28th Sunday Year B
Here indeed was a good-living, respectable young man who could be said to have been a model. A model up to a point. Less us examine this greatness and we shall see that it is less than convincing. Yes, he hasn’t killed, robbed, or committed adultery. In fact "he hasn’t done anyone any harm”. But that is not enough to claim greatness. It is not the highest criterion of virtue, as we often tend to think. This might have been a man who has not blot on his copybook. But does that make him outstanding young man? He seems to have had quite a high opinion of himself: For one, let us note his question to Jesus; It is as though he thought he could do enough to get to heaven. The man failed to realise that eternal life is gift from God which is given to us in love. It is not "salary" we get paid for avoiding bad things. This is not meant to diminish the importance of avoiding evil, but this is not enough; it is not the whole answer. Secondly, this man had simply not been tested, and he is about to be tested.
Jesus looked at him with love because He saw great potential in this man. Then Jesus offered him a new vision of goodness, which was a positive one. And this vision consisted, not merely in avoiding evil, but in doing good. He said, “If you want to be perfect, sell what you have. Give the money to the poor... then come, follow me". Jesus wanted to show the man the path of sharing and compassion. But unfortunately the man was not up to it. So he went away. No doubt he would continue to dream about doing something really worthwhile with his life. But in time the dream would fade. It is very hard for people to give away their wealth, because it means depriving themselves of the resources on which they have come to rely for status, security, and enjoyment of life. But that is precisely the reason why disciples of Jesus must give up wealth. Because the essence of Christian faith is to put one’s trust in God, and to rely on God as the only source of security and well-being.
Like the young man we too sometimes dream of a more authentic Christian life. We dream but are not prepared to act. Just as he did with man in the Gospel, Jesus will not allow us to settle for an answer which does not demand the best of us. A true friend is someone who holds us to the best dreams of our youth. The friend challenges and stretches us to the limit of our ability and beyond, so that thereafter we have new standards by which to judge ourselves. [cf. McCarthy, F 1999. New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies: Year B. Dublin: Dominican Publications]
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