YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: HOW TO GAIN ETERNAL LIFE
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
A priest was giving a homily on heaven and hell. At one point, he asked the people: “Is there anybody here who wants to go to heaven? Please stand.” As expected, everybody in the church stood up. Then he asked again: “Who would like to go to hell? Will you please stand?” Nobody moved. But after a short while, the priest’s sacristan, seated in front, very slowly and with much struggle and trepidation, stood up. The priest was surprised: “Abdul, do you want to go to hell?” The sacristan answered, “No, Father.” “Then why did you stand?” the priest asked. He answered, “Father, I can see you are standing alone. Being your sacristan, I have to go wherever you go.”
Everybody wants to go to heaven. The rich young man asked Jesus: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17). He, too, wanted to go to heaven. But in the end, he went away sad. This could be the same case with many of us. Everybody wants to go to heaven but many may end up like the rich young man – disappointed and sad.
There are two major conditions in order to go to heaven. First, we have to die. We have to leave this world. Death is the ultimate detachment from this world. It is just silly how many people desire to go to heaven, but consciously and vehemently refuse to die. How can they go to heaven when they do not want to leave this world? Definitely, many of us are afraid of death. One main reason is because of the uncertainty surrounding death. We do not know what is going to happen when we die. That is why, Jesus has, time and again, urged us to practice dying. This is by means of self-denial and sacrifice. He said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel, will save it.” (Mk 8:34-35).
So, the Lord said to the rich young man: “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mk 10:21). He was already teaching him the lesson of detachment. For eventually, he will also leave all these things when he dies. Learning to detach himself from his material wealth now will make it easier for him to do so when death comes. And more importantly, detaching himself from these things will make him free to follow Jesus. But he refused to let go. It looked like his prayer was: “Give me eternal life, O Lord; only do not ask me to give up my wealth." So he went away sad. He chose wealth, not eternal life. The Lord could only sigh with pity for him: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mk 8:36).
The second requirement in order to enter heaven is to conform our lives to Jesus. We are Christians. We should be like Christ. How do we become like Christ? The core message of Jesus is love. And love is total self-giving: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn 15:13).
That is why he was urging the young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor. Jesus was leading him to practice love, and this is by giving – first, his possessions and later, his own self. The young man was very serious in following God’s commandments. He thought this was enough to gain eternal life, and he believed that following Jesus was just a matter of avoiding sin. But he was mistaken. In the account of St. Matthew about the last judgment, the eternal Judge said to those condemned: “For I was hungry, and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me” (Mt 25:42-43). It was their sin of omission, their unwillingness to help, and their refusal to give and share that condemned them to eternal punishment. The young man went away sad. He was not willing to share, so he cannot love, and therefore, he cannot follow Jesus to eternal life.
These days, we regularly witness in the news the devastation and deaths caused by calamities in all parts of the world: earthquakes, floods, tsunami, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, and many more. These disasters happen so suddenly, almost always without warning. People have no time to save their homes and belongings. Many are not even able to save their own lives. This reminds us that, eventually, we will have to leave everything in this world; we will lose whatever we have now – later or sooner, quickly or slowly. In the end we will be left with nothing, except our soul before God. It is pointless to hold on to these things. We have to let go, and share them now, and thereby store up heavenly treasures. Otherwise, these will be taken away from us suddenly and against our will. Let us not wait for a calamity to strike us before we begin to share. Let us not wait for the time when we are already on our deathbed to realize that we cannot take our possessions with us.
Let us not wait for tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come. Now is the time to let go; now is the time to share; now is the time to follow Jesus and discover the beauty of freedom from material things, the bright promise of eternity, and the wonders of God’s boundless blessings.
For those who seriously heed this lesson, Jesus has this promise: “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.” (Mk 10:29-30).
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs, Susano Road Camarin, Caloocan City 1422