Monday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time Year 2
(Ez 24:15-23; Mt 19:16-22)
A story has been told about Mother Teresa who said “See what love can do.” She tells of a day when she picked up a dying man from the gutter whose body was covered with worms. She brought him to her house, and it took three hours to clean him up. She was impressed that he didn’t curse or blame someone. Instead, he said, “I’ve lived like an animal in the street, but i’m going to die like an angel, loved and cared for. I’m going home to God.” Mother Teresa says she has never seen such a radiant smile as she saw on his face before he died. “He went home to God. See what love can do?” (taken from “The One Year Book of Encouragement, by Harold Myra, p. 83) In this short anecdote, by experience, she realized that love is inseparable from goodness, joy and obedience. Mother Teresa witnessed that her love brought goodness to the man who was dying and left behind in the streets; he felt deep joy that someone cared for him and he said he would be “going to die like an angel;” and he was prepared a final obedience which was returning back home to God. Today’s readings focus on the values of the Kingdom which have to be developed on earth for one to attain eternal life. Goodness, joy and obedience are values that emerge as linked to eternal life. Let us look into the experiences of the rich young man and the prophet Ezekiel in today’s readings.
1. Ultimate Goodness- Man was created good. In his heart, he searches for what is beneficial for him so he strives his way out to find things in the world which could make him happy. There will be no end to his search for the good if the “good” is only to be found in worldly things. The world is the place where unsatisfactory things exist. The ultimate goodness does not reside in this world. By divine calling, one’s heart will not be satisfied on things that are just merely tangible and but he will be prompted to search for more. Man will realize that he needed to transcend himself from the world. This is what happened to the rich young man who came to Jesus and said “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” The rich young man had everything but his spirit prompted him to search for more and beyond he had and thus, life does not consist in what he has but in things that are metaphysical which he has yet to possess. St. Augustine said “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” It is in Jesus shall all find the ultimate rest of man’s search for the good. Christianity is indeed is searching for Jesus as the Supreme Good of man. John Paul II said “Christianity proclaims the essential good of existence and the good of that which exists, acknowledges the goodness of the Creator and proclaims the good of creatures.” (Salvifici Doloris 7)
2. Fullness of Joy- Eternal life is linked with the virtue of joy. Joy is achieved when there is the answer to the things we lack in life and that is achieved through our “encounter” with the Lord which every man or woman sincerely yearns for. Pope Francis said “With Christ joy is constantly born anew.” (Evangelii Gaudium 1) Everyone desires new things in life and that newness is received through the depth of an encounter. Both Ezekiel and the rich young man had the chance to experience the fullness of joy through their encounter with the Lord especially in suffering, as in the case of the first reading today where pain was brought about by the exile. In the Gospel, the chance to change the lifestyle of the rich young man was possible and proximate as he was able to speak with Jesus personally and be guided accordingly. However, his encounter was sad because Jesus’ test for his faith did not help him grow as a disciple. He has to realize that the fullness of joy will not be found away from Christ. Consider these things: first, when Jesus said “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor,” the rich young man already thought that it would be difficult for him to be detached from his wealth. Jesus was just trying to test him. Jesus was after of his desire to follow Him. In his mind, he has already stayed away from Jesus which brought him sadness. Leaving Jesus means to be desperate and unhappy; second, the rich young man stayed away from Jesus instead of coming more close to him which made him sad. Thomas was also away from the community, then he was full of doubts and insincerities.
3. Final Obedience- Life is full of God’s call and yet we all have to obey. He calls us to be kind, to be forgiving, to be loving, to be understanding, to be praying, to be altruistic, etc. In the series of acts of obedience, death becomes our final obedience to God. Like that man whom Mother Teresa helped on his final days on earth was all about returning to the Creator which we cannot anymore say “no.” Our vocation in the world is to obey God. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel had to be obedient to God if he desired a peaceful and meaningful life. Even at the death of a loved one, one has to obey God and not complain. Ezekiel said “That evening my wife died, and the next morning I did as I had been commanded.” Ezekiel can only understand everything transpiring if he has that obedient faith. The rich young man however, could have the opportunity to obey Christ but was unwilling so. Jesus challenged 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.” The rich young man did not attempt to obey and follow Jesus which made him turn away from Jesus and be sad. Our obedience to God is the source of eternal life and joy. The rich young man was just prepared by Christ for his final “yes” or obedience where he could no longer say “no.” One day he will be summoned by obedience which is final and definitive. It will be an obedience that meant attachment to Christ and detachment from the world.