The Folly of the Cross

Well, Jesus has heard all of this, too. Remember the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life (cf. Mt 19:16-22)? Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The man said what many of us say to Jesus. I am keeping the commandments. But Jesus said to the rich young man, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow Me.” Unfortunately the man did what many of us have done or continue to do, we go away sad for we are attached to many things.

The rich young ruler was attached to his possessions. Imagine if he had given up his possessions to follow Jesus. He would have become one of the greatest of saints. What possessions do we have that we love more than Jesus? What possessions do we have that are keeping us from becoming great saints?

It could be material possessions like it was for this young ruler. It could be our reputation in the community. (You know… I do not want to be known as one of those crazy pro-lifers so maybe I should just not speak out against such things in this community where this pro-life message is so unpopular.) Or perhaps it is an inappropriate relationship. (It really is unreasonable for the Church to expect us to go through that messy annulment process.) So anything or anyone that we love more than Christ will impede our way to heaven.

The Council Fathers of Vatican II make it clear that all of us including the laity are called to live a holy life, to sell our possessions (those things that we love more than Christ) and pursue treasures in heaven. Jesus even says that we are to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48).

However, none of us can ever become saints on our own. The beauty of being Catholic is that we become holy only through the assistance of God in cooperation with our own free choice. We receive this godly assistance largely from the graces we receive through the sacraments. The sacraments give us the power to lead this life of holiness. It is through the sacraments that God gives all of Himself to us so that we can give all of ourselves to Him in response. It is through the sacraments that we do not walk away saddened at the response of Christ when He says, “Sell your possessions and follow Me.” It is also through the sacraments that we can say to our Lord the same words that our Blessed Mother said to Him, “Let it be to me according to Your word.”

God wants so much more for us and from us than merely being content with saying: “I am keeping the commandments.” He wants us to participate fully in His life for all eternity. Holiness is so much more than merely not being a thief or a murderer; God wants us to become perfect as He is perfect. This sounds foolish to individuals who are more attached to their possessions in this world than to God. However, to those who have heaven as their goal, the Gospel, and all of the radical requirements associated with living the Gospel, is the power of God and leads to living the abundant life even now; and in the end — eternal life. “For the word of the Cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).

© Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange

Jeffery M. Schwehm is a former member of the Jehovah's Witnesses' Headquarters Staff in Brooklyn, New York and a former Lutheran. He is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Kohler, Wisconsin. He is also the President of the Fellowship of Catholic Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses (, a Catholic apostolate to assist Jehovah’s Witnesses into the Catholic Church.

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