Friday, October 9, 2009

The Rich Young Man--A Reflection on the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

One criticism of the Catholic Church is that we are too "legalistic." Catholics are expected to go to mass every week, to go to confession at least once a year or not to eat meat during Friday's in lent. That along with the sacreaments of baptism confirmation and the belief that it is through faith AND works as opposed to just faith that we are saved a person can see why someone would think Catholics are "legalistic."

Sometimes we do a pretty good job making ourselves look legalistic. If you listen to any catholic radio show where there are callers asking questions about the faith you will hear people say "does it count if . . ." And there seem to be some parents who think that their requirement for giving their child a religious education is making sure they get the sacraments. "Hey, little Jimmy is in second grade, we need to get his first communion and first reconciliation out of the way!" CHECK! or "Allision is in High School---it's time to get her confirmed. Come on Allison, you have to go to CCD class on Sunday now!" GRADUATED!!

In reality nothing can be further from the truth. The Church puts these things in place because she knows that it is through the sacraments that people receive grace which will help people through life. She puts rules in place because people DO ask questions about the "bare minimum" like "what's the latest I can be to mass for it to count?"

In this week-end's gospel, the rich young man asks Jesus what he has to do to get into Heaven. The young man says that he follows all of the commandments but Jesus says more is required. Jesus says that he must sell all of his riches and attend to the poor. Mark says that the young man went away sad because he had many possessions.

More is expected of us that attending mass every week. More is expected of us that to be a "good person." We must cooperate with God's graces and have a conversion of heart. We must become like Jesus ourselves. If we don't, we may stray and go down that wrong path.

Jesus also says that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to make it into heaven. He points out that for human beings it is impossible and ONLY through God is it possible to make it into Heaven. The Church is like our Mother. She knows what we need in order to get the graces we need to live life in eternal glory. She sounds legalistic because like a mother she tells us to eat our brussel sprouts and to clean our room.

Eating your brussel sprouts or cleaning your room isn't going to get you anywhere though. It sets a good foundation though. We must build on those. Just like we build on the graces we receive eating the Eucharist or cleaning our soul.


  1. Whoever wrote this article should be very aware of the damage that he may be causing to others.

    I know the focus of the article is not riches and money in themselves. But it verges on these topics. Why is it so many Catholics pick on the rich? It's as if being rich is some kind of a sin. I would simply like to make some of my thoughts clear on this issue.

    How much do you have to give away to get into heaven? How rich do you have to be to merit damnation? These are ridiculous questions. There are no possible answers to them. And there will never be. It is a completely relative area. And Catholics should rationally avoid relativism wherever possible. It is simply bad reasoning, and causes pain and fear.

    . You can own whatever you want, and it is not a sin. God does not put restrictions on how we spend our money. Anyone who says otherwise is speaking a heresy; specifically, they are going beyond what we as Catholics can legitimately say. Nobody, in the Catholic worldview, can dictate to you how to spend your money. It is not our place. And nobody should be putting guilt or fear into you to "give to the poor" or else risk eternal damnation. This is not a Catholic view at all. It is an evil view.
    Money is not required. Just love.

    Mother Theresa once said "It's not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Theresa also said that "...when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, 'How many good things have you done in your life?' rather he will ask, 'How much love did you put into what you did?"

    Pope John Paul II points out in several of his writings that Christ was careful never to put rules or restrictions on people, because this would crush them, and cause them to lose heart. And so we should be careful to do the same.

    How much money do you have to give away to avoid hell? None. I'm rich, and I give virtually NOTHING away. The Catholic priest I talked to about these issues said that there are far more important things in this world than money. Giving of yourself, or your intellect, or your heart, or your service to others and to the Church; these things are far more important than any money. They can't even compare.

    If God wants you to give money (or anything else,) He will make it unmistakable. Genuine giving should arise from our own free will. It occurs in the heart. It cannot be controlled or provoked. It happens when it happens. It is entirely unpredictable. And if it doesn't happen for you, then that is not what God is requiring of you at that time. Maybe never. Who knows? According to Galatians in the Bible, for the person operating under the influence of the Holy Spirit, there are no rules. None at all. Nobody is "obligated" to give away this or that to avoid hell. If you make your money honesty, it's yours. If someone puts guilt and fear of hell into you to force you to give, then that is not charity. That is something else. And God will not reward that, no matter how much you give. You might as well give nothing at all. The result will be the same. You cannot control or force true charity. So don't even try. Rationally speaking, this is the only moral, logical solution to all of this. Anything else is from the devil.

  2. I have been having problems with these exact issues you discuss! Many Catholics (and others) often look down on the rich. This is stupid and inconsiderate, and I almost left the Church over this issue some years ago. (I'm very rich, and people at my parish tend to look at me like have some disease when I don't contribute to collection on Sundays. I only contribute when I'm truly moved, and that really doesn't happen very often - in truth, almost never. And there's nothing morally wrong with this at all.)

    Trouble is, most "Catholic" internet posts have anti-rich rants on them. Or if not anti-rich, then at least several very uncertain mumblings about whether the rich ever get to Heaven at all.

    Jesus was very comfortable with the affluence of others. Mary Magdalene owned a house large enough for Christ and his disciples to have dinner in, and she was easily able to support them out of her own funds.

    Canon Law 222 states that the wealthy are "obligated" to contribute to the poor with their resources, but a priest I talked to a few years back was very clear about the intent of that Law. He said that the Law is simply trying to remind us about our duty as our brother's and sister's keeper. He said to forget about the Canon Law. If you take it strictly, it will give you a fanatical point of view instead of a balanced one. It is not something that we have to keep in front of our faces as Catholics. The very best kind of Catholic is not a liberal or a conservative, but a rational one, and you take things as they come. You give only because it is in your heart to give (or not.) Not because some rule forces you to.

    I think most Catholics are incredibly confused about what the Church actually believes about wealth. During the Renaissance, the Catholic Church made artists Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti rich beyond the dreams of avarice. They earned their money honestly. The Church has no problem at all with Catholics being rich. If God has given you talent, and you get rich using it, then there is nothing wrong with that. Whether you choose to give any money away or not is your own business. God is not going to punish you for not giving to charity or for being enormously wealthy. I am disgusted that so many "Catholics" on the internet seem to think the opposite of this.

    The priest I talked to warned me very strongly about so-called "Catholics" on the internet. Anybody with an opinion can post bad information online, and sadly (and I really hate to say it) the world seems to be filled with a lot of fools. The internet can be very useful for certain kinds of research. But the web is also a breeding ground for bad reasoning and low intelligence, and I am shocked how most of the people writing on these issues seem to have no clear understanding of the reasoning of the Church at all.

    When it comes to my eternal salvation, I want things to be clear. I want accuracy and precision, not stupidity, contradiction and confusion. I am rapidly developing a hatred of low intelligence when applied to areas where one's thinking has to be extraordinarily clear, and I now become deeply offended when I see websites or online articles telling the rich that we must "contribute to charity or be damned." (That's a direct quote from somewhere, don't ask me where. But it's very typical of the garbage on the net.)

    I hope very much that this helps someone out there. The post above this one is (up till now) the only accurate information on the subject of riches and charity that I have ever seen on the internet. I hope more appears soon, everywhere. Maybe it will help people be much less confused.

  3. according to me, if i contextualize this reading in our contemporary society i don't think Jesus wants us to sell our pads, i phones or electronic gadgets or other material things we have but be ready to sacrifice having it our way and allowing Him to take the lead, accepting our mistakes and taking positively the corrections even though it may be painful. sometimes we walk away sad because we are not ready to accept the truth about ourselves, this is what we must be ready to sacrifice and respond positively to the invitation of Jesus who looks lovingly on us even when we decide to turn our backs to him, i imagine his lovely gaze at the young man as he walks away sadly maybe silently swearing yet Jesus knows "i will give him a second chance hopefully this time he will understand i love him/her.