Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel follows immediately upon yesterday’s Gospel of the rich young man (Mt 19:16-22). We recall from yesterday that Jesus indicates the way of the commandments as the “way of life” and, after hearing from the young man that he has been faithful in keeping the commandments that Jesus indicates, Jesus invites the young man to a closer following, saying, “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.” The young man went away sad, because he was unable to let go of his possessions to follow Jesus in this more “perfect” way.
In today’s Gospel, we hear the astonishment of the disciples who wonder if anyone at all can be saved. After all, it is the rich who seem to have access to all the means that they need to attain salvation. Today, we might say that the wealthy are the ones who have access better schools, wealthier parishes, the “right” manners, the “right kind of people,” the more prestigious clubs, friends, institutions, parties… the list goes on and on. Though the Church seeks to serve all, it is sometimes true that a wealthy person (and potential benefactor!) may have greater access to spiritual care and greater leisure to pursue such things as retreats, which working class folk may not be able to get off work to make, even if they were able to afford the “recommended minimum donation.” And yet, Jesus says, “it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Perhaps this is because the rich have too many means available to them, and therefore bear a much greater temptation to turn these means into an end. If not in this life, then certainly in the next, God will ask us if we are willing to leave all things behind and find in Him riches enough. The rich who are unwilling to let go of other “riches” (and some of these people may actually seem or be poor, seen from the outside) will not be able to receive the riches that God wishes to offer, for God’s riches are so great that they will overwhelm our capacity to receive them. We can receive these riches, by God’s grace, but we cannot do so if we hold on to anything else besides what God offers us.
Let us ask God for the desire that Ignatius of Loyola suggests as necessary for salvation: “first [for] the most perfect spiritual poverty and also, if the Divine Majesty should be served and should wish to choose them for it, even to no less a degree of actual poverty” (SpEx 146).
August 18th, 2015