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The Gospel That Ruined Me

First Reading: Judges 2:11-19

The children of Israel offended the LORD by serving the Baals. Abandoning the LORD, the God of their fathers, who led them out of the land of Egypt, they followed the other gods of the various nations around them, and by their worship of these gods provoked the LORD. Because they had thus abandoned him and served Baal and the Ashtaroth, the anger of the LORD flared up against Israel, and he delivered them over to plunderers who despoiled them. He allowed them to fall into the power of their enemies round about whom they were no longer able to withstand. Whatever they undertook, the LORD turned into disaster for them, as in his warning he had sworn he would do, till they were in great distress. Even when the LORD raised up judges to deliver them from the power of their despoilers, they did not listen to their judges, but abandoned themselves to the worship of other gods. They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken, and did not follow their example of obedience to the commandments of the LORD.  Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, he would be with the judge and save them from the power of their enemies as long as the judge lived; it was thus the LORD took pity on their distressful cries of affliction under their oppressors. But when the judge died, they would relapse and do worse than their ancestors, following other gods in service and worship, relinquishing none of their evil practices or stubborn conduct.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 106:34-35, 36-37, 39-40, 43AB & 44

Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people. They did not exterminate the peoples, as the LORD had commanded them, But mingled with the nations and learned their works. They served their idols, which became a snare for them. They sacrificed their sons  and their daughters to demons. They became defiled by their works, and wanton in their crimes. And the LORD grew angry with his people, and abhorred his inheritance. Many times did he rescue them, but they embittered him with their counsels. Yet he had regard for their affliction when he heard their cry.

Gospel: Matthew 19:16-22

A young man approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said 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.

ESV

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A thousand times I have heard today’s Gospel. A thousand times I have hesitated.

Yes, Lord, but—I have to finish college. I have to get a good job. We have to get settled. We have kids to raise. We have bills to pay. We have college educations to fund. We have retirement to plan for.

A thousand excuses leap to my lips. I can’t sell everything I have. I can’t give it all to the poor. Not now. Not like that.

I. Just. Can’t.

Over the years this Gospel has turned me into an expert in rationalization. I interpret Jesus’ words creatively and conveniently in a thousand different ways. Well, maybe He meant . . . well, it could also mean . . . well, within my context . . . well, maybe for other people . . . well, I just can’t.

But lately? This Gospel haunts me. Tugs on my sleeve while I’m washing dishes. Steals my sleep while I’m tossing and turning. I can’t escape the growing and glaring truth that Christ’s call could not be clearer.

Go, sell what you have and give to the poor. Come, follow me.

In a troublesome twist, my husband has started to feel this growing angst, too. This restlessness, this discomfort with our comfortable life as it is.

We have been having conversations for months—years, if I’m honest—circling around the same question. How are we supposed to live as followers of Christ?

We have no easy answers. We aren’t saints or prophets or missionaries. We don’t have any clue what this nudging might mean for our family, our jobs, or the rest of our lives. We don’t know what this change might be, how it will come, or what it will demand of us.

Honestly, it is a terrifying prospect. I want to keep my comfortable life. I want to stop thinking about all these things.

But this Gospel is ruining me.

I want to stop being this sad young man. I want to stop going away sorrowful.

I want to see what happens if I dare to stay there with Christ. If I say, “Okay. I’m going to try and do this. I want to follow you.”

I pray that God will keep calling us, gently and lovingly, to let our lives be transformed by the Gospel. To give Him everything He asks. To say yes.

So I have no easy take-away for you today. All I hope is that you will sit with me and wrestle with Jesus’ call, too. And wonder what might happen if we let His words change us.

photo by Corynne Olivia

Laura Kelly Fanucci is a mother, writer, and theological researcher. She and her husband are raising three little boys in the suburban wilds of Minnesota. You can find out more about her here.

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