Nothing is Impossible

mark 10:17-30

In today’s Gospel, after the back and forth about how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God, the disciples say to Jesus in exasperation, “Who then could possibly be saved.”  His response: “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

 

If we were to survey 100 people as they walked the sidewalks of West View, asking them “How does one get to heaven?” we’d get a lot of different answers.  We’d hear things like, “Try to be good and do your best” or “Work hard at being a moral person” or “Do more good things than bad things while living life.” These could probably be summarized by the idea that you have to earn your way to heaven. All these kinds of sentiments reflect an emphasis on works, not the grace of God.

 

If we were to look up the word “grace” in the dictionary, we would find that it is defined as the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

 

This Gospel helps us realize that it is impossible to work our way, buy our way, or earn our way to heaven. When it comes to salvation, we are unable to save ourselves.  The government can’t save us. Our popularity can’t save us. Our level of success can’t save us.

 

Have you ever contemplated this thought?  If you and I didn’t need a savior, God wouldn’t have sent one. God knows that, by our nature, we are needy people. There is no way that we can pay for our salvation. The cost is, as it says in Psalms, beyond our means. Jesus came and made the ultimate payment for us by dying on the cross. God simply invites us to accept the free gift of salvation that Jesus has made available.

 

If we accept God’s grace, it makes what seems to be impossible become very possible.

 

The challenge for many of us is that we have spent most of our lives trying to earn acceptance. We want to earn it from our parents, peers, spouses, people who we respect, and even those who we envy. The desire to be accepted drives us to do all kinds of things. It can influence the kind of clothes we wear, the kind of car we drive, the type of house we buy, and even the career we choose.

 

We love the feeling of being accepted. We find meaning and purpose in life when we are accepted. But despite the way we are wired to yearn for earthly acceptance, only God’s acceptance is what really matters. We are, as it says in 1 Peter, “a chosen people”. We are accepted by Christ, not based on performance, what we’ve earned, or anything we deserve.  God has simply said to each of us, “I’ve chosen you.” 

 

We may have accepted Jesus as the man did in the Gospel today as he legalistically followed all of the commandments, but the question remains for us, have we truly realized Christ’s acceptance and love for us?  We don’t have to earn it or prove ourselves to deserve it.

 

The great spiritual thinker and author, Brennan Manning, in the twilight of his life, after spending thousands of hours in solitude and prayer, made this profound declaration: "I realize and I believe in my heart that when we die and come to face God on judgment day, God will ask us one question, and one question alone. He will ask us when we're standing there before him, 'did you believe that I love you?"
 

True Christians will say (as he continued), "Yes, Lord, I knew you loved me, even in my wretchedness and my sin and my brokenness. Even in my loathing and in my lack of work and laziness and all of those things, I knew you loved me." When we surrender to the notion that God will ultimately sustain us, we can then say with conviction all things are possible.

 

When life gets difficult and things seem hopelessly beyond repair, we need to hold on to this truth that God’s view is altogether different from our view. What appears to be irretrievably lost and impossible for us to overcome, is to God, simply a part of his plan. We can say as Job did, “I know (Lord) that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”  Difficult times are a test of our faith.

 

Father Bob, when he was doing his farewell homily last week talked about how he once envisioned a seamless transition for the parish when he would someday retire. But as he said, who would have known the tumult that the church would be going through when he did in fact retire.  He referred to this as a time of “desolation” in the church.

 

That word desolation has kind of hung with me for the past week. I was prompted to look it up on Google.  Desolation is defined as “a state of emptiness or destruction” or “anguished misery”.  

 

 

The thought then occurred to me (employing some logic) that by virtue of the fact that there is this word in the dictionary that describes “a state of emptiness” or “anguished misery” called desolation, this condition must have existed somewhere in the past, or else someone would have had to create this new word to describe this new phenomenon.

 

For those of us who are deeply invested in our Catholic faith, we probably can’t recall anything quite like this (this desolation) in our lifetimes, but we know that the world has known the depths of desolation more than a few times and has survived it just fine.

 

How many times have people said, “This is not how it’s supposed to be”?  With all of the craziness in the world, the Catholic Church and my spot in this pew for 5 o’clock Mass was the one thing that I could count on!”  Look at what I have invested in the Church!” (Here we may be seeing some of that ”earning” mentality that I spoke of earlier showing through).

 

The truth is, there’s only one thing we can count on in this life - God’s providence. He had the solution for all of this that we face before we knew there was a problem. 

 

There’s a Christian Contemporary song by Matthew West called “Mended” that I think can help us as we try to live this Gospel and grow in the conviction that when we see things as impossible, God sees them as just a part of his plan. These lyrics are recited as if from God:

 

When you see broken beyond repair

I see healing beyond belief

When you are too far gone, I see one step away from home

You see nothing but damaged goods

I see something good in the making

I’m not finished yet. When you see wounded I see mended.

 

You see your worst mistake

But I see the price I paid

There’s nothing you could ever do

To lose what grace has won.

 

So hold on, it’s not the end

This is where love’s work begins

I’m making all things new

And I will make a miracle in you.

 

Our reliance on God's provision illustrates for God that we believe in his covenant, that he will never abandon us. His love, should we accept it, enables us to endure, and overrides, any feeling of desolation.

 

Here's another Brennan Manning quote:

“Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement, and death will be part of your journey, but the Kingdom of God will conquer all these horrors. No evil can resist grace forever.”

We don’t have to figure the whole thing out. We can’t earn our way to heaven, but we can live our lives in such a way that illustrates that we believe that we are loved and cherished by God.  This is where we find our hope!

And so we pray today in thanksgiving, “Lord, thank you for lifting our burdens through your gift of grace. Help us to surrender our feelings of unworthiness and the need to earn your approval. We do believe that you have a plan for each of us and your Church. And we believe that with your loving guidance, and our willingness to follow, our salvation is very much possible!"    

Amen!

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