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poorI did spend my day on Saturday organizing and readying some things to give away.(See Saturday’s post for explanation) It was a good start but one would think I had a huge bedroom as I say that I could probably work all week to get it to pristine condition. Since I don’t have the entire week, I’ll just see what happens this morning…

The gospel today is the one about the “rich young man” who wants to know what he has to do to gain eternal life (MT 19:16-22). Jesus spouts the commandments  to him but he says he’s good with all that. He’s looking for more – not just keeping the law and being good but a deeper way of living. It sounds like he’s hungry for that. Unfortunately, when Jesus tells him to sell what he has and give to the poor and then to come and follow him, the young man just can’t do it. The last line says that he went away sad for he had many possessions.

There’s a lot of speculation about what Jesus meant by his advice to the young man. In that time and culture it would perhaps have worked to give away everything and walk with Jesus (although Jesus was still new on the scene and it would’ve been a risk). Today, a person doing that would most likely end up in shelters and/or on welfare and would be despised by a great portion of the society so the point would be lost. I do think Jesus was serious about giving to the poor; he spoke of “the poor” more than almost anything. We are definitely called to be mindful of those who fit that description – for example, the shamefully large number of children who go to bed hungry in this, the richest country in the world. But I think Jesus might have been speaking about matters of the heart here as well. In addition to the things that clutter my room, what else holds my heart so tightly that I can’t let go? Money? Status? People in my life? Work? How can I free myself so that nothing keeps me from my calling to God?

I think the saddest thing about this story is that the young man thought he had to do what he was asked perfectly all at once. He was young. When I was young I had no idea what was necessary to let go of since I was still gathering experiences and people and the life I have come to live. I hope Jesus didn’t really say the young man had to sell everything and THEN come to follow him. I think that would’ve been unfair and I never see Jesus as unfair – challenging, maybe, but not unfair. So I wonder if, after the end of the story we have, Jesus stopped him from going away – or met him again later – and had a conversation about why letting go of everything that clings to us is necessary in the spiritual life. I hope so. My advice to him and anyone else who is struggling with surrender is: DON’T GO AWAY SAD! It will get easier to surrender as you practice. Don’t go away; just work on it and take it a day at a time, a step at a time along the path. You’ll catch up to Jesus eventually as long as you don’t give up.

I’m off then to work in my room and my heart…