This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.
“For God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27B)
John had learnt and practised all the arm and leg strokes he needed for swimming. His muscles were well toned and his breathing regulated. He knew all about how to get off to a winning start, turning at the end of each length and how to pace himself. But one day John said to his coach “I know all about these things but still can’t swim. What’s going wrong?” The coach took a deep breath and said, “Well, John, I think the time has come when you really do have to actually get in the water”.
The response Jesus gives to the wealthy man in our Gospel reading is something along the same lines: “You lack one thing … sell what you own … give to the poor … then come, follow me”. In other words, come and really live the life of faith, put everything you have into being with me and it will be worth it.
The man who approaches Jesus may have seen that he is about to set off on his travels again. He is desperate to talk to Jesus before he leaves, before it’s too late. His need is urgent.
The nameless man is not an outcast of society like so many others who come to Jesus for help. He is rich and so is probably also influential and respected. He wields a certain amount of power because of his status but in spite of these advantages the man knows within himself that something is missing. Even though he has kept God’s commandments as best he can he still needs an assurance of his place in God’s eternal kingdom.
Jesus looks at the man with sharp and piercing eyes that see straight into the man’s heart and mind. Jesus loves what he sees but also knows what’s missing and how that can be put right.
“sell what you own” says Jesus, “sell …. and give”. It’s a step too far for the young man and the encounter ends in shock and grieving with Jesus also grieving the loss of someone who just couldn’t take that last step.
At the beginning of this story we may well identify with the young man. We might recognise the sense that even though we do our best to follow God’s commandments we’re still missing something. There’s still an empty place in our hearts that aches and longs for something we can’t fully identify.
Like the young man, we too might kneel before Jesus and ask him what we must do to receive the assurance and certainty about our faith that we long for.
Just as he looked at the young man and knew what had to be done, so Jesus looks on us with eyes of love and knowledge and sees what it is we need.
His answer to us, though, might not be “go, sell what you own” because it’s not just the fact that the man is wealthy that makes it difficult for him to follow Jesus it’s the relationship the man has with his possessions that holds him back. What he owns gives him a sense of identity and security which are difficult to put aside.
The answer Jesus gives to us will be deeply personal. We might already know in our hearts what it is we’re holding on to for our security or sense of identity. It might be possessions, memories of wrongs done to us, pride in our own abilities, addiction or destructive relationships. We might feel that to let go of whatever it is would just be a step too far and we’d have to go away, like the young man, shocked at what is being asked of us and grieving because we believe it’s impossible and too costly.
But, says Jesus, for God all things are possible. For the young man it seemed impossible to give away all he owned and he had to go away bruised and heavy hearted. But perhaps he thought more about the words of Jesus and struggled with his own reactions. Perhaps in time, and with God’s help, he did the impossible. He came round to seeing that whatever he had to give up would be worth it in terms of what matters in the kingdom of God. So, too, may we grow in faith until we also do the impossible and follow Jesus with all that we are and all that we own centred on the kingdom of God.
1. When a wealthy man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life Jesus tells him to sell what he owns, give the money away and follow Jesus.
2. The man’s wealth in itself is not the problem but the relationship he has with it and how it distracts him from discipleship.
3. The disciples, hearing this, protest that it must be impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom of heaven, to be saved.
4. Jesus promises that for God nothing is impossible and this encourages us also to do whatever it is we need to do to become true disciples and find the kingdom of God.
Let us pray to God, who is always ready to hear us, bringing to him our concerns and longings for the world, the church and for ourselves.
We pray for the church of Christ in the world that she may proclaim God’s love and merciful justice wherever there is cruelty, oppression and conflict.
We pray for the world’s nations and their leaders that the living word of God may cut through all concerns other than concern for the welfare of all peoples.
We pray for our own church and community that all who look to us in need and longing may find a welcome, healing love and acceptance.
We pray for all for whom today brings sorrow, pain or despair that their lives may be touched and renewed by God’s loving grace and mercy.
Lord God and loving Father, we thank you for listening to our prayers with compassion and understanding. Help us to trust that for you all things are possible and to be part of your response when you call us to follow Jesus, our brother and our Lord. Amen.