[28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, Oct. 11, 2015 / Wis 7:7-11 / Ps 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17 / Heb 4:12-13 / Mark 10:17-30]
IN the gospel today we see a rich young man in one moment running up to the Lord, full of enthusiasm, fire and energy with an important question for Jesus, asking him what he must do to be truly fulfilled. A few moments later the rich young man goes away sad. Why? Because Jesus said to him, “Go, sell what you have, and give it to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At this the young man went away sad or as Mark the evangelist tells us: “his face fell and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
And this is the sign of his richness – the fact that he goes away. What would be the secret? Stay in union with the Lord, don’t just throw in the towel when he asks us to take a step of maturity. Tell Jesus that I cannot do it without him.
Often many people make a big song and dance about leaving everything for the Lord but everyone will have to do this one day! (I am referring to our funeral! Unless you want to be buried in what you are attached to, like your pink Cadillac as one American lady did).
Jesus asks the young man to grow up. To take a step of maturity. The rich young man ran up to the Lord and Jesus wants that he keep running! As many of the Saints attest, the way of holiness is forwards. St Bernard wrote, “On the way of life, not to progress is to regress” and Thomas Aquinas noted, “To stand on the way of the Lord is to move backwards.”
The Holy Spirit will guide us in the step we need to take. It is true many times we need to renounce and give things up like our useless anxiety or unnecessary worrying over material things, our indifference. I see many things in me I would like to leave behind – my tendency to worry and my fears, to name only a few! Of course the sacrament of reconciliation is a beautiful moment to leave behind what is useless and harmful to us – our sins.
What did the rich young man miss? What could he have done? He could have caught the loving gaze of Jesus. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing.’ ” What is that ONE thing? To catch Jesus looking at him, loving him. Then he would not have needed all his possessions to try to win the love of others. He would have realized the true richness – the love of Jesus. Have you caught that loving gaze of Christ?
Often we catch the challenge to leave our attachment to material goods but did you first catch that gaze? When you catch that gaze, all else is put into perspective. Pope John Paul II said that the root cause of materialism is the absence of God’s love in the heart of man. We need that gaze to fill our hearts, a gaze that tells us who we are, and how much we are loved. It is a gaze that is unchanging, eternal and unconditional.
I remember coming back home after failing my exams. I arrived at the cold, foggy station after a long train journey. I didn’t think anyone would meet me. At the station I was looking for a familiar face, to welcome me, to accept me but to no avail. And then I caught that gaze, a look of unconditional love, welcoming me even though I had been a lazy student. It was my dad standing at the end of the platform, looking at me, confirming my identity as a son and welcoming me unconditionally.
We need to experience that gaze from God our Father. That he is looking at us, loving us, welcoming us. For this we need to pray, to listen to the Word of God to experience his love, to catch that gaze. From here we can respond. Our moral life, our option, our use of wealth can then be a response to this love. As Fr Arrupe S.J. wrote: “Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”
Perhaps the question from our Gospel this day is, have you caught that gaze? Perhaps this day in different moments, take a time out and catch that gaze, experience Jesus looking at you and loving you for who you are and not what you possess. Often this is what we lack to be happy and fulfilled – his loving gaze!