A good starting place for our prayer this morning might be asking ourselves, what is it that holds us back? The rich young man seemed to have it all together: he acknowledged Jesus as the good teacher, so he must have been familiar with what Jesus said and did. He says he kept all the commandments, so he certainly had a religious upbringing and was zealous to follow the law. But, with all that, he still knew that something was lacking. “What do I still lack?” he asks. When Jesus reveals that the next step in following the Gospel involves letting go of his worldly possessions, he finds that to be somewhere he can’t go. He had many possessions, and he wasn’t yet ready to give them up.
Today we celebrate Saint Pius X, a man dedicated to pastoral ministry, and helping people to let go of whatever would hold them back on the journey of faith. He was born Joseph Sarto, the second of ten children in a poor Italian family. He became pope at the age of 68, and he wanted to open the banquet for all those who would come worthily. He encouraged frequent reception of Holy Communion, which was observed sparingly in his day, and especially encouraged children to come to the Eucharist. During his reign, he famously ended, and subsequently refused to reinstate, state interference in canonical affairs. He had foreseen World War I, but because he died just a few weeks after the war began, he was unable to speak much about it. On his deathbed, however, he said, “This is the last affliction the Lord will visit on me. I would gladly give my life to save my poor children from this ghastly scourge.”
Our God has blessed us with love beyond all imagining and invites us to the table of the heavenly kingdom. To get there, we have to be ready to let go of whatever holds us back from accepting the life that God wants for us. What he has is so much better than whatever it is we’re holding on to. So once again, the question is, will we give up what is holding us back, or will we give up eternal life? We’re going to have to live with the answer to that question for a very, very long time.