The Rich Man
One of last week’s gospel passages said: "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off." So today’s gospel passage can be also said like this: "If your money causes you to sin, get rid of it by giving it to the poor." And so the sin being dealt with in this statement is apathy or lack of caring for others. It is because God is love, heaven is a place of love and if we die with unrepented apathy, we cannot enter heaven.
Is the message of today's gospel reading a commandment to get rid of our material possessions? The answer is ‘No.’ If the answer is ‘No,’ why does Jesus ask this young man to give up everything? And yet it is recorded in the Bible that He has a number of friends who are rich. Like for example: Lazarus, Martha and Mary, they live in the prosperous village of Bethany. Nicodemus, His secret disciple, is a wealthy Pharisee. Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector from Jericho, is a wealthy man too. He does not insist that these people may sell their possessions and give the proceeds to the poor if they want to be His disciples. Was He really against wealth?
We know that Jesus does not oppose wealth per se, nor does oppose the wealthy people. One of Vatican II documents, Gaudium et Spes (no. 68) affirms this by saying: “Man has the right to accumulate a sufficient amount of the world’s resources in order to live a dignified life.” The reason is maybe because these people are not attached to their wealth and willing to give it up without any hesitation. He sees in them that money would never be on the same level as God in their lives. But as for this young man, perhaps Jesus foresees that he will not be able to give up his possession due to his attachment to it. And when he refuses to give up his possessions, He is correct.
And so what is the antidote for this attachment to material possessions? First is to do acts of charity. The rich young man is a pious person and Jesus asks him to do more than being pious, that is, to do acts of charity, but he fails Jesus. All of us Christians are called to do acts of charity. Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes this in his encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est. He emphasizes that love of neighbor is a path that leads to the encounter with God and that closing our eyes to the needs of our neighbor also blinds us to God. According to him: “Christian charity is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for and healing the sick, visiting those in prison….”
And so if we start sharing and investing our possessions and wealth for the common good, especially for the disadvantaged, then we are convinced that this act matters most with God.
Second is detachment. Jesus knows that this young man has the capacity to give himself totally to Him. And so He invites this young man to follow Him unconditionally, that is, without any attachment and again he fails Jesus. He looks at himself too much and not enough at God, who understands him in his present weakness. God demands from each one of us, if we follow Him, detachment from everything that enslaves us. Our soul must be free. The wealth of this young man enslaves him and is one of the big hindrances in following Jesus.
If Jesus were to say to each one of us today, “Give up what is most precious to you, and come follow me,” would we be able to say, “yes, Lord!” and follow him?
OPTION 01, 02, 03,