28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

     I try not to take too many things for granted in this world and I certainly try to avoid making assumptions when at all possible. With that said, I think it is safe to assume that all of us here today want to go to heaven when we die, which is why I assume most of us probably squirmed a little when we heard Jesus tell the man in the Gospel that it is not enough to simply obey all of the commandments, but to truly inherit the kingdom of heaven we must go sell what we own, and give the money to the poor and only then will we have treasure in heaven.” If you are anything like me, when you hear today’s Gospel you find yourself tempted to just throw your hands in the air in defeat and disgustedly ask yourself, what am I supposed to do? From today’s Gospel it seems that unless we become like the St. Francis of Assisi or Mother Theresa we have no hope of eternal life.

     Like the man in today’s Gospel who walks away, there can be a temptation when we hear today’s Gospel to just give up. Even when we can admit in all honesty that we are good people, who are trying our best to follow God’s will. Even when we can honestly admit that we do our best to follow God’s commandments and give what we can to those in need, it still seems we have very little hope for salvation. It can be so easy to hear today’s Gospel and think that Jesus is asking too much for the normal person, like you and I, to obtain eternal life. If that’s how you are feeling great, because, He is saying that heaven is too much for the normal person like you and I to earn. Heaven, after all isn’t a prize that nice people win, it is living in perfect union with God, a union that requires both God and us.

     Many people today buy into what I call the ATM theory of salvation. We believe that as we do good things in this life we store up this money and then when we die and come to the pearly gates St. Peter tells us how much it costs to ransom our way into heaven and points us to the ATM where we just hope we have earned enough to pay the debt so we can spend eternity in heaven. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth.  Simply put, we cannot earn heaven. While God desires that you and I spend eternity with Him, and we certainly must cooperate with His graces to achieve eternal life, we cannot buy our way into heaven by fulfilling our end of a contract. After all “heaven means that man has a place in God,”[1] and only God Himself can give us that place.

     We must remember that what is impossible for us, is possible for God. It is Jesus Himself, God, who sacrificed Himself so totally on the cross— giving everything He has, even His life. It is His death on the cross that opens the floodgate of grace making salvation possible. Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, accomplished for us what is not possible for us to accomplish on our own: He opened the gates of Heaven to those who truly desire to live with Him for eternity.

     We must remember that we do not make ourselves holy. Rather we only cooperate with God’s grace to achieve the plan He has for us. If holiness is becoming like God, we must strive to remove all of those things that prevent God, from entering into our lives. “Holiness does not stem so much from the effort of man’s will, as from the effort to never restrict the action of grace in one’s own soul.”[2] Holiness is not about following a simple set of rules and checking things off this get to heaven list, but rather about entering into so deep a union with Jesus, who alone can save us. “Christian holiness is simply the obedience that makes us available where God calls us to be, the obedience that does not rely on our own greatness, but allows our God to bestow His greatness upon us and know that only in service and self-surrender can we truly find ourselves.”[3]

     My friends, “Jesus always has victory when He has your abandonment He needs nothing more than that to bring about the Divine wonders that His Heart has prepared for you from all eternity.”[4] “Our first step to sanctity is realizing that nothing in life is worth so much as our becoming saints,”[5] and then working to remove whatever distracts us from Jesus Christ, who alone can bring us to eternal life.

[1] Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. pg. 313

[2] Karol Wojtyla. The Meaning of Vocation. United States: Scepter Publishers, 1997. pg. 10

[3] Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal.Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. pg. 367

[4] Fr. Jean CJ D’Elbee. I Believe in Love. Manchester: Sophia Institute Press. (2001.) pg. 89.

[5] Three Steps to Sanctity pg.1.

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