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What Good Must I Do?
Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope
Monday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Now someone approached him 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.
Opening Prayer: Lord, here I am. Show me your face; show me your love for me. I know that without you I am nothing, and yet you want to give me everything. I want to love you—teach me how. Whether you want to console me or challenge me, I am here to listen.
- What Must I Be?: This young man came to Christ with the best of intentions: “How do I get to heaven?” What’s more, he really seemed willing to follow whatever instructions Christ would give him—after all, he had obeyed all the commandments for as long as he could remember. But he based his question on a falsehood (the same falsehood we all can fall into). He asked the Lord, “What good must I do?” He still thought, though perhaps without realizing it, that heaven is essentially a reward that he could earn. He forgot, or maybe just didn’t know, that if it were up to us to earn heaven, we would never arrive.
- You Can’t Earn Love: Treating heaven as something to be earned by good deeds goes against the very nature of God as a Father. Imagine: what true father would make his son meet certain standards before he loved him? What real father would lock his son out of the house until he “checked off certain boxes”? Heaven is God’s house; a place where we will be with him forever. This rich young man was starting from the presupposition that God wouldn’t love him unless he proved that he was worth being loved. In reality, we must start with the sure and certain knowledge of God’s love, and then let him make us worthy.
- If You Wish to Be Perfect: Christ saw that this young man wanted more, even if he was a little misled, so he tried to help him. Jesus was patient: He started by showing the man that he had already gone as far as he could possibly go following rules—there were no more rules to follow! When Christ referred him to the same commandments he already knew, the young man persisted: “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Then Christ showed him the true way of perfection: “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.” That is, “Take all that you hold dear, your whole life of rules, programs, and self-satisfaction—and give it away! Follow me, for I am all you need.” When we feel the same restlessness that this young man does, the whisper in our heart that maybe there is something more to being a Christian, we must remember that we will never placate this feeling by simply doing a few more good deeds. Rather, we must let that restlessness lead us to the love of Christ, and let him do with us what he wills.
Conversing with Christ: God, thank you for taking the time to be with me, speak with me, and give me your grace. Thank you for calling me to a true relationship with you—lead me today wherever you want.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will do a short examen of conscience, reflecting upon for whom I do good deeds: for myself, or for you.
For Further Reflection: Digging deeper and looking interiorily for where God is asking us to grow is not easy. Here is a helpful article on how to view the examen of consciousness:
Written by Br. Riley Connors.