Can you recall what was the most important meeting of your life? Who was the single most significant, inspirational and influential person in your life up to the present moment? What was the most important decision you have ever made? What conversation with another can you recall?
'A man came running up to Jesus.'
The sense of urgency is apparent. For this nameless man a unique opportunity that could easily be lost of he did not take this chance to catch up with Jesus in case He would be gone from sight.
Jesus was on an external journey but the rich young man was in an internal journey of discernment - his whole life journey, especially his moral life is laid before Jesus as one of strict adherence to the Commandments of the Law. While Jesus does not list all 10 of them he does refer to 6 of the 7 commandments that relate to love of neighbour.
Did Jesus deliberately exclude the one that seems to have most relevance to the reason for the man’s sadness at the injunction to ‘go sell all that you own and then come follow me’? Can you think of which commandment is missing?
Jesus looked at the man and loved him. He held him under his gaze causing the man to come to a complete stop. Under that penetrating gaze Jesus scrutinised the heart of this sincere and imperfect young man – and looking into His eyes gently but forcibly invited him to take one more step – a step in faith, a risk, an investment in Christ, a long term investment that would pay dividends in heaven, but which required the abandonment of what he held dearest – his wealth. He went away sad, ‘he couldn’t have his cake and eat it’. He coveted riches.
As Pope John Paul II put it in Veritatis Splendor, n.7
For the young man, the question is not so much about rules to be followed, but about the full meaning of life. This is in fact the aspiration at the heart of every human decision and action, the quiet searching and interior prompting which sets freedom in motion. This question is ultimately an appeal to the absolute Good which attracts us and beckons us; it is the echo of a call from God who is the origin and goal of man's life.
We might easily ask what this curious episode has to do with your life or mine – especially you might say to yourself - I am not rich or young or even a man, so what relevance has this to me? I am none of these things!
The Holy Father continues:
The question which the rich young man puts to Jesus of Nazareth is one which rises from the depths of his heart. It is an essential and unavoidable question for the life of every man, for it is about the moral good which must be done, and about eternal life. ....
People today need to turn to Christ once again in order to receive from him the answer to their questions about what is good and what is evil.
Consequently, "the man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly — and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being — must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter him with all his own self (VS 8).
There may be one key statement in all of this, that directly impinges on each one of us ‘there is one thing you lack, in order to inherit eternal life’ to let go of the thing or things that prevent you from full freedom to do what God wants.
What is this one thing I lack. I want to get to heaven, but what is blocking my path?
It may be one or more of three things and I call them the three Cs. The first C word is that of Comfort – to do what God wants sometimes may mean giving up some comfort an taking up the C word of the Cross – after all Jesus did say we must deny ourselves. The second C word is that of Convenience – giving in to what others want, not getting our way all the time. The final C word is the hardest of all to give up – in relation to life and what comes our way – in a sense it sums up the rich young man’s dilemma – comfort, convenience but above all, Control.
What do you lack? What is the one thing standing in the way of God’s complete take-over? Is it, after all is said and done, trust? Perhaps the most important 2 words of all in following Jesus which we can utter every day – until we truly mean it and apply it to every aspect of our lives - are: