October 14, 2018

This Sunday’s gospel is one I find very interesting.  Just as Jesus is about to leave on a journey, a man runs up to ask him what he must do to enter into eternal life?  I smile when I read this, because in all my years, even though I have met countless people all intent on getting to heaven, no one seems to want to get there right away, at least not unless they’ve grown tired of this life and are weakened under the burden of years.  Most of us like the idea of getting into heaven, just not right now… we still have things to do…

In this respect, I’m not sure we’re all that unlike the man who asks Jesus what he must do to enter into eternal life.  Jesus responds initially with his encouragement to just keep the commandments.  It’s an answer that would have made my grandmother proud.  But when the man responds that he already keeps the commandments, the story takes on another twist.  It’s as though the man expects Jesus to stamp a visa for heaven in his passport.  But of course, that’s not where Jesus goes.  Instead, Jesus invites the man to look carefully at his life and to take note of what seems to be missing.  While he might be able to check off all the boxes for heaven, still he seems to be missing out on experiencing the Reign of God.

In last week’s gospel Jesus cautioned the Pharisees against “hardness of heart.”  Present in first-century Mediterranean society, cardiosclerosis is an affliction that is widely manifesting in early twenty-first century humanity.  Without an intentional and long-term program of care, it can be terminal.  For the man in the gospel, and for ourselves, we do well to be attentive to the purpose of Jesus as he identifies it himself, namely, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, and the invitation to a change of heart, a metanoia, a conversion, on our part.  For all that the unnamed man in the gospel kept the commandments, his heart remained untouched by the in-breaking of the Spirit of God, and he struggled to open himself to the transformative power of God’s grace.  It’s not easy to accept that a person might do everything right, but still never give themselves totally to God and others.  In the gospel, the obstacle was identified as wealth.  But perhaps we might have other names for whatever prevents our encountering God in our own lives?  If we struggle to put a name on this, it might be possible to identify it by thinking about anything that gets in the way of our relationships with other people?  Such obstacles often get in the way of wholesome relationships in our lives.  It’s not always easy to name these obstacles for ourselves, but with the help and support of close friends or people to love and care for us, we can be encouraged to name them for ourselves, and with God’s grace we can turn our hearts toward the path along which Jesus invites us to walk.



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