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What Must I Do to Inherit Eternal Life?

What Must I Do to Inherit Eternal Life?

By Deacon Dick Martin, Outreach Coordinator

Your Treasure in Heaven

In Mark’s gospel we have the story of the young man who comes to Jesus and asks “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds by listing some of the commandments to which the young man answers that he has observed these since he was a youth. Jesus then looks at him lovingly and says “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At this the young man turns and walks away because he had many possessions. Each of us is that young man, and most of us have many more possessions than that young man ever dreamed about. So what is Jesus saying to us? Give away our “stuff” to the poor so that we might follow Him? Not necessarily!

I think the key to this story comes in the very first line. The young man asks Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Like this young man we, because we have many possessions, are used to dealing with our needs and concerns on our own. Our strength and our security lie in the plastic in our wallets or in the bank. We don’t rely on other people or even on God except in the most dire of circumstances. We ask “What must I do to get what I want?”

What Jesus is doing with the young man, and with us, is getting us to realize that we are created to be in relationship with others, dependent rather than independent. A sure way of doing this is if we are economically poor which is why Jesus tells the young man to get rid of his possessions. A poor person cannot rely on their bank account; it’s empty. While they may be able to scrape by with day-to-day living, they are crushed when an emergency such as an illness or a broken down car comes about. They are forced to ask for help – to rely on someone else to make it to the next day. Also, it is my experience that the poor are some of the most generous people you will ever meet. They will help others even though they don’t know where tomorrow’s food will come from. They do this because they know that maybe tomorrow they will be the one in need.

Hopefully those of us with many possessions don’t have to become economically poor to learn about our relationships and dependence on others. In doing so we are called to not cling to our possessions but to be willing to give of our time, talents and treasures to help others in need. One of the best ways to grow this attitude of community is to strive to have people of need within our group for friends. Do you know people who struggle to make ends meet? A single parent who has to put their job in jeopardy in order to stay home with a sick child? A family who has to decide whether to pay the rent or get the car fixed so they can get to work? An elderly person who will skimp on their medication so they can buy food?

Knowing people who are in need brings us in contact with the face of Christ. We are less likely to cling to our possessions when we can help a friend, a person with a name and a face. And when we help a friend it opens the door for us to see the needs of others and know that we have the ability to help them as well.

Outreach Opportunities at SMG

Now if you don’t know a person in need, SMG has a number of opportunities to interact with the less fortunate in our community. The Luke Community Meal and the Sunday Meal at the Catholic Multicultural Center allow us to provide a meal and also sit down and eat with them which is the oldest tradition for building friendships.

Our St. Vincent de Paul conference visits people in their homes to provide furniture and other necessities. They also help people at the client-choice food pantry where they talk about their families and maybe even share recipes.

At the Queen of the Americas Mission in Cambria we have the opportunity to pray with the seasonal workers and to share in their generosity when they throw a fiesta for us.

As followers of Jesus we are called to lay aside our independence, that spirit that says “I can do it myself,” and learn to give and to receive from others, especially people in need.

To learn more about the Outreach Ministry at St. Maria Goretti and to get involved, contact Deacon Dick Martin at 608-268-2956 or

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