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Godzdogz

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Consecrated Life: The Rich Young Man - Counsels and Commandments

Monday, March 09, 2015

In the Gospel according to Matthew, we have the encounter between the Rich Young Man and Our Lord. He was a man who was consciously aware of his need for God in his life. He recognised that man has the potential for eternal life. From this recognition he asks Our Lord what he must do to attain it. The young man is told to keep the Commandments. After informing Our Lord that he already keeps these, Jesus says that in order to be perfect he must give up all he possess, give to the poor, and follow Him. 

But why should we give up our possessions? Is this something we all have to do? 

Reiterating Scripture, the Church says that following the commandments are a fundamental duty for all Christians. However, there are some who are called to what the Catechism calls 'a more intimate consecration... to God'(CCC 915). These persons are called to follow Christ through their consecration to Him by their practice of chastity in celibacy, poverty, and obedience. Consecration entails a greater conforming to Christ who was celibate, poor, and obedient. Just as Jesus offered Himself completely to the Father, so too the consecrated person offers their whole life and being as a sacrifice to God. 

Our growth in holiness, whoever we are and to whichever path we are called in life, will entail growing closer to Christ. The vows consecrated people make, however, enable them to be a 'kind of sign and prophetic statement' for the Church and the world. The consecrated life points beyond the now of this world and suggests something other, namely the Kingdom of God. 

The consecrated life makes no sense at all if there is no such thing as the Kingdom of God or eternal life. The vows consecrated people make would not be prophetic; it would just be gimmicky or perhaps eccentric. Consecrated life to many people in the world may indeed seem eccentric, but this is because many do not recognise or believe in its basis and telos (or goal). But if God really does exist, and did become incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who lived in a particular way, and instructed those who sought to be perfect to renounce all and follow Him, then it makes complete sense for someone to seek to renounce all and follow Him. 

Only with God's grace is it possible to live out the evangelical counsels: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Not everyone is called to this way of life, but some are. The profession of vows is of fundamental importance; but just as fundamental is the need to constantly convert oneself daily so as to live out those counsels ever more perfectly.

Br Joseph Bailham O.P.

Br Joseph Bailham O.P.

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