A wealthy young man came to Christ with the question what he should do to deserve eternal life. The Lord reminded him of the law of Moses and then gently chastised him for trying to flatter Him by calling Him “good.”
Christ also needed goodness and love and a kind word from a fellow man. He accepted sincere and honest love into His heart, but He was very sensitive to flattery and feigning humility.
This young man informed Christ that he kept all the commandments of the law of Moses from his childhood. And we see from his example that most of us are like him. He speaks of impersonal and vague works of faith. Like him, we believe that we are no less that God’s righteous. This is how we speak about ourselves for the most part. However, in a real situation when we stop and take a good look at ourselves, we see that all our righteousness does not reach very far at all.
And so this young man, when Christ told him to sell all of his belongings, give the money to the poor and follow Him, left Christ’s side deeply troubled. The limits of his goodness were quite narrow and the Lord saw through him very quickly. It’s easy to reach into one’s pocket and find some change to give to the needy. It is not easy, and is a veritable feat, to give up and sacrifice everything.
The wealthy young man asked the Lord about His will, but is not ready to give up his own will and bow down to the Lord’s. Even though it is difficult and often impossible to kick against the goads (Acts 9:5), we still do it in our attempt to establish an image of ourselves or someone close to us. Some are even ready to sell their soul to the devil just to achieve their goal. When they succeed, they become aware that the price is too high.
And so, all that we do should be done in accordance to God’s will. We all know and feel what God’s will is, what is pleasing to Him and what is not. God has given each one of us a conscience, that most sensitive of sensors that sets of an alarm every time we do or say anything that is contrary to the will of God.
Our ancestors placed less trust in themselves and more in God and His help. “One should not even cross the doorstep without calling on God’s name,” they used to say. And they lived by that too. In doing so they did not adopt a fatalist attitude and wait for everything to fall down from the sky, ready to eat. They worked hard and struggled valiantly for preserving their bare lives, for such were the times they lived in. However, they called upon God on every step of the way.
By himself, man is a weak creature. With God, he is strong. If he succeeds in adjusting his will to be the same as the will of God, then he can achieve spiritual peace and great spiritual strength. No one and nothing can harm him then. “Trust the Lord and do good,” (Psalm 37:3), “Commit your way to the Lord,” (Psalm 37:5) and “Rest in the Lord” (Psalm 37:7) are the words of the wise prophet David.
Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself showed us how to place our life and our will in the hands of God. Knowing the terrible ordeals and suffering that lay in store for Him, the Lord asked His Father in prayer, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) It is totally permissible for us too, brothers and sisters, to pray that troubles bypass us as well. This is normal and human. But we must never ignore and give up the voice of God within us for the sake of our comfort and our personal well-being. When we pray, we turn to our heavenly Father and ask for His will to be done in our lives. “Thy will be done,” we say. Do we not appear deceitful and hypocritical when, at the same time that we utter these words, we try to avoid God’s will?
As much as man endeavours to avoid the cup that has been prepared for him, he does so in vain. No one can do this. “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!” (Isaiah 45:9) says the prophet Isaiah.
We are often unaware of the reason behind our affliction and what God has in mind for us. St. Paul the apostle asks us, “O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and the other for dishonour?” (Romans 9:20-21) Along the same lines, does a child know why he has to get a painful injection or why it needs to go through a painful operation? His parents, however, do know, and in spite of their own pain, they know that, in order to save the child’s life, he must go through these painful procedures.
Whether we like it or not we need to acknowledge that we have very few rights. Even our bare life, so to speak, is a gift from God. The lives of our loved ones are also a gift of God’s mercy. What we own is not ours. Once we realize that, it becomes easier to accept anything that befalls us, just like the Righteous Job from whose example we can all learn. When all of his belongings were taken away and when his own children perished and his wife turned against him, Job calmly said, “And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) Is this not true, brothers and sisters? Who among us has monopoly over happiness and wealth when he or she is born?
If we cannot see the goal and the meaning of our suffering, God does and He can reward our trust in Him whenever He chooses to do so. He rewarded Job even during the course of his earthly life. “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters.” (Job 42:12-13) “So Job died, being old and full of days.” (Job 42:17)
The example of what happened to King David is also a good and edifying example. Here is what happened. “And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the Lord loved him.” (2 Samuel 12:15-24)
When we read this and reflect on it, we wee that the only wise thing to do in life is to accept God’s will, as any resistance on our part is in vain. There are many of us who have avoided punishment in this life as there are those who have not received their reward here on earth for their righteous lives. Often God reserves both for the day of judgment. Even if we do think that we are suffering righteously, let us n\bear in mind St. Peter’s words. “But what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.” ((1 Peter 2:20) Every one of us can say of himself, as did the prophet Micah, “I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.” (Micah 7:9)
Finally, brothers and sisters, let us succumb to God’s will as children succumb to the kind and good will of their parents. Then, even if we are stricken with afflictions, we will take them as a sign of God’s fatherly concern for us. “For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” (Proverbs 3:12) And King David says, “As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13) Let us not be afraid: we will not receive more than we are able to take. Not even that young man from the beginning of our Gospel reading today would have been given more than he was able to take on, had he been willing to accept God’s will and follow Him.
For the sake of peace amongst ourselves and with God, let us accept God’s will. Let us entrust Him with our souls in good works, for the sake of our salvation. Amen.