(Happy 19th Anniversary to my wife and me!)
It is easy for me to place myself in the shoes of the rich young man in today's Gospel. Not because I am rich of course but because I too like the path of least resistance. I too want to lean on my past accomplishments and not be challenged to go the extra mile.
As always I like to focus on the repeats in the Gospel and with this passage we have the word "good" mentioned three times. When I read this repetition I am reminded that Jesus said, "Be perfect as Your Heavenly Father is perfect." He did not say, "Be good." I think Jesus is challenging the young man and me to step beyond the letter of the law.
The young man states that he has done all that Jesus mentions, but deep inside himself he knows there must be something more. Even though he is a good person and following the Law he knows deep down that God is calling him to something more, something higher than merely being good. God is calling him and me to holiness, to perfection. Why else would he ask the question, "What do I still lack?" His question about eternal life was answered. He was told by Jesus what he had to do but something inside him was not satisfied with merely following the Law. The hunger in his heart was great and so he asks God for more, for the next steps.
When the young man heard the answer he was sad because he was possessed by his many possessions. He could not bear the thought of going that extra mile. Could he still enter into Heaven though he walked away sad? Yes. Jesus tells him as much.
Would he be happy in this life because he chose to hold on to his things and let go of a deep relationship with Christ? Probably not. Jesus doesn't tell him that his possessions are evil but the story illustrates that things (money, possessions, etc) can be a hindrance.
My degree of happiness is not often increased by following the Ten Commandments or the Precepts of the Church unless they are done out of love. My happiness is increased as I move farther away from the trappings of this life and closer to Christ.
In the first reading today we see the exact same situation with the children of Israel. They chose to live like the rest of the world, no longer following God as their fathers did, and they become miserable. They repeatedly "go away sad." If we read the book of Judges we see a cycle that goes something like this - they fall into Sin, they become Slaves to the sin, they cry out in Supplication to God for deliverance, they receive Salvation and forgiveness, they fall into Silence not speaking to God which leads them back into Sin. Sin-Slavery-Supplication-Salvation-Silence.... I see this in my own life as well. I must pray everyday - silence, in my own faith and prayer life, always leads to sin.
Perhaps the rich young man was in the Slavery part of the cycle, a slave to his possessions and his heart was crying out for deliverance, for Salvation. Yet, he was not ready to hear the words of the Lord, yet. I too can't always hear the words or the words are too hard for me to accept.
Lord Jesus, I follow the Ten Commandments fairly well and I observe the Precepts of the Church yet I am not happy. Lord, what do I lack? Give me the strength to accept Your answer and chose You over the world. Free me from the cycle and give me the courage to follow you rather than walk away from you...
FROM THE SAINTS
"Detach yourself from creatures until you are stripped of them. For the devil, says Pope St. Gregory, has nothing of his own in the is world, and he hoes into battle naked. If you are "clothed" when you fight him, you'll soon be pulled down to the ground, because he will have something to grab on to." - St. Josemaria Escriva - The Way #149
How to get better at prayer.
- Set a prayer appointment - Set a time on your calendar each day to meet and speak with God.
- Slowly increase your prayer time. - Don't jump in with an hour right from the get-go. Build up your "tolerance" so to speak.
- Commit - to praying and slowly increasing your prayer time for 30 days. Mark off the days on your calendar. If you miss a day, jump right back in, don't give up.
- Pray - praying is talking to God, it's spending time with your attention focused on Him. I enjoy spending time with my children regardless of their level of development. God is the same way. Spend time praying as best you can. Use formal prayers if you want or simply speak in conversation. Don't forget to listen
- Journal - Our newly revised 4 Simple Steps to Better Scripture Meditations: Guide, Workbook, and Journal walks you through 4 easy steps that will help you go deeper in your prayer life. It includes 31 days of workbook and journal pages too!
- Read other good books about how to pray better - Prayer Primer, Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer, Time for God, The Spiritual Life: A Comprehensive Guide to Catholics Seeking Salvation.
(This is an affiliate link. By clicking on this link I may earn money by your purchase. I do not recommend anything I haven't read or used personally and believe is of value to you the reader. Thank you)