He walked away sad - Twenty eighth Sunday in Ordinary time (B)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > He walked away sad - Twenty eighth Sunday in Ordinary time (B)

 

The man ran up to Jesus and asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

It is the question of a good man. Later he says that he has kept the commandments from his earliest days. He is a good man with genuine intentions. He wants to lead a good life, and he wants to know what path will ensure him of a place in eternity with God.

Every believer who genuinely seeks to live according to the will of God would be interested in this question. How can my life be pleasing to God? What does God expect of me?

A believer will make God the basic reference point for the way in which they live their life. It is not unusual to reflect on the quality of our life considering it from the point of view of what God would want of us.

Our starting point will be the commands of God revealed in the Sacred Text. The Ten Commandments – to which the Lord referred – were given to the Jewish People as their fundamental rule of life. They remain foundational for all believers. Thus the Catholic Catechism uses the Ten Commandments as a basis for exploring the moral law by which Christians live.

We would also turn to the teaching of Jesus himself. His teaching, for example, on the primacy of love of God and love of neighbour. We would also see in the Beatitudes a set of dispositions of heart that a Christian should seek to foster. His teaching on humility, service, self-sacrifice would also be important sources for shaping our moral thinking.

As we read the Scriptures there are constant references as to how we should live. It is not only obedience to a set of commands, but we sense a call to fashion the inner character of our life. We know that God looks not at the externals but at the heart. So we seek a purity of heart.

The Christian tradition has added to this its teaching on fostering the virtues. Virtues are habits of good behaviour. The Christian strives to foster the virtues like justice and prudence.

Like this good man who approached Jesus, we too can say that we have sincerely sought to pursue what we believe God would expect of us. We would readily admit that we have not done so perfectly and that there have been failures along the way, sometimes serious failures. We acknowledge that we have sinned. However, on the whole, we have done our best and have been largely faithful. Like the man in the Gospel today.

Does the Lord then simply commend him and encourage him to continue as he is?

St Mark tells us interestingly that the Lord looked steadily at him and loved him. This is a most interesting comment.

The Lord fixes his attention on him upon hearing his testimony of living a good life and sees the evident goodness of the man. This inspires a response of love from the Lord.

It is out of this love for him that the Lord then says, “There is one thing you lack”. This good man is good, but there is still one important step he needs to make: “Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor,… then come follow me”.

You are comfortable in your goodness, and you must now go further. You must take one more step, a big step, but a necessary step: Let go of your material comforts and launch out into a full and free pursuit of the life of the Kingdom of God. Entrust yourself fully into the hands of God.

This was an invitation, not a command. It was made in love. There is something more, something that draw you fully into the life of the Kingdom of God even now. Let go of the securities of this world, and discover a dependence on God that will set you free and open your life to new dimensions of faith. This is open you to the fullness of the life of the Kingdom of God.

But he couldn’t do it. We are told he was a man of great wealth. And he went away sad. The excitement of meeting Jesus ended in sadness. He couldn’t take this final step. He would return to his good life, his comfortable life, knowing that there was a moment that he just couldn’t respond. He would carry a secret regret the rest of his days. His happiness would always be tinged by a certain sadness. He had a chance and he let it pass.

One can imagine Jesus standing there watching him walk away. Jesus himself would have been saddened by how the conversation ended. Here was such a good man but his great wealth bound him to the earth. He was not free. The moment of opportunity for him had passed.

The Gospel then tells us that Jesus turned to his disciples and said, with a sense of disappointment over what had just happened, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God”. 

The Gospel is a call to embrace life in the Kingdom of God. There is a foundation in good moral living, but there is so much more. Christ invites us to step out of our securities. He invites us to offer more of ourselves to him. He encourages us to let go of our personal control of our lives: “to put out into the deep”.

The Christian life is one of being constantly called further in our relationship with God. The Christian life is one of attentive listening to what God may be asking of us. The Christian life will require at times a letting go, a surrender in trust to Almighty God who wants to offer us a path to fullness of freedom and life.

When the Lord appeared to St Faustina and asked her to have a painting made of what she saw, the Lord asked her to place at the foot of the painting the words, “Jesus, I trust in you”.

This was a way of inviting people to look at him and in saying these words open their hearts and lives in trust to him. It was an invitation to let go of the ways in which we try to retain control of our lives, and surrender them in trust to him.

Today, as we contemplate the scene given in the Gospel and we think of that good man walking away sad, we could consider our own lives for a moment and decide to let go of controlling our destiny ourselves and say with a new freedom of spirit, “Jesus, I trust in you”.

 

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 10 October 2015