In the Gospel of Matthew (19:16-22) we have a wonderful opportunity to consider how God invites each of us into a deeper faith in Him and a personal relationship with Him.
A young man approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
God Reveals Himself To Us
It seems the young man is the one taking the initiative to approach Jesus, but actually it is our Lord who has invited him. The reality that mortal men and women even know God exists is because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read,
By His Revelation, “the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into his own company. The adequate response to this invitation is faith, (CCC, no 142).
By asking the young man this question, Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good, our Lord is drawing the man out of himself and his own efforts to achieve salvation, but the young man fails to see.
Jesus tries again. When the young man asks which commandments he needs to keep, Jesus skips the first three that focus on placing God first in our minds and hearts perhaps hoping the young man notices. He does not. He responds, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”
This exchange between Jesus and the young man is often what happens in our own relationship with God. We pray for what we need, which He wants us to do, but we fail to listen to how our Lord is inviting us to give Him not only our needs, but our hearts as well. We listen to God by persevering in faith through our doubts, confusion and suffering seeking to know and act in His Will. As the Catechism teaches, faith is our adequate response to God.
Sadly, the young man fails to respond in faith and leaves when Jesus tells him what he does not want to hear.
God Never Leaves Us
St. Augustine teaches that God is always at work inviting us to Him. He says,
“Our Head intercedes for us; some members He is receiving, others He is chastising, others cleansing, others consoling, others creating, others calling, others recalling, others correcting, renewing.”
When we feel resistance to what we hear God telling us in prayer or through the teachings of the Church, remain constant to Him. Think of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, (John 4:4-29). Her remaining constant to Jesus despite being way outside her comfort zone paid off in a profound healing and restoration of her broken life. Not only was she converted, her whole village turned to Jesus thanks to her witness of faith!
Jesus promises rewards here and now in this life to those who choose authentic, committed discipleship to Him. He says,
Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.
Jesus was inviting the young man into receiving divine possessions far greater than his earthly ones. Scripture does not tell us if the young man returned to follow Jesus, but we can be certain our Lord never stopped inviting him.
The same goes for us!
Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, motherhood, and as a writer, speaker and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.