Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Road to Heaven is Difficult, but Though Remote, We Can Reach It
First Reading (Wis 7:7-11): Riches are nothing compared to wisdom
Second Reading (Heb 4:12-13): The Word of God judges the thoughts of our hearts
Gospel (Mk 10:17-30): The rich young man
-“I have a pearl, long lock up in dust, one day the dust was gone and it sparkled ,illuminating the whole universe.” (1)
-“Walk with a sack, sit with a sack, put down the sack. How carefree I feel!”(2)
-“The point where to rest being known, the object of pursuit is then determined, and that being determined a calm unperturbedness may be attained. To that calmness there will succeed tranquil repose. In that repose there may be careful deliberation and that deliberation will be followed by the attainment of the desired end.”(3)
-“Searching high and low for truth.” (4)
'Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” (Mk 10:20-22)
The story of the rich young man might well be the story of you and me, of each one of us. This young man ‘ran up’ to Jesus. He was full of an impulse to “search high and low for truth.”(4) He was a young person, full of life and energy. He ‘knelt’ before Jesus, eager and sincere in his quest for the meaning of life, determined to learn more from Jesus.
”What must I do?” He didn't come just to hear Jesus' preaching, nor to be merely a believer. He wanted to change himself, develop and fulfill himself, commit his life and practice his beliefs. He wanted to ‘do’ something! It was because he was not satisfied with his present state that he had not yet found peace in life. Confucius says in “The Great Learning,” The point where to rest being known, the object of pursuit is then determined, and that being determined, a calm unperturbedness may be attained. To that calmness there will succeed a tranquil repose. In that repose there may be careful deliberation, and that deliberation will be followed by the attainment of the desired end. (3) It seems that the young man had not yet reached that state, nor could he find a doorway to achievement. That was why he came to Jesus.
Jesus never disappointed those who seek the Way sincerely. So Jesus told him the basic prerequisites for pursuing a better life: “You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness, you shall not defraud. Honor your father and mother.” (Mk 10:19) That is to say, before one can pursue a higher life, one must first fulfill one's basic responsibilities. Before one can become a follower of Christ, one must be a person of integrity, learning to take ‘one step at a time’ on life's journey. The young man listened to what Jesus had said and replied confidently, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”
He was not just a curious, superficial seeker. He was a keen enthusiast who had lived a virtuous life in the past. That was a proof of his sincerity. He also had a full, abundant life before him. Therefore the Bible says that “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”
This was an extraordinary young man, the hope of society and the church. In the language of today we might say he was truly a very rare person.
Jesus never disappoints those who desire to search for the truth, so he immediately invited the rich young man to develop his life further, to step forward and progress further in life. He also invited him to be his disciple, his follower, even to live together with him.
Therefore, Jesus said to him, “You are lacking in one thing.” That “one thing” would be the ‘eyes’ of the dragon, as in the common Chinese saying, “put in the eyes of the dragon”.(in the Chinese dragon dance it is believed that with a critical brush of the eyes, the dragon is able to fly). Jesus wanted to give the rich young man the ability to fly high, so that he could live freely, roaming freely between heaven and earth.
We ourselves are spiritual dragons. We all possess the choicest gifts and talents from God, our Creator. I remember this little poem –
“I have a bright pearl, long locked up in dust, one day the dust was gone and it sparkled, illuminating the whole universe.”(1) Yes, we are all spiritual dragons, but we miss the eyes; we are all pearls, but we are covered with dirt. Jesus can help us, sanctify us, enable us to fly high and shine. The only condition is that we live in him, be with him, and follow him.
What Ruth said to her mother-in-law is what we should say to Jesus: “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! Where you go I will go; where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, there will I be buried.”(Ruth 1: 16-17)
To follow Jesus is an absolute. It demands that we abandon everything to follow him until death, as a shadow never leaves a body. This was what Jesus invited the rich young man to do, and us also. Sometimes we may think that abandoning everything is a negative action, a loss. The rich young man must have thought that. He had many possessions and did not want to abandon them “and he went away grieving.”, .
What the rich young man did not know was that we abandon something in order to follow another wholeheartedly; we abandon so that we can develop ourselves fully in Jesus; we abandon in order to gain all. We abandon so that we can let go of our burdens and freely and in a relaxed manner continue our life journey. The poem, “Monk with a Sack,” describes vividly the joy of being carefree: “Walk with a sack, Sit with a sack; Put down the sack, How carefree I feel!(2)
If we remain in and with Jesus we will never suffer or lose out. On the contrary, in Jesus we acquire everything. We live more freely. We are certain that we have acquired everything, and that we will acquire the Kingdom of Heaven which Jesus has prepared for us.