I am sometimes awed at how much can be packed into a few verses of Scripture. What I mean is more likely where my mind and heart go after reading a short section, like today’s gospel about the rich young man who couldn’t quite “go the distance” in surrender. (MT 19:16-22)
Like most of us he claims having kept the commandments as they’re written and as Jesus enumerates them for him. No killing, no adultery, no stealing…easy enough, we might say. A closer examination might see us falling off that wagon though in the small things that lead to those greater sins. What about a burst of anger or joining in on a conversation about someone that might lead to stealing a bit of his or her reputation? And then there’s that last one: Love your neighbor as yourself. That one could be the subject of a very long retreat…
The last section of the text is very disturbing to many people. It’s the two sentences that would send many of us away sad like the rich young man. Jesus says to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” I stop after typing that because it is too difficult to interpret for anyone but myself. Okay, even for myself. I did have two thoughts for consideration though and they are connected.
- I preached at my mother’s funeral about Mary and Martha because, as she moved deeper and deeper into dementia, I saw my mother let go of everything that seemed important to her in her younger day. In the end, she was like a bright light “sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to him” like Mary, the sister of Lazarus, in the gospel. I noted her transformation as a process of letting go that I saw begin at the age of 45 when she had to move away from everything she had known because of my father’s job change. As she tested the waters of this move, she found new friends and new activities that soon allowed her to let go, to dive in and live fully – loving well even into eternity. What I said about her divestment was that she did not necessarily give up all her possessions – but rather that she gave up the need of them as she lived the totality of her life for God.
- In one of St. Paul’s letters he speaks of his willingness to live whether he is rich or poor, has enough or not, as long as he can “have Christ…”
I think the two are synonymous and instructive in this conversation I’m having with myself. I will think on these things as I drive home today and as I contemplate the darkness of the eclipse that will overshadow the light of afternoon…another symbol, perhaps, of letting go only to welcome the light again as it returns. Stay safe out there, everyone.