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MONDAY HOMILY: Sincerity is Essential for Discipleship

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This young man was not ready for a life of self-denial.

Despite his faithfulness to The Law, the youth of the Gospel was unfulfilled.  His obedience was a good beginning, but it could not satisfy his inner longing for holiness.  He is looking for something more, and he goes to Jesus to find it.

P>SUGAR LAND, TX (Catholic Online) - During the course of his public ministry, Jesus never hesitates to identify hypocrisy and condemn it.  Christian discipleship demands total sincerity: with God, with others, and with oneself.  How could it be otherwise for those who have decided to follow the one who calls himself "the way and the truth and the life"  (John 14:6)?

Christ's utter commitment to the truth makes the Gospel of today's Mass all the more striking (cf. Matthew 19:16-22).  A young man wants to know the path to heaven.  Jesus exhorts him to obey the commandments, and the youth responds by saying "All of these I have observed.  What do I still lack?" (Matthew 19:20).

This is a remarkable statement for two reasons.

First, this young man claims to have observed all of the commandments.  If he were being insincere, Jesus would have challenged him.  He might have even identified this youth with the scribes and Pharisees, who so often fell into hypocrisy.

How many of us could claim total obedience to the commandments of God without blushing?  Clearly, this young man was very virtuous.  He had good moral habits and avoided serious sin.  Yet, something was missing from his life.

"What do I lack?"

Second, despite his faithfulness to The Law, the youth of the Gospel was unfulfilled.  His obedience was a good beginning, but it could not satisfy his inner longing for holiness.  He is looking for something more, and he goes to Jesus to find it.

The youth is unprepared, however, for what the Lord says to him.

"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" (Matthew 19:21-22).

This young man was not ready for a life of self-denial.  Maybe he had never heard Jesus preach on the necessity of personal sacrifice: "Who-ever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24).  Or perhaps this young person thought that Jesus was only speaking figuratively, and that the principle of self-renunciation was simply an ideal to be admired from afar, rather than embraced and lived in a spirit of absolute identification with our Savior.

Rejecting the Lord's invitation, the youth turns away from Jesus.  This is the source of his sadness.  Whenever we turn away from Christ, we are robbed of happiness.

There are times when it is difficult to live our Christian discipleship.  The Church of Christ follows a path of contradiction that the world frequently misunderstands and often rejects.  To be a sincere Christian - living without hypocrisy - in our culture can sometimes be exceedingly difficult.  Despite the challenges, our instinct must always be to turn towards Christ, and never away from him.

Throughout the day each of us have numerous opportunities to exercise this essential mark of the Christian life.  Choosing to pray rather than to daydream; deciding to be generous and charitable, rather than selfish and self-absorbed; eschewing what is impure in favor of what is wholesome.  Each of these moments are occasions to hear Christ say, "Follow me," and to respond faithfully.

May the Blessed Mother of God, whose "yes" still echoes throughout the cosmos, interceded for us that we might always do what she did, and live the word of God with joy and sincerity.

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Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is the Pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. You are invited to visit them on the Web at:


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