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What's it take to follow Christ?

As a resident of one of the wealthiest countries in the world, you might want to sit down before reading this Sunday bulletin article. For the call to eternal life requires a response of committed and deep love.

When a young man asked Jesus what he must do to enter into the Kingdom of heaven, he told him to follow the Ten Commandments. When he said that he did, “Jesus said, „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. Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.‟ ”See Mt. 19:16-26 Wealth is not intrinsically evil, but having and/or striving for wealth often pushes God out of being the most important relationship in a person's life, and that person then does not care much for their everlasting soul, and neglects repenting of their sins and seeking after holiness.

In this Sunday‟s Gospel Jesus gave us a concrete example of the consequences of letting riches, or any other idol, replace God and our care for the poor and vulnerable. For when the rich man died, he was sent to a place of everlasting suffering – hell – whereas, when the poor beggar Lazarus died – after being neglected by the rich man – he was carried by angels into the bosom of Abraham. Even so, the rich man insists that Lazarus be sent to help him out with just a drop of water, even though the rich man did nothing for Lazarus while he lay dying! Abraham tells the arrogant rich man that his request is impossible. Yet, the rich man tells Abraham to send Lazarus to his house to warn his five brothers. This seems like an act of love, which means that perhaps he is only in purgatory, and not hell. But as the famous moral theologian St. Alphonsus de Ligouri noted, those in hell often do not want others to know that they are in hell, out of the same inordinate pride that landed them there in the first place!

This inordinate pride and presumptuous attitude plagues today‟s world: “God loves me, so I do not need to follow his Ten Commandments. He would never send me to hell, so I do not need to listen to his church and seek repentance and strive for holiness.”Does God love everyone? Yes, the rich man too, but we need to love God and others the way God wants us to, and not use God‟s love for us as an excuse to sin mortally, including turning a blind eye to the vulnerable, like the preborn babies who are dying through abortion by the hundreds every day.

Abraham tells the rich man that it is not possible for Lazarus to cross over to help him, but the rich man insisted that he knows better and that if someone should visit his five brothers from the dead, “they will repent.” But Abraham responded, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” Lk. 16:31

Notice how God‟s Ten Commandments given to Moses are foundational for salvation, and the gift of repentance when we fall short, which leads us to seeking and worshipping the Son of God in the Sacrament of Confession and Holy Communion.

Thank God we belong to the Catholic Church, which is the largest charitable institution in the world and holds true to the fullness of faith and divine grace that leads to eternal life. How? Because Jesus Christ is the divine head of his Church, and its active members strive to do these five things: daily prayer; weekly worship and financial support; service for the glory of God and the protection of the poor and vulnerable (true justice); study of the Bible and the faith with devotion; and evangelization, which is walking with others and sharing the Catholic faith with them.

“For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.” (Mt. 6:21) So if you want to know where you are at in your relationship to Jesus and his Church, just look at your check book and your calendar to see who is number one in your life. Most people do not realize the many times the Bible mentions “tithing,” which means giving 10% of your net income to the direct work of Christ and his church. Yet, Jesus is clear when he warns the scribes and the Pharisees out of love: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Mt. 23:23)

That Bible passage is easy to remember (Mt. 23:23), when you take it to heart. Still, the heart of the Gospel, which is the main reason anyone would want to follow and support Jesus Christ and his Church is this: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, „Take and eat; this Is my body.‟

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, „Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.‟” (Mt. 26:26+)

The heart of Christ is the Eucharist lived for God and for all who are in need, and that is what motivates our hearts to generously follow Christ.

Peace in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Fr. Thomas McCabe


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