Monthly Archives: November 2018

Matthew and the Rich Young Man

“’Follow me,’ Jesus said to him, and Levi [Matthew] got up, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:27-28)

What contributed to the difference in the response of Matthew and the rich young man to Jesus’ invitations to follow him?   

Like the rich young man, Matthew was also wealthy, for the gospels describe him as holding a huge banquet for Jesus at his house at which he invited a large crowd of tax collectors and other guests.  Unlike the rich young man, however, Luke says Matthew “left everything and followed” Jesus. 

In contrast to Matthew, when Jesus suggested to the rich young man that he sell his possessions, give to the poor, and then come and follow him, the Gospel reports that he “went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mt. 19:16-30)

The rich young man was apparently leading an exemplary life for he said he had kept all the commandments.  Matthew, on the other hand, was a tax collector, one of the most despised classes  among the Jewish people, and considered a sinner.  Yet, Matthew was willing to “leave everything” and follow Jesus, but the rich young man was not. 

When my wife and I were in our 30’s we were practicing Catholics, attempting to live out our faith as best we could.  A friend from our parish started inviting me to events that would supposedly renew and deepen my faith, but I declined her several invitations over a period of about a year.   So then she started inviting my wife who agreed to attend what was referred to as a Week of Renewal in the Holy Spirit.  It was a program involving five evenings in a row of talks and prayer.

Although I also declined invitations from my wife to join her, I observed how each evening she came home from the program with great joy.  I was so struck by her reaction to what she was experiencing night after night, that I decided to join her on the final evening.  On that evening, in spite of all my previous reluctance, I met the Lord Jesus in a new and personal way that I had never previously experienced.

It became a watershed moment in my life which led to a renewal of my faith.  I came to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in a fuller way, an increased desire to pray and read scripture, and to serve the Lord as best I could in all areas of my life.  Like the rich young man, I previously was not ready to follow Jesus in a deeper way.  I believe the Lord prepared my heart, through my wife and other circumstances, to follow him anew.  

Scripture does not tell us what eventually happened to the rich young man.  Some writers say there is circumstantial evidence to speculate that he was the Barnabas of Acts 4:36 who sold a field that he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Perhaps the lesson is that the Lord is always calling and he is always preparing our hearts to follow him.  Some of us may take longer to answer the call, but the Lord never stops preparing our hearts and continuing the call.   

 

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Stereotyping Others

“I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24)

After Jesus was tempted in the desert, the Gospel of Luke tells us that he returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and began his public ministry.  He taught in the synagogues of the region and news started to spread about him throughout the whole countryside.

He came to Nazareth where he had been brought up.  He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath and read from the scroll of Isaiah where it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the prisoners and recovery of the sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Luke 4:18-19)

Then he proclaimed that this scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing.  In other words, he was God’s long awaited anointed one, the Messiah!  At first the people were amazed about his gracious words, but then they started asking, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” They became furious with what Jesus was saying and claiming to be.

How quick we are to judge and stereotype the people in our lives!

Sometimes we do this even with members of our own families or friends with whom we are most familiar.   We form a view or perspective about them, and then if they step outside our perspective or exceed our expectations, we refuse to accept what we see.  If they change, mature or exhibit growth in some way, we have trouble accepting their new state.

We make a judgment about someone based upon our experience with them or judge them by their appearance.

We may recall the TV show, Britain’s Got Talent, in 2009, when a singer from a small village in Scotland, Susan Boyle, appeared on the program.  She was 47, had somewhat of a dowdy appearance and was a bit awkward in her speech and manner.  It was clear that both the judges and the audience had immediately formed a low, almost mocking reaction to her, until she started singing, I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables. article-1259588997732-0481bca6000005dc-616016_478x616

Almost immediately, their mockery turned into shouts of approval and a standing ovation for her beautiful voice.  Even one of the judges admitted afterwards he had never been so surprised by the performance of a singer.  Another judge apologized for her initial reaction.  Boyle became an overnight sensation on the internet and around the world.

Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged” (Mt. 7:2) How frightening!  God will judge us as we judge others.