The Rich Young Man
A friend of mine sent me an e-mail message that somebody interviewed God. As a parent, what are some of life’s lessons He wants His children to learn. God answered: “To learn that what is most valuable is not what they have in their lives, but who they have in their lives. To learn that there are persons who love them dearly, but simply do not know how to express or show their feelings. To learn that money can buy everything but happiness. To learn that a true friend is someone who knows everything about them…and likes them anyway. To learn that it is not always enough that they may be forgiven by others, but that they have to forgive themselves.”
In relation to our gospel today, the gospel is about the rich young man who was called by Christ but who could not get himself to follow Christ because of his attachments to his riches. The gospel concludes that the man “Went away sad.”
And also many commentators tell us that Jesus tries to help the young man realize that He is God. This may be true but this is not what Jesus really meant. It is because when Jesus deals with different people, He often skips over this matter about Himself and immediately goes to the condition of the person’s heart. This is what I think He is doing. As we will see in the next few verses, this man believes that he is a good person in the sense that he asks Jesus what he shall do. He thinks whatever hard task Jesus might pick out for him he is fully capable to accomplish it in his own strength. The point Jesus is trying to make here is that no one is good enough, only God.
But why does he go away from Jesus with sadness rather than with joy? It is because his treasure and his hope for happiness are misplaced. Treasurehas a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus.
I read this story of the gathering of five business associates, well, good buddies really, who wanted to enjoy each other’s company: have some food and some drinks, to share experiences and just to forget about making money for awhile. It did not take long before one of them opened a topic on a business project he was on and everyone joined in the conversation enthusiastically except for Jay. Out of exasperation over this turn of events, Jay quickly put before the other four piece of paper with the word “GOD” in bold letters written on that piece of paper. Next he quickly took out a paper bill and covered the written word and asked his buddies if they still could read the word. All of them chorused “NO!” Jay continued by saying that it is precisely why anyone almost always fails to see God because of too much preoccupation with making money.
That is why the thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. The Lord himself is the greatest and the highest treasure we can have. Giving up everything else and to have the Lord as our treasure, is not sorrowful, but the greatest joy. We are not the poorest of the poor because we have Jesus Christ as our treasure.
Somebody commented also that many of us think that treasure or riches will make us happy. Yet very often it becomes a source of anxiety and even of strife. Even if we have a peaceful possession of our belongings, they do not truly satisfy the deep yearnings of the human heart where happiness calls. The book of Proverbs says: “As moth to the cloth and termite to the wood, so sadness harms the heart of man,” (25:20). Hence, the advice of St. James in his letter is the appropriate remedy: “Is anyone sad? Let him pray.”