“‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, “For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.'”

Jesus follows up the encounter with the rich young man by talking about the potential trap of significant personal wealth in yesterday’s gospel reading (Mt 19:23-30).  Jesus tells His listeners that it is impossible for a rich man to get to heaven.  The disciples then wonder how anyone can attain it.  Jesus says that all things are possible for God.  Then Peter speaks up and reminds Jesus that He and other eleven apostles have given up everything and followed Him — so what can they expect?  Jesus tells them that thrones are prepared for them to sit in judgment of Israel.  Jesus goes on to say that all those who give up family or possessions for His sake will inherit much more and eternal life besides.  Many who are first here will be last in eternity and vice-versa.  Note that Jesus emphasizes that no one is saved without God.  Nothing we do in this life, no matter how grand, will get us to heaven.  God’s grace is required.  But when we do the right things in cooperation with God there is merit to that.  “The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.” (CCC, 2008).  It is not “once saved, always saved,” however.  Our actions do matter — we can cut ourselves off from the life of grace through mortal sin.  Rather, we should take as our own Augustine’s motto: “Love God and [then] do what you will.”  “In other words, if you truly love God and his will, then doing what you will, will, in fact, be doing what God wills” (Peter Kreeft quoted in “Discernment”).

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