I sit this morning in the bedroom I call “mine” surrounded by more books than many people read in their entire lives. I have CDs that hold favorite music, this computer and a personal phone that accompanies me everywhere and various other “things” which seem more or less necessary to me. I think this morning of my early days in religious life when we learned to speak of “our” possessions rather than “mine” – basically so that nothing would possess us and to let us know that the vow of poverty meant we held everything in common.
In this morning’s gospel, Jesus challenges a young man who wants a deeper way of life than just following the commandments. “Go,” Jesus says, “sell all that you have and give to the poor. Then come and follow me.” (MT 19:16-22) What happens next is not a happy ending. “When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” The fact of his sadness is what makes me sad. He doesn’t go away in a huff, grumbling about Jesus asking too much or saying Jesus is unfair or crazy. He simply recognizes that he is not free to give himself totally.
I doubt I will ever be called to give up everything it seems I “own” – including the intangibles like relationships and convictions – so that all I have left is God, but this gospel always calls me to assess my willingness to do so if that day should come. I think I understand the struggle of the “rich young man” and pray each day for the gifts of willingness and surrender. Giving things away is also a good practice so that freedom to be available for whatever God asks is the first and only non-negotiable I bring to each day.