Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Lectio Divina for Matt. 19: 23-30

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.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”  (Mt 19:23-30)
In the beginning of this discourse, Matt. 19: 16-23, speaks of the rich man who departs from Jesus because of his attachment to his worldly goods. Remember that Jesus is speaking to his poor disciples, who needed to be reconciled to their position in life. They should be content that they don’t have the temptations of those born into wealth and prominent social positions. Note the word, Amen. The following admonishment is important: “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven.” And in case you missed it—it’s repeated Again! “ 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.”

Did you take note? The way to heaven is the narrow road with the small gate that the poor can walk through, but not the prosperous man with a camel burdened with goods, especially if that prosperous man refuses to get off his camel and get rid of some of his goods. He can’t walk through the gate heavily laden with so much unnecessary wealth.

Rich people have great temptations to resist. Many demands turn them away from opportunities to help others. It takes the grace of God for a rich man to enter the gate.

The Apostles were surprised at Jesus’ assessment of the rich. They asked “Who then can be saved?” Jesus’ reply was to tell them that only with God, can people be saved. Mankind can’t save the soul, neither in itself, nor in any one else, but with God all things are possible.

Peter then asks about the apostles’ salvation, after all, they have nothing because they left everything behind to follow Jesus. If you think about this you will come to see that they couldn’t have left everything, after all, they had families to provide for. They had renounced all. Nowhere does it say that the apostles gave everything they had to the poor, or sold their goods and gave to the poor. They walked away in renouncing everything to honor and serve Jesus. They trusted Him.

Jesus in response tells them that they will sit on twelve thrones, when He comes, again. They will join Jesus. In fact, all who sacrifice for Jesus will be rewarded. Don’t be surprised to see the rich man last, and the poor man, first.

When my three children were young, I would sometimes hear this refrain:

First is worst. Second is best. Third wins the treasure chest!

Needless to say, the first child did not compose this verse. However, it brings to mind that human desire to be the first, to be the best, and/or win a treasure chest. According to Thomas Aquinas, God created us this way, i.e., to always search for happiness. We find satisfaction in our search, only in God. God is the treasure chest. Only in God is perfect happiness. What happiness we have on earth is imperfect, compared to what God has to offer.

It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is that perfect good which entirely satisfies one’s desire; otherwise it would not be the ultimate end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e., of man’s desire, is what is universally good; just as the object of the intellect is what is universally true. Hence it is evident that nothing can satisfy man’s will, except what is universally good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone, because every creature has only participated goodness. Therefore, God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of the Psalms (102:5): “Who alone satisfies your desire with good things.” Therefore, God alone constitutes man’s happiness.” (Summa Theologica Part 2. Q.1. Article 8)

Don’t waste any time worrying that you don’t have the best of any material wealth, or achievement. “You can’t take it with you”, anyway. Be satisfied that our good God provides you with what you need. Trust the Father, as the apostles trusted Jesus.
My Beloved, I know that you love me. Your suffering and death proved Your love. The Eucharist is proof of your everlasting care over us. Help me never to doubt your care and love. May I receive the grace of perseverance and fortitude. I desire to be with You, always.
Many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.  As long as I am with You, my Love.

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