Riches give us a false sense of security. The more we lean on wealth, the less we feel the need for God, His wisdom and His love.


Let us rely on God and not on our possessions.

These words summarize the essential message of today’s gospel reading. The passage of the rich young man is not about being young, rich or even a man. It’s about the path to the infinite, to the Kingdom of God.  A love for beauty, peace, and truth flows naturally from wisdom. Evidently the rich young man in today’s Gospel had enough wisdom to seek all of those through complete observance of the Mosaic Law. However, Jesus tells him that if he would be perfect, he must sell his possessions and give to the poor. This will give him treasure in heaven. “Then come, follow me.” Crestfallen, the young man is unwilling to part with his wealth, and he walks away. How close he was to finding the source of all wisdom!

Jesus questions the young man, “Why do you call me good?” At first, it seems like an irrelevance: is Jesus questioning him for the sake of it? But as the story unfolds, the question is the essence of the passage. What is ‘rich’? What is ‘good’? Jesus responded to the young man: ‘No one is good but God alone.’ God the Father was always at the centre of the life and work of Jesus, the focus of his prayer life. Jesus drew strength from his Father’s love, as indeed we should.

The young man could not respond positively to Jesus’ request to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. Jesus doesn’t tell the man to give up his wealth purely because it will help the poorest people, but because the wealth itself – like any other little bit of earthly baggage we collect for ourselves, rather than sharing with others, such as a car, a house, a gorgeous cat – is the man’s shackle. It’s causing him to suffer. As Jesus says later: leave your land, house or emotional bonds and you will experience a hundredfold of these in heaven.

I feel that the man walking away in sadness is a note of joy. The suffering the man leaves with is the first step on the road to redemption – he is experiencing explicitly the pain that is implicit in all the temporal things we accumulate and hoard rather than share. Jesus has shown the young man that if he can put his relationship with God above his relationship with all his earthly things, then he will have the opportunity to experience heaven.

Jesus must have been saddened, too, as He startles His listeners by saying, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Riches give us a false sense of security. The more we lean on wealth, the less we feel the need for God, His wisdom and His love.
The Gospel ends with a discussion of the necessity of letting go of “necessities”. The tension is between having it all now or trusting that there will be even more later. Each of us has this choice. Jesus looked with love upon the kneeling fellow and after he had departed sadly, Jesus looked toward His disciples and spoke of how things are possible for God which seem impossible for humans to imagine doing.

One strange possession we have, and which makes us sad, is how we look to ourselves. What is possible with God’s help, God’s view, is our letting go of feeling ugly, inferior, sad about our inner self. Many people seeking spiritual freedom and a closer following of Jesus feel sad about their lack of response, generosity, fidelity.  The now that leads to later is the wisdom to accept the beauty of the struggle which Jesus does not take away, but to which Jesus invites us to accept and be met. Our wisdom comes from living more deeply the view which the Loving God has of this struggling between what’s important and beautiful now  and the importance of receiving God’s view of us which leads to the eternal then.

“The rich suffer want and go hungry, but nothing shall be lacking to those who fear the Lord.” Ps. 34, 11

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