The word ‘good’ is defined in several ways … for the benefit of another, having the necessary qualifications, approval … we can also understand ‘good’ to mean moral uprightness, a virtuous person.
The man in the Gospel calls Jesus ‘good’ … “Good teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ response to him is interesting – “why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Jesus doesn’t deny His own goodness but invites this man to think a bit more deeply about what he has just said … Why does he call Jesus ‘good.’ What does he see in Him? A kind person? A moral person? A miracle worker? Or does he see something far more profound, not just a mere human being but the qualities that are particular to God alone … if so, he knows that Jesus will have the answer to his question … which is not just about eternal life but about the longings of his heart – What is the meaning and purpose of my life? Notice how Jesus responds … what is that He most desires? Does He want the man to live in poverty? It may seem that way … but no. Does he want him to live a moral life and obey the commandments … yes but what is He really asking for … his most prized possession, his most guarded treasure … he’s asking for his heart.
Isn’t it interesting that in our culture so many of us call ourselves ‘good’? We say things like “I’m a good person” – why? Because we help people when in need? Because we are kind to people, even strangers? Because we go to Mass and volunteer at church? Now, I’m not saying that we ought NOT to do these things and I’m NOT saying that we’re bad – but I’m saying that we often use this as a self-description and sometimes we do so to justify bad or sinful, immoral behavior … “I’m a good person to most people but there is this one person” … I’m a good person, I go to Mass, most of the time” … I think we do this as an excuse, myself included … to keep God at distance. Why … because you and I both know that God does not want us to simply be good by our own standards – that would be too easy! No one is good but God alone, therefore if we really want to be good then we must be like God and that requires HOLINESS! That requires that we let go of all that we hold on to in our lives, in our minds, in our hearts… God wants more from us … He doesn’t want us to just trudge along and check off boxes – He wants us to give Him the one thing we treasure the most – our hearts … and that’s when we begin to really live.
There is a method created by St. Ignatius of Loyola called the Examination of Conscience. It is simply a meditation that investigates our hearts – what are we holding on to … anger? Hurts? Grievances? Lack of patience? Lack of gentleness or kindness to others? Attachment to material possessions? What are the sins, the wrongdoings, the mistakes … it is a reflection not so much on how bad we are … but it sees the goodness of God and says – that is how I want to live but these things, on my heart, in my life, these need forgiveness and healing – and we find it in confession … And then after opening up our hearts to Him … He then fills us, fills our lives with His very Self in Holy Communion – this is the sacramental life of the Church and it is powerful… it is how we become more and more like God – it is how we become holy, it is how we become truly good.