Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Judges 2:11-19; Matthew 19:23-30)
“Bear” Bryant, the football coach, won the reputation of being a harsh and successful taskmaster. His players were notoriously slim, not because they didn’t eat but because he trained them so hard. Coach Bryant’s teams won six national titles in his twenty-five years as the head coach at the University of Alabama. In today’s gospel Jesus presents himself similarly as the one who leads his disciples to their goal.
The passage challenges its readers. It seems to indicate that the sure way to eternal life is to renounce wealth and follow Jesus. It may be asked then, “Are only vowed religious guaranteed a place in heaven?” An affirmative answer here is faulty on two levels. First, it misses Jesus’ point that eternal life is not so much a matter of being destitute but of following him. True, the young man in question is ostensibly called to poverty, but more generally the sine qua non of eternal life is adherence to Jesus, not forfeiting possessions. Also, taking a vow of poverty or even living in radical poverty does not necessarily mean having a virtuous life. Again, eternal life is a matter of taking one’s cues from Jesus.
But we should not be overly consoled by the understanding that renunciation of wealth is not absolutely necessary for eternal life. The rich very often find their greatest satisfaction in what they can do for themselves and not in what God does for them. Such a stance is incongruent with following Jesus.