MATTHEW 19:23-30

The Lord Jesus was a most attractive personality, as is made evident in the Gospels.  He possessed a charm that all kinds of people found attractive.  Not only was he personable and approachable, he was also interesting in a way that speaks to the mind as well as to the heart.  He possessed an ability to make use of the events of daily life as well as of such familiar things of nature to teach a way of life that gives a new perspective on matters human and divine.  At the same time, his manner and his words could suddenly prove disarmingly challenging.  We are reminded of these feature of our Lord's person and teaching by the Gospel text we have just heard and by the lines that precede it that illustrate the lesson on riches that proved so disconcerting to the apostles and a chilling obstacle to the rich young man.  So strongly attracted by Jesus as a personable and insightful teacher that rich Jewish youth is abruptly confronted with a radical demand as a condition for drawing closer to this appealing mentor.  However, as Jesus himself points out, riches prove to be a snare hard to escape from.  Even commonsense man like the disciples, are disconcerted with this way of treating the good things of this world.  It seems quite beyond men's spiritual capacity to live in such detachment.  Probably it was Peter who best expressed their spontaneous reaction.  If riches are an obstacle, who then can be saved?

These exchanges between our Lord and his Jewish audience that included his disciples seem to me to find an echo in the situation in which our Catholic Church and many Protestant believers find ourselves in today in our United States.  Suddenly, for the first time in our history, we are confronted with demands made by our present government to cooperate in policies that are clearly immoral, being contrary to Jesus teaching and the Church's interpretation of his words.  The present government policy is even contrary to the Jewish law as well in some particulars.  As a Church we Catholics are in a position very similar to that in which the rich young man and the disciples as well found themselves.  To accept our Lord's teaching is to refuse to be guided by the demands that come from the rich in power and in wealth as well in many cases.  The Archbishop of Baltimore put it in a recent sermon: "Catholics in this country commit serious sin if they vote for any candidate who favors taxes to pay for birth control, and abortion."  He is careful not to name the party concerned, but it is obvious to all that it is our present government he is condemning.  The rich young man did not renounce his riches so as to become a disciple.  In our present situation we find a number of Catholics who are prominent in the Obama government that is attacking Christian teaching and many others who continue to support the present anti-Christian government.

Today as we celebrate the Feast of the saint Pope Pius X, we can derive much confidence from our faith as we reflect on his witness.  For the political and social situation of his times were much worse for the Church than ours today.  Modernism was weakening the faith by its secularizing and rationalistic teachings.  It has continued to spread in Western society as a whole.  Undaunted due to his great trust in God's love and care he went on the attack and not only weakened the Church's enemies but even gained the respect of a number by his humble, respectful and firm constancy.  As we honor him at this Eucharist, let us pray for one another and for the whole Church and our fellow Christians that we follow Saint Pius' example in a firm, trusting fidelity to our Savior and his teachings.  Amen.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger