to establish the Order of Our Lady of Charity as well as the Priestly Order that would go on to bear his name, the Eudist Congregation of Jesus and Mary.
In Matthew 6:19-21, we are told “do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
May our hearts be transformed so as to yearn only for things that are eternal, leaving those which are superficial and fleeting to the moths and thieves.
“Lord, open our eyes to that which we can do in order to bring about our salvation and the salvation of all those whom we encounter.” ~ Amen