The Paradox Par Excellence
Sex is a god-given instinct for the prolongation of human life. So is the desire for property. It may help the prolongation of man’s good self. It is a natural right sanctioned by natural law. A person is free inside when he can call his soul his own. He enjoys external freedom when he can call some property his own. My internal freedom is based upon the fact that “I exist”. My external is based on the fact that “I have” some means to lively. But the excesses of flesh produce lust (sex in the wrong place and context). So too, the disordination of the desire for property turns out to be greed, avarice and even aggression.
The Lord of Lords now gives a second lesson in self-sacrifice which will help to atone, repair and make up for avarice and selfishness. The occasion is supplied by an enquiring young man. Our Lord now tries to make it a chance to win him as His follower. But when He spoke of the Cross, he quits. The young man would have the crown, but not the Cross, which should precede the crown. With regard to the uprightness of the youth, none should doubt. His question to Our Lord is “Master, what should I do to gain eternal life” (Mt. 9:16). He is quite open to confess the goodness of the Master. But he fails to recognise Our Lord as God and Master. Perhaps he would have admitted of both. But he would not “renounce” everything he possesses and become perfect. The young man recoils and goes away. Then Jesus exclaims: “When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel. Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. Students are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names. But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be made known to all”(Mt. 10:23-25).
This incident offers the Lord a golden chance to speak to His Apostles (called to the perfect way) about the virtue of poverty. In the previous case they wondered if anyone could ever marry! Naturally, now they wonder how anyone could ever be saved! “Astonished” to the core, they ask: “Then who in the world can be saved?”(Mk. 10:26).
One wonders what thoughts circulated in the brain of one of the disciples, who was even then pilfering from the bag what was intended for the poor”. To say that wealth is a hindrance to the Kingdom of God was also the “scandal of the Cross”. The disciples must have been surprised about the state of their own souls. In answer to their question about salvation: “Jesus looked at them intently and said, Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible” (Mt. 19:26).
It is in spite of the “Divine Possibility” that Our Lord makes the statement regarding the impossibility that stands in the way of the salvation of one very much attached to wealth. Peter, once again, stands as the spokesman of the Apostles. He asks the Lord: “We have given up everything to follow you. What will we get?” (Mt. 10:27).
The Apostles have not abandoned everything. Peter’s question is the classic proof. To follow Jesus one has to leave all. Charity is to be measured not by what one has given away, but by what one has ‘left’. Those who choose Jesus as their everything, choose Him for His own sake. Here there isn’t any question of any reward whatsoever. There is neither compromise nor compensation. Jesus recommends the Cross for His followers. Nevertheless, He is pleased to assure Peter and his fellows of the glory that would follow. “Jesus replied: I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt. 19:28).
Jesus makes them look forward to a great regeneration to a new Divine order of things. The Son of Man had the Cross on earth and the everlasting crown in heaven. So also, the Apostles and those who accept Jesus as their Saviour and as the only Saviour of the world.