WHAT MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE
(Wis 7:1 - 11; Ps 89:12 - 17; Heb 4:12 - 13; Mk 10:17 - 30)
To leave from Basingstoke and drive to anywhere in England or Europe is very easy even when you don’t know the direction or the road to your destination. To go anywhere on earth has been simplified for us today with discoveries in technology. We now have Google map, Tom Tom, and SATNAV which we just need to type in our location and our destination and we shall be there without any stress. In the days of Jesus, it was not possible to have such an easy access to satellite navigation appliances as we have today because technology had not advanced as we have it today. In that sense, people depended on others to look fo r their directions or on maps.
Our Christian journey also suggest we get spiritual SATNAV or Google maps to help take us wherever we want to. A man in the gospel passage of today wants to get his. We are told that he comes to Jesus, just as Jesus was se tting out for a journey, and asked him: “Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17). This question was very important because the man needed to decipher the best road he had to use to navigate on his earthly spiritual journey. It is a lso very important for us as Christians today to search as he did and to search in the right places as well. So therefore, each and every one of us must be ready and willing to ask the same question toda
What must I do to inherit eternal life or to live as a Christian? Three weeks ago, precisely on Sunday masses for the twenty - fourth Sunday of this year, I said here that there are four basic philosophical questions which when answered correctly give us a sense of direction in life. These questions as I s aid centres on the question of identity, the question of origin, the question of purpose or mission and the question of destiny. The man in the gospel of today who came to Jesus, in my judgment, had understood the question of destiny so well that he wanted to situate this within the context of his every day existence in a bit to live out the question of purpose or mission. Since he knew his destiny, he could conveniently carry out his mission to arrive at that destiny. He needed guidance and so came to Jesu s. In answer to his worry as to what must be done to inherit eternal life, Jesus asks him to keep the commandments. I am very pleased to hear the man respond that he had always kept the commandments right from his earliest days. In a way, he had never kill ed, never committed adultery, never stolen, never bore false witness or defraud someone and has always honoured his parents. I cannot count the number of times I have transgressed some of these commandments of God, even as a priest.
When Jesus heard the ma n, we are told he looked at him steadily and loved him. I am sure he could have said to him as he did to Nicodemus; here is another Israelite incapable of deceit. But since Jesus was God and all knowing, he realized that it was not just enough to keep to t he commandments. There was something much more important than physical keeping of the commandments which this man had to do. In this light he then told him that there is one thing left for him to do: go sell all you have, give the money to the poor then co me follow me. He couldn’t give up riches in other to follow Jesus. He gave up the whole plan of life with God because of earthly riches.
One thing that stands out clear is that it is not enough to keep the commandments of God. What is far more important i s concern for our fellow brothers and sisters, especially the poor, lonely, rejected, suffering, marginalized, less privileged, etc. In the days of Jesus, it was possible to keep all the commandments and still be far away from God. The commandments of God had been broken down by the Jewish religious leaders into more than six hundred laws which they were expected to keep. At the end of the day, the law was limited to ritual practices which they kept daily. The Pharisees did this perfectly well but were not true servants of God. That is why they always went into open confrontations with Jesus because they kept the laws entirely but ended up being hypocrites. So, for the rich man to say he had kept the laws from his earliest days but could not turn his eyes to attend to the needs of the poor was a normal thing among the Jews. This also accounts for why in the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the rich man kept the laws but failed to empathize in the plight of poor Lazarus. He ended up in hell for not taking ca re of the poor.
My dear friends in Christ, the question of what must we do to inherit eternal life must resound in the ears of every Christian today. Ask this question to yourself, to your friend, family member, etc. without an answer to this question and a sincere response, we shall not be different like the man in the gospel of today. It is in this light that I will suggest four things to help us in answering the above question adequately.
1. Pray for wisdom
Prayer is the key that opens for us any door. So, whatever we must do on earth, we must pray for divine inspiration. Ask for the grace to give a sincere answer to this question which can help shape the rest of the course of our lives in the direction of heaven. The kind of prayer I suggest today is to pray for the gift of wisdom. We all need to pray for this gift just as the author of the book of Wisdom prayed in today’s first reading. In this reading we hear: “I prayed and understanding was given me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones; compared with her, I held riches as nothing. I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer, for compared with her all gold is but a pinch of sand, and besides her silver ranks as mud” (Wis 7:7 - 9). This prayer is very important dear brothers and sisters in Christ because once we pray and have the gift of wisdom, it is going to help us to choose wisely. It is going to help us to give up whatever may stand in our way to Christ. We need this gift because the wisdom o f this world prefers earthly things to heavenly things. It glories in precious metals like gold and diamond rather than true wisdom, it goes for the wisdom of this world. When we look at the world today, we really find earthly wisdom in displa
Once we are too attached to something, we think that we cannot live without that thing and in the long run can even deny the promptings of the Holy Spirit because we are not ready to detach. That is exactly what happened with the man in the gospel. T o inherit eternal life or to live as a Christian, we must learn to detach from the precious things that may distract us from following Christ and allow God to replace these with His will. Detachment is a very painful and difficult process because it entail s denying even what is legitimately good for the sake of a higher good or for the sake of others. What is essential today is to ask ourselves: what is there in my life that keeps me from working faithfully towards eternal life: is it a wrong relation, a wr ong ideology or philosophy of life, the wrong company, wrong environment, greed, lust, gadgets like phone, TV, leisure, etc. We need to identity what exactly it is and detach from it/them
If we have managed to decipher what exactly keeps us from inheriting eternal life, what we need to do next is to surrender these things and ourselves to God. Surrender or trust in God is the only way we can truly serve him. It brings us to the understanding that whatever is holding me from being a true disci ple, I am giving it up to God trusting in his providence and guidance. I do this knowing fully well that it is a painful exercise, but that God is going to show me the way. For whatever reason, we should not be afraid to give - up what may stand in our relat ionship with God. Even as devoted Christians, everyday gives up the opportunity to check the things we must give up if we are to serve Christ well and to inherit eternal life
4. Word of God
We must allow the word of God to help us in this whole proces s. The second reading tells us that “The Word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double - edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the se cret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him;...” (Heb 4:12 - 13). So let us allow the word of God to shape our discussions as to what we need to give up or deny in order to serve Christ best in our brothers and sisters especially in the poor . It might be supporting them, praying for them, visiting them, etc. may we have the strength and graces to seek what will help us inherit eternal life, Amen