Pastor Column: Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 14, 2018
Msgr Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish
Only one place in the Gospels does a person who has a personal encounter with Jesus leave unhappy. It happens in this Sunday’s Scriptures this weekend, in the account of the Rich Young Man’s meeting with Jesus. He comes to meet the “good teacher” with good intentions and looking for a sure answer to his question: “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds with the core demands of the Jewish tradition – keep the Commandments, love God, do no harm, treat others well, and be faithful to your family.
For the young man, this was no problem. He had the Ten Commandments covered. Jesus admires his zeal. One almost expects Jesus to give him a slap on the back, an “A” for effort, or stamp his “get into heaven free” card. But not is not what Jesus says or does. Rather, he asks him to go deeper with the invitation of his life, essentially asking him to drop his other ambitions, unbind himself from other ties, and give to the poor all the trappings he had. The poor guy goes away stunned and extremely sad. Even the apostles who witnessed the exchange were taken back by the response of Jesus. He reassures them that they and anyone like them who risked all for Him and the Gospel would receive so much more than they could imagine. Notice that the invitation was not extended to everyone. Jesus knew not everyone could do it well. To embrace a life of dependence on God and obedience to mission is not for all. In addition, He did not want to leave out those who lived out Kingdom values in their homes. Whether itinerant or living in a steady place, Jesus asked for a radically free lifestyle defined by consecration and willingness to do the will of God no matter what.
Jesus offers each of us more than we expect. He calls forth the potential we all have to be and do good. Pope Francis, in the Exhortation Guadete et Exsultate, 11 says it this way:
The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts (cf. 1 Cor 12:7), rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them. We are all called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.
We are all individually called to serve in Jesus’ mission. Our summons is personal, unique, and tailored to our gifts and dispositions. God never asks us to do the impossible, but rather to meet whatever challenges head-on with God’s help. Like the Rich Young Man, we are invited to accept by becoming more than we can imagine. It’s part of the Gospel’ “Inconvenient Truth” that can speak to the world.