The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bishop Knecht’s Commentary on Matthew 19:16-30, Luke 18:18–30; 12:13–34

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 5, 2015

[Mat. 19:16–30. Luke 18:18–30; 12:13–34]

ON one occasion a young man came to Jesus, and, kneeling before Him, said: “Good Master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting?” Jesus answered: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” He asked: “Which commandments?” (1) Jesus said to him: “Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness; honour thy father and thy mother; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

1.  Which commandments? The young man asked this, because he really wished to know to which of the commandments our Lord’s answer chiefly applied. Our Lord enumerated the last half of the commandments, which treat of our duty to our neighbour, because these were the commandments most frequently transgressed by the Jews.

The youth replied: “All these I have kept (2) from my youth.” Jesus, knowing that this was true, looked tenderly (3) upon him, and said: “If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven (4); then come and follow Me.” Hearing these words, the young man went away sorrowful (5), for he was very rich.

2. I have kept. “What is yet wanting to me?” he added. He put this question, because his soul had not found full satisfaction in the mere observance of the law, and he felt inwardly drawn by grace to serve God more perfectly.
3. Looked tenderly. Scripture tells us that “Jesus, looking on him, loved him”. It gave Him joy to see this young man’s yearning after a higher perfection, and He sought to encourage him to follow the secret movements of grace.
4. Treasure in heaven. “If you renounce your fortune you will, indeed, be poor in this life, but you will lay up in heaven a rich treasure of merits.”
5. Sorrowful. His heart was too set on his riches to give them up and obey the call of grace, and become a poor disciple of Jesus Christ. Had the young man despised his wealth and followed Jesus, he would now be a Saint in heaven, and even renowned on earth; as it is, we cannot tell whether he died in the grace of God or not.

Then Peter said: “Behold, we have left all things and have followed thee. What therefore shall we have?” And Jesus said to them: “Amen I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the seat of His Majesty, you also shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath left house or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting” (Mat. 19:27–29).

Again one day one of the multitude said to Him: “Master, speak to my brother that he divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied: “Man, who hath made me a judge or a divider over you?”

Then, addressing the multitude, He said: “Take heed, and beware of all covetousness, for a man’s life doth not consist in the abundance of things.” Then He spoke a parable to them as follows: “The land of a certain rich man brought forth plenty of fruits. So he thought within himself: ‘What shall I do, because I have not where to lay up together my fruits?’ This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater ones, and into them I will gather all things that are grown to me, and my goods. Then I will say to my soul: ‘Soul, thou hast many goods laid up for many years; take thy rest, eat, drink, make good cheer!’ But God said to him: ‘Thou fool! this night do they require thy soul of thee, and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?’ ” Then the Divine Master added: “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God.” (6)

6. God.  Our Lord warned the disciples of the danger of riches by these words: “Amen I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (This was a figure of speech which meant that a thing was, naturally, impossible.) When the disciples heard this, they wondered very much, saying: “Who then can be saved?” for they knew how much rich people cling to their riches, and how much poor people desire to possess them. And Jesus said to them: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”, i. e. by his own strength no man can free himself of his love of the world and its possessions, but he can do so by the help of God’s grace.


Faith alone will not save us; for the observance of God’s commandments is also necessary. In other words, he who desires to be saved must not only have faith, but must live up to his faith. His faith must be living, and active in love.

The Necessity of Grace. Man, being weak and sinful, cannot possibly keep the commandments and save his soul of himself. He requires the assistance of God’s grace.

The Evangelical Counsels. The young man had kept the commandments from his youth up; and yet he did not feel satisfied. He wished to do even more than was commanded, or was absolutely necessary; in other words, he wished to reach a higher state of perfection. Our Lord, seeing this, gave him this counsel: “If thou wishest to be perfect, become voluntarily poor, and follow Me.” There is no desire more noble, or more pleasing to God than the desire for perfection; and as our Lord looked at the young man, He loved him for this yearning of his soul.

Resistance of grace. The rich young man was called to a state of perfection by the longing for it which had arisen in his heart, by the impulse of divine grace, and by our Lord’s express invitation. Had he corresponded with grace, he would have been a Christian, a Saint, and perhaps even an apostle in the place of Judas. We may well ask ourselves what became of him after he resisted our Lord’s gracious invitation, because of his too great attachment to the things of this world. Does he now gaze in heaven on that Divine Face from which, on earth, he turned away? The solemn words uttered by our Lord as the young man went away: “Amen I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven”, lead us to fear that, after his rejection of the invitation of Jesus, he may have lost all faith in Him, and therefore all hope of heaven.

Why riches are dangerous. A rich man very easily grows proud, and often uses his wealth as a means of gratifying his evil inclinations. He feels, moreover, so comfortable and satisfied with his possessions that he has no desire for grace and the treasures of heaven. Riches turn a man’s heart away from the things of God (see chapter XXI). Now the rich man can avoid these dangers only by the grace of God; he must therefore pray fervently, take to heart the truths of faith, frequent the Sacraments, and use his riches in the service of God, in alms-giving &c., if he does not wish to lose his soul.


Could you say what the young man said: “All the commandments have I kept from my childhood?” Against which of the commandments have you most sinned? What is wanting to you now? (See chapter XLVI.)


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