Always Remember the One Thing Needful – 12th Sunday of Matthew

At that time, one came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” St. Matthew 19:16-26

The young man is a doer. He is assertive. The Fathers, especially St. John Chrysostom, say that he came to Jesus without any evil intent that he did not come to test Jesus. He is pious. He is concerned with his salvation. He has put his trust in the law that he has fulfilled. He comes to Jesus and asks, “teacher what good thing must I do to have eternal life?”

There is his problem. He was going after good things. We don’t go after goodness as the goal. We want to hold a very pious, a very religious ideal we want to point to rules on tablets and keep a running score of all the good things we have done.

The New Testament speaks with one voice: Heb 7:19 the law made nothing perfect. What does St. Paul write to the Galatians 3:24-25? “But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ.” What good does it do you if you follow the law and not follow Christ? Goodness isn’t the goal – relationship with God is the goal. Following Christ includes the entry level tablets (of the law) but also the graduate level table (of Thanksgiving with God). The tablets of stone were meant to lead us to Communion with God in Christ. All the good deeds without relationship can leave us lost. “Many will say to Jesus in that day, ‘Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then Jesus will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from me you who practice lawlessness.”[1] They thought good deeds were the goal. But without relationship keeping the law is like lawlessness.

So, what does Jesus do? Jesus sets the rich young man and us up beautifully, asking, ‘Why don’t you try to give it all up?’ I love the telling of this story in Mark’s gospel because it is at this point that St. Mark says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. Jesus is trying to get through to this man that he doesn’t realize that God already loves him. God loves him not because he does good deeds but because this man is lovable. Jesus asks him to give it all up, his stuff and his struggling to keep the law as an end in itself. What does He say? Give to the poor and then what? “Come follow me.” There is one thing needful – it is a relationship with our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.


[1] Matthew 7:22-23)

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1 Comment

Filed under Scripture Rumination, Sundays, Feast Days, Other Days

One response to “Always Remember the One Thing Needful – 12th Sunday of Matthew

  1. Demetrios1

    Christ looked into the man’s heart and saw that he held his possessions above God, breaking the first Commandment of having no other god before Me.

    Sometimes we follow the legalistic requirements of our faith, but are reluctant to actually put God – and following Him – first.

    And, I, unfortunately, would have to put myself first in not focusing on what is truly important.

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