Mt 19:23-30 A Lesson Still To Be Learned
Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, I say to you, if will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven.” When the Apostles heard this, they were greatly astonished…Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?”
I’m not sure if kids read fairy-tales anymore. I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t. They can be very moralistic. But if they did read them, I hope it’s to learn the moral of the story and not just to improve their reading skills.
The worst lesson is the one never learned. With the increase of study and knowledge, we have, over the centuries, bettered ourselves in so many ways. With a greater understanding of the human body, we have learned the secrets to living a healthier life. I remember my dad once telling me that the wealthy people in his town would never eat vegetables (corn, lettuce, etc.) for the simple reason that it was considered poor man’s food. But when the poor men lived longer (and healthier), than the rich people, they began to consider themselves accursed. It took a while, but the rich man eventually got it. He actually learned something from the poor man.
But there is one lesson the rich man could have taught the poor man; and yet, the poor man has never quite learned it: Do not be envious of me. And even to this day, the poor man has not dared to believe it, or listen to it, or even accept it. And to his detriment, he continues to strive to be a rich man.
Although the poor man has not learned it, the poor in spirit have. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The poor in spirit consider themselves blessed – wealthy - independent of their monetary wealth.
The Apostles had a hard time understanding this. A lot of us have a hard time accepting this. There’s a little sliver of silver in all of us that would love to equate God’s blessings with financial bliss. But the Lord was faithful to his word. The Apostles never received such compensation. We should learn this lesson from our elders. Some have.
I know a young girl who was invited to her friend’s bachelorette party in Las Vegas. She was a little reluctant to go. Not only would the trip be expensive, but she knew she would be pushed into doing things she didn’t want to do. A while back, she would have been the first to sign up. But over the years, her heart changed and she grew closer and closer to the Lord and His Church. She decided to go, but only for her friend’s sake.
Immediately, the partying began. Ladies night out meant going to one raunchy show after another; drinking the night away; gambling and losing more than just money. But this young lady insisted on staying in her Hotel or catching other types of shows. At one point, her friends came up to her and said, “We need to talk to you. WE ARE ALL WORRIED ABOUT YOU. Are you okay? Are you going through some tough times? Are you not going with us because you can’t afford it? Do you need some help? Do you need some money?”
This young lady told me: "Father, I wanted to laugh at them. I thought to myself, 'You are worried about me??? You’re asking me if I’m ok??? I don’t need any help. You need help!' I smiled and told them, 'I’m perfectly fine. Thank you.'"
The irony of it all!
The rich are an irony. They work so hard to “get it all” but end up so easily “consumed (burned) by it all”. If I were to write a fairy-tale, then the moral of the story would be the following: Our weakest moment is when we feel the strongest (or safest, or securest). For it is at that moment we let our guard down and find ourselves totally left unprepared for the greatest attack ever.
What is remarkable about the Lord is that he not only preached material poverty, he lived material poverty. It was his way of conditioning - strengthening - himself. As a priest, I can honestly say that the most honorable families, the strongest and most faithful families I know are not the wealthiest families I know. What is true for the family is true for the religious family, the Church. The Lord sent St. Francis of Assisi to renew His Church with his poverty, especially when it became bloated with wealth.
But just like the children of hardworking parents, this lesson gets easily forgotten among God's children. We, like them, tend to blow it all once we get it all.
It’s time we learn this lesson, once and for all.