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What Must I Do To Inherit Eternal Life?

What Must I Do To Inherit Eternal Life?

The Gospel today from Saint Mark (Mk 10, 17-30) tells the story of a very good young man who wants to follow Jesus and who has been deeply faithful to the teachings of God in his Jewish faith. Yes, when Jesus asks the young man to give up all his wealth and come and follow HIM, then the young man goes away sad. But what a strong teaching!!!

And God is always asking things of each of us! And in so many ways, we are like the rich young man: good and not yet totally committed.

We don’t know what the young man did later on. Perhaps he ended up selling everything, giving it to the poor, and following Jesus. But we are not certain and only know that his first response was only sadness.

Rich young man saddened

It is always hard to let go of something – or even harder – someone that has been much a part of our lives. That is so because it is in our human nature to cling on to what is familiar, comfortable, secure, and to resist what might disturb or upset the existing order and the status quo.

This is what happened to the rich young man in the Gospel story.

On the face of it, he was a good and honorable man. He ticked all boxes. He kept all the commandments. He did not steal. He did not cheat. He did not lie. He did not harm anyone. He honored his father and mother. He was a dream child, right?

Well, not as far as the Gospel was concerned! When Jesus challenged him to go home and sell his possessions, give the money to the poor and follow him, this young man revealed his true colors.

He could not part with his wealth and security. He could not accept the radical demands of discipleship. He walked away sad and disappointed because he was too attached to his status as a man of riches and power.

Jesus felt deeply sorry for him because the young man had missed the opportunity to outgrow himself. He had chosen his comfort zone and self-interest; he had refused the invitation of Jesus to experience an alternative mode of existence – one that is based on trust and shared life rather than accumulation and personal security.

Jesus’ teaching and example, inspires us to take a stand for the weak, vulnerable and marginalized.

To conform our lives to Jesus and become like Christ, we must strive to live the core message of love. And love is total self-giving: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13).

The young man was very serious in following God’s commandments. He thought this was enough to gain eternal life, and he believed that following Jesus was just a matter of avoiding sin. But he was mistaken.

In the account of St. Matthew about the last judgment, the eternal Judge said to those condemned: “For I was hungry, and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me” (Mt 25:42-43).

Giving to the poor

It was their sin of omission, their unwillingness to help, and their refusal to give and share that condemned them to eternal punishment.

The young man went away sad. He was not willing to share, so he cannot love, and therefore, he cannot follow Jesus to eternal life.

Let us not wait for tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come. Now is the time to let go; now is the time to share; now is the time to follow Jesus and discover the beauty of freedom from material things, the bright promise of eternity, and the wonders of God’s boundless blessings.

For a sustainable and a deeply relational way to follow Jesus' commandment, I always suggest personally sponsoring a child or a seminarian through CARTIAS For Children. I have seen the impact this organization has made and know that it will lead many to enter into eternal life.