Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies


Today’s column is the third in the reprinting of my four-part series on the Biblical basis for the Fifth Precept of the Church, "You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church." Today, we look at the encounter of the Rich Young Man with Jesus in Matthew 19:16- 26 (RSV):

16 And behold, one came up to Him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" 17 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." 18 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, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 20 The young man said to Him, "All these I have observed; what do I still lack?" 21 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." 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. 23 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. 24 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." 25 When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

The central point of this episode is that Jesus calls the rich young man to embrace Him as the highest Good (cf. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, chapter 1). Hence, Jesus' initial reply in v. 17, "One there is who is good," i.e., God Himself (cf. Lk 18:19). Even though this upright young man observed the majority of the Ten Commandments, his attachment to his wealth precluded a perfect observance of the First and Tenth Commandments (the prohibitions against idolatry and material covetousness).  

We should not misunderstand Jesus' focus on possessions as a universal call for the abolition of private property and wealth. Rather, we should receive it as a clear statement on the hierarchy of goods. Jesus teaches quite plainly that spiritual goods trump temporal goods in value. Money should not be cherished more than God.

Accordingly, Jesus' words find their fullest meaning in the Religious/Monastic Life, as well as certain forms of apostolic life, where a total or near-total personal relinquishment of material wealth is constitutive to the rule of life, in imitation of Jesus' own life (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 915- 916, 932). This counsel/call was given to the Apostles and other associates in their band. These accepted Jesus' call for the sake of a higher end, and He promised them abundant heavenly rewards surpassing whatever they sacrificed out of love for Him (vv. 27-30).

How do Jesus' words apply to us? Exactly in the sense I have given above, namely, that we are called to value spiritual goods above earthly ones. This is where the truth of the Church's Fifth Precept dovetails with the truth of Jesus' counsel. We should provide for the needs of our own parish Church, because she supplies us with the majority of our spiritual goods in this life.

Offering a tithe of 5-10% of one's income manifests concretely that we believe that God is more important than our personal wealth. Stewardship-level giving is therefore an act of thanksgiving to God for the spiritual goods of our parish Church, and secondly, a means of ensuring that the temporal necessities of her mission are duly met. Trust in God's goodness and love to give you the grace to make a worthy offering. In this passage, Jesus tells the Apostles what Gabriel tells Our Lady, "with God all things are possible" (v. 26; cf. Lk. 1:37).

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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