authenticity, Christ and the rich young man, Christian life, discipleship, grace, undivided heart
It is said that where a person’s heart is, there his or her will and actions will follow. We strive after that which we value. We set our lives by that which we love. The young man in today’s gospel (Mk. 10:17-30) is in many ways a good person. He is someone who is seeking to live his faith; he is striving to live his life by the commandments of God. He also recognizes or intuits that there is something unique about Jesus. This is why he runs up even kneels down and uses the title, “good teacher”. The young man’s heart is searching but, we come to realize, his heart is also divided.
Our Lord knows this. Our Lord knows the human condition weakened by sin. The gospel passage is not so much about material possessions as it is about the divided human heart and God’s consistent love.
Christ knows this young man. The gospel tells us that Jesus “looking at him, loved him…” Now, imagine being before Christ. Picture yourself being in the full and immediate gaze of Jesus. It is an amazing and humbling thing to stand before the presence of God. Christ knows us through and through. He knows us more than we know ourselves. Christ sees that this young man is seeking to live the commandments but he also recognizes that divisions remain within his heart. We follow our hearts! How can we follow that, which itself, is divided? The young man is divided by even seemingly good intentions. It makes sense to live the commandments. It is logical and philosophically consistent to seek to live the commandments and to do good towards others. We should treat others as we ourselves want to be treated. We can strive to do all things within ourselves and by our own abilities. Even in seeking to do these good things we can remained enclosed within ourselves.
But there is more! And Jesus wants to invite this young man into this “more” which is living not with a distracted and divided heart content within oneself but living fully and authentically in the mystery, living in relationship with Christ. Jesus wants the young man’s heart to be firmly rooted in friendship with God and an ongoing encounter with God. “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.”
Christ is inviting the young man (and us) to true richness – to live fully and authentically with an undivided heart not within an enclosed self but in friendship with God and others.
The young man goes away sad because, we are told, “…he had many possessions.” This is where we need to remember our Lord’s reaction to the young man; “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” Our Lord’s love for the young man remains even as the young man is conflicted with a divided heart. Our Lord’s love for us remains even as we are conflicted with divided hearts!
On our own we cannot overcome the divisions and distractions in our hearts. Jesus himself tells us. “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”
The gospel does not tell us where the young man’s life took him but I have hope that eventually he came around to the recognition that it is not about the ability to live the commandments by one’s own effort but rather about receiving the love and friendship of God into one’s heart. I have hope because the gospel says that Jesus loved the young man and that love remained even as the young man went away sad in the moment. I have hope that the young man learned that for God “all things are possible”.
The same hope remains for us. Yes, we all too often, have divided hearts but Christ looks on us with love, Christ continually invites us into friendship and for God “all things are possible”.