“Good Teacher, what must I do to share in everlasting life?”

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we have the story of a rich man, that is, a man who believed that his material wealth brought him happiness. No doubt he was a well-meaning man. “Good Teacher, what must I do to share in everlasting life?” “You know the commandments,” says Jesus and then proceeds to list only those commandments which involve our relations with others, omitting those relating directly to God: not killing; not committing adultery; not stealing; not bearing false witness; not defrauding; respecting parents.

However, the young man was not gratified. He tells Jesus that he has observed the commandments since he was a child. The young man desires to do more than to simply observe the commandments; he yearns for something lasting and deeper. Mark tells us that: “Jesus looked at the man and loved him.” What a commanding and yet gentle statement! This young man seemingly wished to surrender all to God and to truly live out the commandments of God. Clearly, Jesus is surprised by this young man’s deep and sincere desire and suddenly His heart was completed with love for this young man who hungers wholeheartedly for God.

Jesus turned and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." Obviously, this was not the response the young man was hoping for. After understanding what Jesus was truly asking of him, he became befuddled.

We can fully sense the young man desires truly to follow Jesus; however, he never expected to give up or surrender all including family and friends in order to be a true follower of Christ. So when Jesus challenged him to make God his one true possession and treasure, he walked away, sad and dismayed. He finds the price of discipleship was too unreasonable. He wanted the kind of lasting peace and happiness which money could not buy him. Jesus spoke to the trouble of his heart. The one thing kept him from truly giving of himself whole-hardheartedly to God. Whilst he lacked nothing in material goods, he was however possessive of what he had. He placed his hope and salvation in what he possessed. The command of Jesus to give up everything and follow Jesus is a challenge that seems daunting. What about us? Are we willing to give up everything we have to follow Jesus?

Jesus is challenging us today to make God our one true possession and treasure, and not to be dismayed. Treasure has a special connection to the heart. Make Jesus the center of our heart. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. The Lord himself is the greatest treasure we can ever possess. Giving up everything else to have the Lord as our treasure is not sorrowful, but the greatest joy. He alone can satisfy the deepest longing and desires of our heart. Are you willing to part with anything that might keep you from seeking true joy with Jesus? Selling all that we have could mean many different things--our friends, our job, our "style" of life, what we do with our free time.

Jesus challenged the young man because his heart was selfish. He was afraid to give to others for fear that he would lose what he had. Those who are generous towards God and neighbor find that they cannot out give God in generosity. We are told in the Gospel of Matthew “the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44).

Let us pray through the grace of God that, like the rich man, we realize that our “wealth” (or whatever it may be that is holding us back) is costing us a life lived in the kingdom of God. Jesus offers the way that guides our steps, the truth that enlightens our minds and the life that gives love which lasts forever. Our happiness lies in how we answer these questions! We have a choice. What will we choose?

—fr. Peter Damian Harris, O.P.