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Gospel Reading for the 35ᵗʰ Sunday
Did you know there’s a difference between not doing something that’s bad and doing something that’s good?
Today’s Gospel reading is about a man we call the rich young ruler, and his meeting with Jesus.
The rich young ruler knew that Jesus had been teaching about eternal life, and he wanted to find out how to live forever, so he found Jesus and asked him. Jesus told him to keep the commandments like “Do not kill, do not steal . . . honor your father and mother.” Basically, Jesus told him not to do bad things. This made the rich young ruler happy because he had spent his whole life not doing bad things.
But then, Jesus said there was one more thing: The rich young ruler needed to sell everything he had, and give it to people who didn’t have anything, and then leave his position of leadership to go follow Jesus. This made the rich young ruler sad, because he had a lot of stuff, and he didn’t want to get rid of it, even to help people who were poor.
Why does God want us to do good things for other people? Couldn’t he just help people? Does he really need us to do it?
Well, just trying not to do bad things can be hard. When someone hurts us, we want to hurt them back, don’t we? But we know that’s bad. We can try to control our anger, and pretty soon, all we can think about is how it’s not fair that they get to hurt us, but we don’t get to hurt them. Just trying not to do bad things can make our hearts hard, like dried-up Play-Doh.
What happens though if, instead of trying not to do something bad, we do something good? When someone hurts us, we can try to help them. If someone is mean to us, we can try to be nice to them. Maybe we find out that they’re having a bad day, or maybe we find out that we were doing something they didn’t like, or maybe we find out that they don’t even know that what they did was wrong. Instead of just going away and being angry, we can control our anger by helping someone.
Of course, we shouldn’t just help people when they do something bad to us. We should help everyone who needs it. When we help people, instead of hard hearts, we get soft hearts—hearts like new Play-Doh, that can be shaped by God into beautiful creations.
The rich young ruler spent his whole life not doing things that are bad. Jesus asked him to take all that energy he had spent not doing bad and use it to do something really, really good—and he couldn’t do it. Let’s not be like the rich young ruler. Let’s be like Jesus, and do good things for other people as often as we can.
I always think of the story of the rich young ruler as a story of identity. We don’t know this guy’s name. His entire identity is wrapped up in the three things we know about him: He’s rich, he’s young, and he’s a ruler. Christ asks him to forgo everything that makes him who he is—to lose his life for Christ’s sake and thereby save it. (ref: Matthew 10:39)
- He is to give up his riches by giving everything he owns to the poor.
- He is to give up the opportunities of his youth by following around an itinerant preacher and his adherents.
- He is to give up his status as a ruler by following the commands of another.
I couldn’t figure out how to make the idea of identity resonate with the little ones. What I think will resonate is the difference between negative good (not doing bad deeds) and positive good (doing good deeds).
Kids are all about immediate gratification. Getting them to understand, at an early age, that God wants us to control our desires and use our resources for good is something they can probably grasp.
” It is not pure obedience that God willed for His creatures. God wants us to be like God. To care about something beyond our self and beyond our immediate gratification.”Source: Fr. Ted Bobosh, “Choosing the Good Portion” 2018-12-3