Dear Brothers and Sisters,
There is a common way of interpreting this gospel (Mark 10: 17-30) that says the young rich man wanted to be generous and wanted to follow the commandments but he could only do it up to a certain point. To sell all one’s goods was something only for monks and religious people. There’s one big problem with this interpretation. Do you know what it is? At that time there were no monks or religious or Franciscans or Jesuits; Jesus was speaking to ordinary people like you and me.
A deeper and more accurate understanding of this gospel is that the young man realizes that Jesus is God, who is the only one who is good. Jesus does something very creative. He didn’t start with the first commandment; he started with the fourth. This man thought that he was very good. He didn’t steal or commit adultery, didn’t bear false witness, he honored his parents and, in his mind, he thought he was perfect.
However, Jesus has in his pocket the first commandment to love God with all your heart and mind and strength. And this means to love him more than money and possessions and personal plans. This man was not willing to do that. He is like us and was trying to reconcile his riches with the commandments.
Jesus looks at him with sympathy, the way Jesus looked at Judas in the garden and the way he looked at Peter when he denied him three times. He looked at them with a hope that they will change. He pities the young man who is so deceived and alienated from his reality. The truth is if you don’t keep the first commandment, you don’t keep any of them. The man went away sad because he doesn’t love God, and how can he enter the kingdom of heaven?
The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. So, if you have two cars and two houses and many other things, you should share them with your neighbor. And who is your neighbor? In the gospel of the good Samaritan, we see that your neighbor is the one in need. So, again a Christian should sell his goods and help his neighbor. Right?
What is Jesus looking for in this young man? He doesn’t want him to dress in rags and live under a bridge, and suffer. Is this Christianity, to suffer here for sixty or eighty years and then gain heaven? I don’t think so. Jesus desires that this man and you and I to be free, to live as a king, not to be a slave to money or any material thing. God gives in abundance and wants us to be the same. Our solar system is one of many billion more systems with suns that are larger than ours. What kind of God is he?
So, if there’s something close to your heart maybe that’s the thing you should sell, and give the money to the poor. Test yourself. Do you really love God more than your car or that piece of jewelry? Christianity is to be in a wedding feast. It is to be like St. Paul who lived at times in abundance and also at times with nothing, and was content. To be Christian is to live in thanksgiving with whatever God sends us.
Giving alms is for our benefit! It takes away many sins, and gives us a way of breaking our slavery to money and comfort. Jesus wants us to enter the kingdom, here on earth, not to suffer as a dog to gain heaven. Ask his help so that we can break this attachment to things that separate us from God and our neighbor.