Sell Your Possessions
Everyday we are inundated with images of perfection. Perfect athletes in each sport such as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods are featured constantly in programs and commercials even after they have retired. Even more so, supermodels of both sexes, who have near perfect physical bodies, are paraded before us in a stream of images from every sort of media. Often times parts of people that appear perfect are used and assembled to present a perfect total image. In today?s Gospel reading from Matthew 19:16-26, Jesus draws our attention to perfection. However, what He presents to us is radically different from society?s standard.
The rich young man approaches Jesus and asks Him how to have eternal life. Jesus responds that a person must keep the commandments of God in order to enter into eternal life. After the young man asks which one, Jesus enumerates several of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The young man says he has done all these and asks what more must he do? Jesus answers in verse 21, ?If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.?
So, Jesus presents to the young man and to us a model for perfection, an ideal type of excellence, completeness and purity. This model is not one of athletic prowess or physical beauty. Rather it is a spiritual model of conforming to the image of God within us. We need to strive to fulfill this model in order to enter the kingdom of heaven and live eternally with God. This model is followed literally in preparation for monastic life. Unfortunately, this model is also dismissed completely by some Christians who say it only applies to those who wish to become monks and nuns.
How does it apply to us, who live in the world, who work at jobs, who might have a spouse and/or children? Let us keep in mind that the monastic life is not radically different from our own. What distinguishes the life of monk or nun is one of degree not form. They just pray more, worship more, repent more are more obedient and give away all possessions. We who live in the world must still pray, still worship, still repent, still be obedient and still sell our possessions, give them to the poor and follow Jesus Christ.
This is where the life of the Church is so important. When we come to Church we are inundated with messages of selflessness, charity, generosity, sacrifice and love. Through sermons, lectures, retreats and seminars these messages are further articulated so we have a good understanding about how to practically apply them in our daily life. Most people are encouraged by messages that say do not murder or hurt other people, be faithful to your spouse, do not take things that don?t belong to you, be honest and always tell the truth, honor your parents and love your neighbor as yourself. However, when we hear about selling our possessions, giving away even a tiny portion of our wealth, we may become uncomfortable, even irritated by the message. In verse 22 of today?s gospel, it says the young man went away grieving because he had many possessions. Do we grieve at the message of selling our possessions, giving to the poor, and giving to the Church?
We can make all kinds of excuses for not giving away our wealth, even saying we are not rich. However, most of us have wealth way beyond our basic needs. Just look at the cars in our parking lot and down the street. Look at the houses we live in, the cabin we also own, and the rental properties we have. Most of us are rich and wealthy. Add up your assets. They may amount to the hundreds of thousands even millions of dollars. Now add up what you give to the poor. Add up what you give to our parish to support its ministries, to support the message of perfection towards eternal life. It might only be in the hundreds of dollars or less. How does that compare? Do you wish to be perfect? Or are you content where you are? Will you have treasure in heaven at the end of you life? Amen!