Read Mark 10:17-30
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit... Read More…
Meet Sister Barbara Metz
Sr. Barbara Metz is a member of US Sisters of Notre Dame East-West Province. Read More…
What would enable a person of great wealth to give away all that he or she possessed? This question certainly presents itself to our minds as we read the sad story of the Rich Young Man.
The story of Zacchaeus came to my mind as I reflected on that question. Zacchaeus was irresistibly drawn to the person of Jesus and he took extraordinary means just to see him. Climbing a tree would have been extraordinary even in that culture. In Zacchaeus we meet a man whose focus was a person, the person of Jesus. It would be enough for him to meet Jesus face to face to be freed to let go of everything else.
This did not happen for the Rich Young Man. He met Jesus in a crowd. It was easy for him to gain access to Jesus and to speak to him. His overwhelming desire was not to see Jesus but to be perfect and attain eternal life. His desire was not enough to move him to make the radical sacrifice asked by Jesus.
As we ponder the scripture accounts of the experiences of the two men we are faced with very sharp contrasts.
Zacchaeus is a man of means. He had done well but had sinned in the making of his fortune. He knew life. He knew the judgment of his fellow men. His heart had come to realize that wealth is not the ultimate good in life. The man is humble; he is a seeker. There is a religious quest that the humbling experiences of life have set him on. He will do most anything, even climb a tree, to see the man whose reputation had profoundly moved him. In the meeting with Jesus, as the two men stood face to face, Zacchaeus was bathed in Jesus’ forgiving love. Zacchaeus was freed to give everything he possessed to the poor and to continue to live in the presence and love of Jesus.
The Rich Young Man, on the other hand, was drawn to a goal of human and spiritual perfection. The Law was, he believed, his way to attain his goal. His desires were very good. They had led him to live well and virtuously for the years of his short life. He needed more. An ideal of personal perfection was not enough to move him to, with abandon, let go of all that seems to be of value in his life. Jesus knew that and attempted in his dialogue with man to call him to more. He reminded the young man that in calling him good, he was using a descriptive of God. If only the young man had stopped over that and engaged Jesus about it. Jesus did affirm his good life, his keeping of the commandments. He looked lovingly at him and in that gaze was inviting him into a depth of relationship that would enable him to accept the gift of discipleship that was offered. The young man was blocked in his ability to respond.
We come to spiritual freedom by letting both our minds and hearts become transformed by the action of the Spirit. We need to become aware of the desires that are at the deepest center of our lives. Those desires control us. It is also important to know that we live in a “given world.” All is held in and embraced by Love. Life is not a process of trying to be perfect but of letting God’s love overtake us. Our lives can be like a beach. The waves of love come over and over drenching our lives with God’s love. This experience of receiving the love that is offered leads us to a purification of desire that will enable us to want only the greatest good which is offered so freely, to be in relationship with Jesus.
The Rich Young Man went away sad. If only he had taken time to share his blocks and struggle to respond to the new gifts of the Spirit that were being offered and asked Jesus to help him in his struggles, we might have very different gospel story. What can his struggle teach us?
Where do we find ourselves in these narratives? Do we bring our own struggles to prayer and with humility let Jesus call us to new intimacy.