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What Must I Do To Inherit Eternal Life

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10:17-30

Do you remember how Jesus rebuked the Apostles in last Sunday’s Gospel? And told them that ‘whoever does not accept the Kingdom of Heaven like a child will not enter into it’. Well the young man we hear about today is the opposite of what Jesus tells us about being childlike because this young man was trying to use his own efforts to pursue the Kingdom of God. He was unable to understand that it was nothing he could do to merit that Kingdom, but that it was God’s gift to those who understand their own neediness.

The young man is a good person. He shows Jesus respect, kneeling when addressing him and asks a question which shows that he wants to do things that will lead him to life after death. He is already observing the Jewish laws so to ask Jesus the question indicates that he feels there must be more; there must be more he can be doing. He isn’t satisfied with what he is already doing.

What happens next is rather amazing. Jesus looks at the young man. This is the answer that he has been searching for; it is there, in this look that Jesus gives to him. But the young man does not seem to notice this look, the look which would have freed him from his earthly social needs and bring him to the love of God. Unfortunately, he is too preoccupied with his own needs to notice. He is unable to lose his independence. Yet he is a good man and Jesus really loves him. What does this mean for us? Well maybe we need detachment from our material things, this might seem obvious but it is especially hard in our Irish society in which our own worth seems based on material things. It is not that we cannot have material things, but that we cannot be attached to things. Material things and money cannot rule our lives. We must not be dependent on them. We must develop our dependence on God and, if we can do this, we will see Jesus look upon us and realise we have been given the gift of eternal life freely. We have done nothing to merit it. We only accept it.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

– Mark 10:17-30


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