He was so happy, so excited to approach Jesus. I can envision his exuberance. His question was simply stated… but profound:
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus told him to follow the commandments and the man replied that that was exactly what he had been doing. What a win. You ask the teacher, the master, the Son of God a question about eternity and his reply is precisely what you are hoping to hear. You are doing everything right. You are nailing it. How awesome. This has got to rank as the best day ever!
But it didn’t turn out that way. Jesus responded by saying that there was one more thing then. He of many possessions was to shed them all, get rid of everything and give to the poor. And then follow Jesus from that point forward. As the Gospel states, the man went away sad. Not exactly the best day ever.
To understand this turn of events, let’s look at the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews. According to the author:
… everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him
to whom we must render an account.
This indicates that our innermost desires, needs, thoughts and feelings are known to the master. We may appear one way, we may say one thing… but the truth that we hope to leave buried within is not something we can effectively hide from him.
Given that, let’s look at the Gospel scene again. Note that after the man told Jesus that he himself was doing everything right, Jesus replied with words he believed the man actually needed to hear. He looked inside him and knew. The man stood figuratively naked before him… and Jesus responded accordingly. I find it interesting that the line in the Gospel reads:
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing…”
Jesus loved him. He loved him.
Though it can be difficult sometimes, Jesus knows us and what we truly need. Maybe before we ourselves do. He does this out of love for us.
I am speculating here but I suspect that this man was following the commandments by simply going through the motions. On the surface, he was actually nailing it. But he was not fully committed, completely invested. So… Jesus asked him to be so by giving up the one thing that he actually was more committed to: his own wealth.
It’s not all that difficult to go through the motions. To appear to be a good Catholic, to go to Mass, to say the prayers, to follow the faith, to walk the path in ways that anyone observing would say is impressive. But the master sees inside, knows where our commitments really lie.
The message to the young man in this Gospel is a message for all of us to consider.
Let’s ask the Lord to tell us not what we want to hear but what we need to hear. Even if that is difficult. Because we know that if we ask the question sincerely, he will tell us. Why? Because he loves us.