Wednesday, August 26, 2015

On Humility and the Commandments: An Introspection

The Gospel reading for this past Sunday was taken from Matthew 19, regarding the rich young ruler, who had "kept all of these [commandments] from [his] youth up", yet could not bring himself to sell all that he had and give it to the poor.

While the Gospel was being read, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me how backward we have so many things.  For example, one of the things I like to do is give to the poor, and I have even considered (prior to being married) doing exactly what the rich young ruler couldn't: selling it all, giving the proceeds to the poor, and entering a monastery.

But what hubris!  How can I even begin to approach the righteousness of this young ruler.  This ascetic feat was the final step for him to be perfect.  He kept the rest of the commandments from his childhood (no easy task, given the vicissitudes of adolescence, particularly).

I fancy that I can or should give all to the poor, and yet I have not even kept the first of the commandments that he did: "Thou shalt do no murder."  True, I have not actually ended the life of another.  But I have hated my brothers, and even those set over me in the Lord, at various points, and He says in another place that this is the same thing.

"Thou shalt not commit adultery."  True, I haven't had sex with a woman not my wife, but I've certainly looked at some with lust, and our Lord says plainly that this is the same thing.

"Thou shalt not steal."  I'm not proud of it, but I have actually stolen things; but even if I hadn't, additionally I have done "soft theft" -- by not giving my all at work, by accepting praises for something that I did not do, or which I did in another's strength, etc.

"Thou shalt not bear false witness."  I've lied.  So have you.  No use beating around the bush about it.

"Honor thy father and they mother."  Again, I have trouble even with this.   (I'm staying away from details on purpose.)  And even if I'm "better at it" now, I haven't always been, and I certainly haven't "kept [this] from my youth up".

Finally, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."  I don't even come close.  Never really have.

How can I even begin to contemplate giving everything away?  And yet this is what the young man lacked only.

Lord, have mercy on me!  For if the young ruler lacked only this, and still could not enter the Kingdom, how much farther am I!  And only this one thing was impossible with men, how much more do I say with the disciples, "Who then can be saved?", when these others beset me so?

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for with You, all things are possible.