Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him: ‘You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’
The Scriptures tell us of several people whom Our Lord especially loved. One was Lazarus, the man he raised from the dead. Our Lord loved him along with his sisters, Martha and Mary. Saint John the Apostle was another Jesus especially loved. Several times John is referred to as the Beloved Disciple. And there was of course his own Mother Mary. Finally there was the young man we hear about in today’s Gospel. Saint Mark tells us that Jesus, in answering the young man’s question, looked deeply into him and loved him. He loved him enough to give the young man an answer that would bring him a richness of life far beyond anything this world could ever offer him.
We need to focus on the rich young man’s question. Asking the right question gives us the proper direction leading to the needed answer. Notice how the rich young man didn’t ask: “How can I help?” or “How much money do you need?” Rather he asked Jesus how he could receive an even greater inheritance than that which was already coming to him.
We have all heard the phrase “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.” Such is the case here. Jesus asked the young man to make a risky investment, to place all that he had and all that he was into God’s care, into God’s hands. Jesus asked him to give up the security of his wealth, his family position and power; to give up his independence and become dependent, to hand over his self-governance and so allow God to govern, control, and direct his life. Sadly, the rich young man thought that Our Lord’s answer to his question was too costly – he couldn’t bring himself to pay the price of discipleship.
In much the same way Saint Peter had to face the same question; he bluntly said to Jesus: “We have left everything and followed you. What are we to have, then?” Our Lord responded that he would be repaid a hundred times over and inherit everlasting life as well. As we know, Peter’s response was a bit wobbly. And yet he did end up taking the risk, and Our Lord made him the rock upon which he would build his Church.
As we get older we come to realise that the things of greatest value come at a high cost. Our Lord speaks of that in his Parable about the Pearl of Great Price, and it presents us with the question: “What is of lasting value?” What is an investment I can make that will give me something that can never be devalued? Cheap things that don’t last can be bought cheaply. That which has great and lasting value comes only to those who are willing to pay the price. Will you sell your soul for something cheap, or will you sell everything you have to acquire the priceless pearl?
Are we willing to even face the question at all, or do we simply plod on with our lives, setting the question aside without ever answering it? Making a conscious decision to turn our life over into the care of God is a major step in any person’s life. Ask any of the Sisters who themselves have paid a high price to follow Our Lord in the religious life. In the same way if we wish to recover our lives and rid ourselves of our addictive self-concerns and habitual self-gratifications we must turn our lives over into the care of God. This, as we all know, is a risky capital investment that many judge to be too costly.
So what are you willing to risk?
You are here today because you claim to be a Christian, you claim to be a follower of Christ in his Way, in his Truth, and in his Life. If you are radical about your commitment to Christ then you will be faced with living a risky life. It is a great risk, and a costly one, to live life as Christ did, to live as one of his own, and to be loved by him. The testimony of history is that economics will not save humanity from its misery. The plagues of war, racism, and poverty have existed and exist now in many economic systems. Nor will science save us. We have only to take a look at what we have done with all of our newly discovered scientific wonders. Nor will technology save us. The Internet is both a blessing and a curse, but it cannot save us.
What will save us comes from our hearts and souls, not from our brains and our hands. Knowledge will not save us. Wisdom offers us more. Wisdom asks us to place our lives, our fortunes, our treasures, and our talents into the care of God. Wisdom transcends facts, information and data, taking us into realms found beyond what the human mind can comprehend.
It is a risk to stand up for the value of human life at its beginning, as it is lived out, and in its natural ending. There is a risk in being known to be a moral person. Those who hate religion will attack you, accuse you of being a hypocrite, and go on to accuse you of attempting to impose your own private and personal religion upon others. The risk of living as a person filled with the Presence of God means that you must stand under the judgement of Pontius Pilate who asked: “Truth, what is truth?” and then handed Jesus over to be crucified.
Living as a disciple of Christ means that you give a public, moral witness that emerges from deep within the Church and from Christ’s presence working in and through his Mystical Body. Ultimately it means living so as to point to the value of what it means to be a human person. It means placing who and what you are in opposition to what this world wants you to be. For the meaning of being human is revealed in the meaning and purpose of Christ’s life.
What is being asked of you is that you make your own capital investment and place all that you are, and all that you have, and all that you will be into the hands of Jesus Christ to be used as he sees fit. It is to follow in the footsteps of people like Saint Francis of Assisi who abandoned his privileged status, along with the wealth of his family, who stood naked in front of his father, his family, his local bishop and defiantly declared: “Naked I was born into this world, and naked will I leave it.”
There are those who have gone through dark times in their lives. This prayer has helped many:
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need for God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.
Dying on his Cross, Our Lord cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” How many people have cried out those same words? It is only with great faith and courage that we can, with Jesus, give our Father in heaven our final commitment: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” No greater investment can be made by any man or woman. And the reward? A higher and better life in this world and forever in the next.