Joy and Hope
October 17, 2009
Love of Christ is the one thing that matters
In the Gospel of Mark we will find the touching, tender encounter between Lord Jesus and the young, rich man (Mk. 10.17-30). We can hear eagerness in the voice of the young man as he chases after Jesus with the question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
After he claims to be a devout follower of the commandments, the Gospel says that Jesus looked on him with love and invited him to sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow him. We share the disappointment as the young man turns crestfallen and walks away from Jesus. He could not let go of his many possessions. He was so enamored with all the gifts that God had given him that he could not love the giver of all good gifts.
We should look closely at this simple conversation between Christ and the rich young man. Jesus was not trying to challenge him. The call of the Lord to give up his possessions was not an attempt to punish him or push him to do more. The Gospel shows the Lord Jesus looking tenderly with love at the young man. Jesus was not asking more of the young man. He was offering him more.
Listen carefully to the words of the Lord: “You are lacking in one thing,” as if to say, “Even with all that you have you still do not have the ‘one thing’ that really matters.” The more of Jesus’ invitation was to be found in following him. To find what the Lord Jesus lovingly offered him the young man needed to let go of what he had. He could not do it because what he had held him. His possessions possessed him.
We can be saddened by this story because we initially were encouraged by his early spiritual enthusiasm. He also claimed to follow earnestly the commandments. He was a good man. He was not part of the rough crowd of sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors that were attracted to Jesus. Despite all that was in his favor, he could not see what many of them saw in Jesus. For some reason, he could see the love that Jesus offered him as something more than what he had. He could not see beyond his own possessions to the love of the giver of all good gifts.
The rich young man could not see the wisdom of following the love of Christ. Christian wisdom is fundamentally the wisdom to love Christ above all else. The love of Christ is the “one thing” that matters. Everything else makes sense when we know, love and serve Christ. It is the wisdom to love the giver not the gifts. When we come to know the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ then we can see more clearly the true goodness of all God’s gifts to us. Without this view, everything else will only get in the way to knowing the “one thing” that makes all the difference in our lives.
While the young man in the Gospel may sadly remind us too much of ourselves, we can be encouraged by the many examples of men and women during the month of October who remind us of what we are capable when the love of Christ takes hold of us. These are individuals upon whom Jesus looked with great love and they, in turn, embraced the giver of all good gifts.
On Oct. 1 we celebrated the quiet simplicity of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus. St. Francis of Assisi and his embrace of the crucified Christ was celebrated on Oct. 4. The wisdom and zeal of St. Teresa of Avila we honor on Oct. 15. We celebrate the love and devotion of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Oct. 16.
During this month as well, we join with the people of Hawaii in rejoicing over the canonization of Father Damian of Molokai whose selfless charity has inspired so many. On Oct. 7 and throughout the month of October we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, through the meditation on the mysteries of the holy rosary. Her singular heart’s desire brought to her the “one thing” for which her whole spirit would sing: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked on the lowliness of his servant.”
Such a radical choice in the lives of the Virgin Mary, St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Margaret Mary, and St. Damian of Molokai is incomprehensible if one does not first see how God has tenderly and mercifully loved us first in Christ Jesus. When we know clearly the richness of is love then we too can let go of what we hold dear, let Jesus hold us dearly and follow him more nearly.