Homily August 21st, 2023

Monday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time – Mt 19:16-22

            Today’s Gospel reminds us of the great dignity of our vocations as Christians and, to those who are in religious life, to that vocation in particular.

            In today’s Gospel we see God’s love for the people He has chosen for His own. The rich young man kept the precepts of the law, but wanted to go further. When Mark recounts the event, He tells us that in reply, Jesus does three things: Jesus, “looking at him, loved him and said”: Christ looked, loved, and spoke. He looked, with an engaging look. It’s not just a simply glance or a rolling of the eyes, but “in a sustained, concentrated way, i.e., with special ‘interest, love, or concern.’”[1] Likewise, that word loved implies a special love: it’s a “discriminating affection which involves choice and selection.”[2] Jesus loved the rich young man, and, looking straight at him, selecting him out of everyone in the crowd, loved him in a special way, and, because of that love, Christ called him to follow as a disciple who gave up everything.

            The rich young man was saddened because he didn’t want to give up his material goods in order to possess the eternal ones. Although Christ had loved him with a particular, exclusive love, the young man did not return in kind. For the Christian and especially for the religious, Christ’s love for us gives us the strength to surrender all things that are not Him in order to love Him alone. We, however, have to be willing to make that sacrifice.

            Fulton Sheen captured this surrender and love very well in a story he recounts in his book, Way to Happiness. He writes: “Some years ago the cloister of Carmelite nuns was opened to the public on the feast of St. Therese. Many curious people poured in to see those women who led a life of silence, prayer and penance. One man who could not understand their life called the attention of a young and beautiful nun to the finest residence in the city which stood on the opposite hill. He said to her: ‘Sister, if you could have had that home, with all the wealth, luxury and pleasure that went with it, would you have left it to enter the Carmelites?’ She answered: ‘Sir, that was my home.’”[3]

            When we live our vocations well, be that as religious or lay people, we become a source of inspiration and example to others. After Saint Bernard left everything to follow Christ, many in his family did the same; in fact, Bernard arrived at the monastery with 30 members of his family and friends, and today there are 10 saints and blesseds in his immediate family.

            As we continue through Ordinary Time, we can ask ourselves if we still cling to some possession here, something that keeps us from giving ourselves entirely to Christ. Our true happiness lies in surrendering everything to the Beloved, who gave up everything for us. Let us ask, through the intercession of Mary, Help of Christians, for the grace to love Christ above all things, and to love our vocations as our means to make a return to Him.

[1] HELPS Word-studies, 1689.

[2] HELPS Word-studies, 25.

[3] Fulton J. Sheen, Way to Happiness (New York: Alba House, 1998): 153.



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