Monday, August 20, 2012

What Good Must I Do?

Gospel Mt 19:16-22

A young man approached Jesus 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.
This passage always astounds me.  I'm not so surprised by the part about giving away all our possessions.  I am attracted by a simple lifestyle.

The astounding - yea confounding part -- is earlier in the passage when  the young man says to Jesus, "All of these I have observed . . ."

Really? Some involve mortal sin so it seems quite plausible that one  is not guilty of them right this instant: 

  • You shall not kill.  (Check)
  • You shall not commit adultery. (Check)
  • You shall not steal. (Check) 
  • You shall not bear false witness. (Hmmm)
  • Honor your father and mother.  (Uhhm, is it open to interpretation?)
  • Love your neighbor as yourself. (Clunk)
These are not easy imperatives here, friends. I tend to focus on the end of the passage -- the part about storing up treasure in heaven -- and not notice what is truly being asked of me. It's right here where I live and really, if I just pay attention to that last one -- love your neighbor as yourself -- the others are part and parcel of it, aren't they?

My post a few days ago on forgiveness generated a flurry of side email conversations about just how hard it is to forgive -- and how easy it is to slip back into resentment -- but it is truly all about the Greatest Commandment:  "Love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your mind and and with all your soul and . . . love your neighbor as yourself."  I am, I admit, quick to forgive myself. Not for the big offenses, necessarily -- I like to carry those around a while -- but the "little" things like laziness, sloth, and envy; I forgive those in myself so quickly.  And yet, it really is asking a lot to forgive them in someone else.  

A couple of days ago I came face to face with my "neighbor."  This is a person with whom I have significant history.  On the face of it, the issues are all on "her" side -- she was the one "in the wrong," so to speak, and you'd have a hard time finding anyone to argue the reverse.  Yet, I am sure that at some point in our long history I sinned against her too; I have to dig for it a bit but it's there just under the surface.  After our falling out, I talked about it more than I should and I did so with bitterness.  I eventually confessed this to her but I needn't have; she had already suffered discrimination because of my words. I did forgive her (and I believe she has forgiven me) and I have to tell you, it sits easy with me. I do get quite nervous around her, but I think -- in all honesty -- that part is my mind-talk.  I am reminded each time too, that forgiveness is a process; it happens over time and requires (in my experience) many conscious acts of choice.

It's a lot to ask of one's self. Yet it is my path to perfection, isn't it?  If I "wish to enter into life," I have to "keep the commandments;" here is the path right here in the Gospel of Matthew. Guess I'd better put down the lap top enter into prayers for forgiveness, right here, right now!  Cheers.

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