Monday, August 20, 2007

What the Young Man Refused

The following reflection on today's Gospel reading; Matthew 19:16-22 is from Doctors of the Catholic Church including the Meditation of the Day from the Magnificat by St Bernard of Clairvaux. See this site to research St Bernard further.

In the gospel today, a young man pressed Jesus on how to live a more holy life and after first telling him about the commandments he said:

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

The young man, like many who are first attracted to Jesus, get excited about the Lord, but when they are told, or experience, what following Jesus really means, they realize that it isn’t easy, and they easily become turned off, get discouraged or lose their first fervor toward the Lord unless they have a sound foundation in discipline, prayer life, and great determination to follow the Lord. Any serious follower of Jesus Christ realizes that Jesus led a totally dedicated life that required great sacrifices for others because he was so good and would do anything to help them and that meant going out of the way to be patient with them, overlook their shortcomings, and above all, encourage them to pray and becoming generous in the service of God as Jesus did.

Any dedicated living for others or a specific calling, whether it is in the married state, religious or clergy environment or living a single state in a specific profession or business, requires a firm determination to follow a plan with certain goals and principles and a resolution to grow, learn and be the very best one can be in that way of life. All callings in life begin with some attraction or leaning toward a specific person or way of life and as one attempts to build on that attraction and understanding it more in depth, they will discover new dimensions and find how to develop and grow toward achieving this interest. According to the maturity and goodwill of the individual, and their educational growth and guidance, most of us find our ultimate calling and respond to that initial attraction that God has allow that person to possess.

In the gospel today, this doesn’t happen even though the attraction toward Jesus was real, the challenge not to follow Jesus, was also real, and for that reason, mainly his possessions, the young man went away sad, so we are told in the gospel. For whatever reasons, his possessions were stronger than his attraction toward Jesus and that caused him to be sad when at first, he was most serious and interested in Jesus and his way of life. We don’t know exactly what happened but St Bernard, in his meditation for today, sheds some insight on what took place in this young man’s heart, mind and soul so that we can learn and avoid. For no ones wants to be discouraged to follow Jesus for he is so good and worthy of our attention, and he first calls us to be happy and to strive for happiness, whatever it is.

Meditation of the Day

What the Young Man Refused

How precious is the wisdom by which we know God and despise the world! The one who has found it is indeed blessed, if he holds fast to it. What will he give to possess it? Give obedience as its price, and you will receive wisdom in return. If you want to be wise, be obedient. Obedience has no will of its own: it is at the service of another’s will, subject to another’s command.

Embrace it, then, with all the yearning of your heart, with all the effort of your body. Embrace, I repeat, the blessing of obedience, drawing near by obedience to the light of wisdom. Draw near that is, by means of obedience, for there is no approach more direct or secure, and be enlightened by wisdom.

The person who does not know God does not know where he is going, but walks in darkness and dashes his foot against a stone. Wisdom is light, the true light that shines on every person coming against this world, not the one who is wise with the wisdom of this world, but the one who is not of the world though in the world. This is the new self of one who has turned away from the sinful and slothful ways of his former self, and strives to walk in newness of life, knowing that damnation is not for those who walk in the way of the Spirit, but in the way of sinful nature.

As long as you follow your own will, you cannot escape turmoil within you, even though at times you seem to escape turmoil outside you. This turmoil of self-will cannot end until the desires of your sinful nature are changed, and God becomes for you a source of delight. Sinners enlightened by wisdom are said to be freed from turmoil because, once they taste the goodness of the Lord, they are freed from their sin: from that time they worship the creator, or the creature, and when they leave self-will behind they are feed from their feverish turmoil.

While at last they get rid of the turmoil of desires and the discord of thoughts, they experience peace in their inmost heart, and God takes up his dwelling within them: his dwelling-place is in peace.Where God is, there is joy; where God is, there is calm; where God is, there is happiness.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (+ 1153) is considered the last of the Fathers of the Church and is a Doctor of the Church.

Everything starts with obedience and giving up one’s own will or possession. Somehow we don’t realize that Christ himself leaned obedience. It wasn’t automatic. He was like us naturally and grew in wisdom and knowledge as he aged. We learn from Scripture that at the age of twelve, it is said that Jesus was obedient to Mary and Joseph. That he was subject to them and progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.

St Bernard tell us that we can lose wisdom and for that reason we must hold it fast to be blessed. If one is truly to become wise, we must obey. Exactly as Jesus was subject to Mary and Joseph in returning to Nazareth after he was lost in the Temple, we too must embrace obedience and Bernard encourages us to embrace it with our whole heart as Jesus did so that we will gain wisdom and allow us to accept another’s will rather than our own will. Saint Bernard explains that as long as we follow our own will we will not escape turmoil within us.

All religious life for the most part demands a vow of obedience. In fact, those about to get married pledge to each other their fidelity and faithfulness. They are for all practical purpose pledging and vowing obedience to their marriage and exchange of rings. Many single persons live dedicated lives of professions and commitments too in a chosen way of life that demands for them to be wise, obedient to certain laws and faithfulness to their conscience.

Once we get rid of the inner turmoil within us it will probably be because of our obedience to law, order and our principles in acting good towards others and less selfishness and with more generosity. To do good for us will make us happy, joyful and wise and the more we are focus only our self, we will become more narrow minded and mean spirited and experience plenty of inward turmoil in our heart and mind.

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