Readings: Wisdom 7:7-11; Hebrews 4:2-13; Mark 10:17-30
There’s a kind of familiarity with the Gospel that deadens the impact. I’d grown up calling this narrative “the Rich Young Man”–and even our Bible translations use that term.
But in Mark’s Gospel, it’s the punch line. It’s only when the man turns away sad that we’re told he had many possessions. Did anyone have a clue? He’s well behaved and perhaps simply dressed: no designer labels, no smart phone, no bling.
Jesus recognizes his potential, not is possessions; could he have become the thirteenth apostle? Perhaps he turns away because he feels responsible for needy people dependent on his wealth. I’ve wondered if sometime after the resurrection, he joined the community in Jerusalem and surrendered his wealth to the Apostles.
I’m stymied by the disciples’ reaction. They seem to assume that the rich should have easy access to the kingdom of God. Why do they think that? Do they assume that wealth is the reward for moral rectitude? Or do they believe that even God defers to wealth?
I must be so cynical about the ways of the world that I can’t fathom their surprise. But my reaction is unfair to those well-to-do people who are so generous with their resources.
Are we missing the point to abstract a universal command from Jesus’ interaction with this man? What if Jesus’ demands were tailor-made to his vulnerabilities and potentials? What if what Jesus says is not a formula for perfection but a path for certain people to attain the wholeness of the citizens of God’s kingdom? Wholeness is the prosaic integration of our pluses and minuses and not the compulsive pursuit of flawlessness. And isn’t that integration an unending path of many choices, revisiting the same territory at ever deeper levels?
In each of our lives aren’t there those times when Jesus asks us to let go and just trust that God has our back? Aren’t we invited to discover that what feels like free-fall without a parachute is really the creative flight of being in God’s hands?