A young man approached Jesus seeking to know what he must do to attain eternal life. Jesus shared that the key to entrance was to keep the commandments. The man asked which ones he was to follow, a reasonable request as there were 613 commandments to choose from! Jesus gave him six: do not kill, commit adultery, steal or bear false witness; do honor his father and mother, and love his neighbor as himself (cf. 19:18-19). The man affirmed that he had followed them all. Then he asked that next question, “What do I still lack” (Mt 19:20)? I can feel the disciples wince, see the mouth of Jesus curl into a smile while his left eyebrow raises. Mark is more eloquent than me: “Jesus looked at him, and loved him…” (Mk 10:17).
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions (Mt 19:21-22). He was so close!
Jesus saw the one thing that was keeping this man from following Jesus, and gave him the opportunity to renounce what he had, give to the poor and have eternal life, which was what his original request was. It is what we have all been created for, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (St Augustine, Confessions). The young man knew what he needed to do, but was too attached to his wealth to let go, so he walked away sad.
I invite you to find a quiet space today, enter the stillness, and draw up the image of the disciples and Jesus watching the rich man walk away sad. Slowly, they turn their heads and gaze at you. You then ask Jesus, what it is that you need to let go of. What are you holding onto that is keeping you from giving yourself to the One who is Good? Jesus looks at you and loves you, and says, “If you wish to be perfect…” How does he fill in the blank for you?
Painting: “Christ and the Rich Young Ruler” Heinrich Hoffman, 1889
Link for the Mass readings for, Monday, August 20, 2018: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/082018.cfm
Painting by Heinrich Hofmann