“Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good.* If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness;honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect,* go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:16-23
The above verse is from Matthew. I always refer to it as the purgatory verse. I have always thought, what if the rich young man had not persisted? What if he had not said, “what do I still lack?” He would have walked away from Jesus thinking, I am doing right. But he did persist. “What do I still lack?” Jesus told him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
If you wish to be perfect….
What does that mean? The man was on a righteous path. But Jesus pressed him when he asked. “If you wish to be perfect…” Most of us don’t even aspire to this. What does it mean?
It means being detached from this world. Desiring only God. It is the complete straight way to heaven. Heaven is perfect. Nothing imperfect can be there. He will purify us before we can be fully in his presence. He will purify us of our attachments. Purify, that’s what purgatory means. What are you attached to?
I went camping this weekend. I am attached to much. I don’t know if I could live primitively. I could if the only thing I was attached to was God. All these things, they are fleeting and passing away. Let them go. Be attached only to God. Be perfect. Perfection consists in trusting God alone and letting go of the things of this world.
Being open to His love and His inspiration, and then acting on that inspiration brings one closer to perfection. Often, we are inspired to do a good work, but then we do not act on that inspiration. If we pray for a spirit of poverty, we find ourselves becoming more accepting of having what we need as opposed to what we want. Pray for a spirit of poverty such that one is grateful for and delights in the satisfaction of needs, instead of wants. This spirit of poverty turns us away from falling into avarice, and turns us toward that treasure in Heaven instead. Now, going camping is a rather severe and abrupt change in your environment; don’t be too hard on yourself in that regard. God gave us a spirit of creativity such that we can build structures for shelter, sanitation, cooking, and security – these are good things which satisfy needs such that we can function and turn our minds and souls to God. I think that so long as we are trying to love and serve God (do His will) and neighbor, and we are using resources to help us along that path, we are doing well.
Yes I know. I was just shocked at how reliant I am on technology and electronics. There was a verse on the wall of the nature center in the place we went to. It said, “In the woods we return to reason and faith,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson. This statement is so true. Technology enables us to feel as if we are in control, as if we are gods. What going and living in the woods does is show you all of God’s creatures and really how little we have control of. I became very grateful knowing that all that I have is His anyway. I am grateful for things I never think about, like a roof that doesn’t leak.