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Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Judges 2:11-19 & Matthew 19:16-22

Of all the peoples in the world God chose the Israelites and set them apart to be His very own nation. How could they ever be so ungrateful to turn away from Him and worship alien gods? Their history alone should have told them how fortunate they were: only the one true God could have loved and guided them as He did. Yet over and over again they turned to false gods and worshipped them, and as a result were subjected to other nations. Between the death of Joshua and the reign of King Saul, God gave Israel “judges”, men and women of integrity, to free them from foreign domination and call them back to the Lord. But when each of these judges died, they would once more return to their sinful ways.

Are we any different? Countless times we have seen how much God loves us but time and time again we sin and fail Him. Let the failures of the Israelites teach us not to follow our false gods which lead us away from God who loves us dearly, but to stay close to Him and grow in the knowledge of His ways. With His help we can be true to Him and advance in His love.

We see how fortunate was the rich young man who was loved by Jesus and invited to be His follower in today's Gospel reading. Could he have been the thirteenth apostle, and when Judas defected, taken his twelfth place? Presumably there would have been no need then for the election of Matthias which took place just before Pentecost. Could he not sense that the most charismatic man who ever existed was calling him? Yet he failed to accept His invitation. Why was this? It was because he was very rich and was not prepared to give up his possessions. This certainly indicates how riches can get such a hold on people. It is a perfect example of the truth of Jesus’ words, “How hard it is for those who are rich to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”

When the young man asked Jesus what he must do to attain eternal life, did he think that by doing good things he could become perfect and so earn Heaven? We can never earn salvation! This is a gift of God which is why Jesus said, “When you have done everything in your power you are still to consider yourselves as unworthy servants.”

The young man who asked Jesus this question knew there was something missing in his life. It was obvious that he sincerely wanted to please God, for he already kept the commandments. But Jesus knew that he would never find the treasure he sought unless he learned detachment. So He gently led the young man to a place he had never gone before. Had this rich young man accepted, he would have entered into the very heart of Jesus’ teaching – and been richer for it but, instead, he turned away.

The rich man stumbled because he thought that he could gain eternal life by fulfilling the law. He could not see that God is concerned primarily about our interior disposition. Am I more concerned with obedience to God's laws as an end in itself rather than as the prerequisite to allowing His love to change my heart?

Lord Jesus, we want You to be the passion and treasure of our hearts! Help us to surrender them to You.

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