This is us!
The story of the rich young man in our Gospel is one that we are familiar, but also one that I think many of us assume isn’t about us… We give this Gospel a special place for religious; those who make vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. And so this Gospel seems like it’s for them. Turn away from the pleasures of this world, for your own will, and from your wealth, and follow God with all your heart… This is a great temptation, to think its only for them, and not for us…
But this Gospel isn’t just for us, it is us. This is us!
The discovery of our own story in this Gospel scene is found in the small details. A young man ran up… This young man was somebody who loved his faith. He wanted to go deeper. He wants to know God more and to love God more. He wants for all eternity to be with God. This is us… So many of us are trying to grow in our faith. We read Christian books, we read scripture, we listen to Christian music or Christian podcasts, all for the same reason. Because we want to know how to live our life as a Christian… We too want eternal life. We too run to Jesus and ask just as the young man did, Good Teacher what must I do to gain eternal life? This is us…
Moments later, there is a great change in the young man… Jesus has told him that he must keep the commandments, love God and love neighbor… Now experiencing doubt, anxiety, and fear, he responds, “but teacher I have done what you said, I have kept the commandments…” What more must I really do, I have done all these… We do the same… I go to mass. I pray. I try to treat people well. I struggle with normal human things, but I haven’t done anything that bad. This is us…
Then Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said, You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor. What follows is the saddest moment in all of the Scriptures… The young looks down becomes sad and walks away. Jesus has just asked him to get rid of that one thing he loves the most… That one thing that competes with his love for God, that is his love for wealth. Isn’t this us?
For all of us, there is something in our lives that we hold on to. Something that we grasp to! Something, that we do not want to let go of. That one thing could be wealth, it could be pleasure, it could be our desire for control over own lives, it could be our desire for honor… for attention… And yet, in order for us to grow closer to our Lord, we have to let go of these things in order to receive eternal friendship with God… We all do this. We all are the rich young man. This is us.
The young man looked down and walked away. He looked down. He looked down and so he missed that Jesus looked him, loved him, and then challenged him. He missed Jesus’ love for him as he challenged the young man to purify his love for God.
Friends, we are called to look up. We are called to look up at Jesus. Our second reading reminds us that the Word of God penetrates our hearts. The Word of God is how we come into contact, person to person with Jesus Christ. The Word of God is living and effective. Jesus is the Word of God. And to open our ears and our hearts to listen to the Word is like standing before Jesus, naked and exposed. To stand before Jesus like this is to allow him to see everything that we are. Jesus sees us and knows us, more intimately, and better than we could ever know ourselves… He knows our heart, he knows what we love the most, and he knows our weaknesses and strengths. He knows everything.
Friends, we are called to stand before the Lord naked and exposed, vulnerable, letting him see us as we are. We are called to allow Jesus to point out how our love for him can be purified. What is holding us back? For when we do, we will echo these words from our first reading; once I preferred wealth, power, pleasure, and honor to God, but now, I prefer God over power, and [consider] riches nothing in comparison with [my relationship with God].
This Gospel is us. Jesus looks at you. Jesus loves you. And Jesus invites you to let go of “that thing” to fall more in love with him. This is us.
In Christ’s love and Friendship,