Today’s Gospel reading invites us to wrestle with two fundamental questions of our spiritual life; “What does heaven cost?” and “Am I willing to pay it?”
The young man asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He seems to be looking for more in life, as we hear further on “he had many possessions.” But he obviously still wasn’t satisfied. He wasn’t content with his life and felt that there must be more.
He has kept the commandments, through his actions (a list of “don’t do’s”), but Jesus invites him “to do” something more (notice the more positive response). Jesus, recognizing that this young man desired more, “[looked] at him and loved him.” Jesus offers him a deep, personal, and intimate invitation to give up what he holds most dear. Jesus knows, as he says to Peter later on in the Gospel (Mark 10:29), that he himself is a reward far greater than anything this world has to offer. If we look back at how the young man greeted Jesus as “Good Teacher” we can see that he recognizes this also, but is now faced with a major decision, literally a life-altering decision; “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Jesus is inviting this man in to His love!
And faced with this decision we hear that “[the young man] was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”
Today, we should place ourselves before Jesus and ask the same question; “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” I believe Jesus’ response to us would be the same as he gave this man;
“What are you holding on to?
What do you need to let go in order to cling to me?
What do you need to let go of in order to encounter, fully, my love?”
Because of our fallen nature we so easily turn inwards and look to ourselves to provide for our own needs. We tend to cling and attach too closely to things, seeking fulfillment in our achievements(in what we do) and seek our own path to happiness. Jesus even goes as far as to say that there are ‘good things’, such as our family, that distract us from him.
The truth is that we are dependent on God for everything, whether we realize it or not. We are unable to achieve total, lasting fulfillment by ourselves.
Even Jesus’ disciples asked, “How can we be saved?” His response is, ”For humans it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” This is Christ’s promise to us, our hope. It is God who can give us a new heart, a properly ordered heart that desires first and foremost His love.
Don’t miss out on the look of love that Jesus gave the young man, the same look that he is giving you. The look that he gives us from the cross, of his great love for you. In the end only a greater love, God’s love received, can replace the disordered love we have for this world.
A simple prayer today might be a good place to start, to remind us of the cost of heaven and to place our hearts in a ready place to pay the cost; “God, YOU are ALL I need!”
Scripture readings for reflection: