The Sacred Scripture for today’s Liturgy: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Matthew 19:16-26
Jesus never praised riches. Today he tells the people who have just seen a rich young man refuse the Lord’s invitation to follow him, “it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” This is repeated often in the scriptures. Jesus teaches, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3)” But the rich in spirit cannot love God more than themselves, and it is a simple reality that if they cannot love God, they cannot love their neighbors, created by God. Mary therefore declares, “The hungry he has filled with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:53) And Abraham tells the rich man in hell, “you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. (Luke 16:25) And James admonishes his flock, who honored a rich man, “Are not the rich oppressing you? And do they themselves not haul you off to court? Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you? (James 2:6-7)”
To be able to turn one’s back on riches is what it means to be human. As transcending the world, we should be able to see infinite and eternal realities. There is nothing wrong or bad about the material creation God has given us, but it has the power to blind us to greater riches. God does not simply take away riches, but he gives us spiritual riches beyond our understanding. This Sunday I am marking fifty years as a priest. I was not raised in a rich family, though today the poorest among us have more than the richest people at the time of Jesus. This is why it is so much more important to be able to see spiritual realities.
The rich young man was unable to follow Jesus’ call, but in humility I hope that I have answered the call to serve God and to see the image of God in all people, not only those I hope I have served. The gospel today, however, tells us one more thing, when describing how difficult it is for a rich man to be saved – easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eyes – Jesus says “for God all things are possible.” Everything that I may have accomplished in my fifty years as a priest was not due to my own talents or merits, but only to the grace of God. I hope to remain, though unworthy, in this calling, so that I may be “as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing and yet possessing all things. (2 Corinthians 6:10)”
Meditation by Archpriest David Petras