It was then that a young man approached him and asked, “Master, what good work must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One only is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.” The young man said, “Which commandments?” Jesus replied, “Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have kept all these commandments. What is still lacking?” Jesus answered, “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell all that you possess and give the money to the poor, and you will become the owner of a treasure in heaven. Then come back and follow me.” On hearing this answer, the young man went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
—Matthew 19: 16-22
People search for meaning and fulfillment in life. Any believer wants to be with God and so we follow his will and his commandments. We follow His precepts and instructions. The “what to do and how to do it” in life are passed through generations and written down as commandments. These were revealed to our fathers and Moses, proclaimed by the judges and prophets, and preached by our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles.
If we want to do the will of God then we have to allow God to accept God so that he lives in us. And when God is with us, He leads us to the way of holiness. Hence, we can freely and joyfully follow Him and do what He wants us to do. This is in the case of the rich young man who very pious and religious all his life, a dutiful son of Israel, but he cannot let go. He has been enslaved by his material possessions, his wealth. He became a slave of such power that in reality has detached himself from God. He cannot follow Jesus because he cannot let go of his wealth, control, power, “good and comfortable life”.
Attachment is one major reason why a lot of people cannot just let go and move on in life. Attachment is full blown dependency. Attachment is not only to material things but also habitual practices. Attachment to people and events that one cannot just let go of things. Attachment is when people are so dependent and engrossed with positions and titles, entitlement in all sorts. People just cannot give up positions and refuse to let go of control and authority over people and wealth. People define themselves because of their positions and titles.
They may be in politics and governance, economics or religious affairs of any given society. And worst, when people are so concerned with what other people say about them.
The question of the rich young man can also be asked by us today, “Master what else must I do to receive eternal life?” It is also our question today. Jesus gave him an honest answer. Observing by the letters of the rules and following the rules are not enough to meet the standards of God and gain eternal life. It is more than that. It is when one is willing to give up everything for God. It is the giving of one’s life totally to God. To surrender oneself to God wholly is to follow God’s will.
But we hold on our wealth and cling to it. People have the tendency to accumulate goods, collect items, purchase properties for self satisfaction. And when we are asked to share with those in need and the poor, it seemed to be hard. Or when we do share, there are many conditions and restrictions. That is the irony: we are able and can afford to buy branded shirts and accessories worth by the thousands, luxury cars, or throwing parties superfluously; but when we are asked to support charity affairs for a particular cause, or during calamities that hit us (war, hunger, flashfloods, etc), we could hardly share.
What we would usually give are “used clothings” and out from “extra money.” “Extra money” may be a form of our savings but with no definite intention. When people in need solicit for donations, it’s easy for us to give away the “extras,” a portion of our riches with no value.
The command of the Lord is crystal clear, he told the rich young man to sell everything and give to the poor what he has, share with those who have nothing, then, he can come back and follow Him. Following Jesus is such a tough decision to take.
As we reflect on the Gospel reading, let us ask ourselves sincerely and honestly:
Am I enslaved by my wealth (material possession, position and power, title and control)?
When I am asked to give and share, do I do it heartily?
Do I follow God’s commandments faithfully?
Am I willing give up everything to follow Jesus and do his will?
Are we going back to Jesus and follow Him? Or be like the young man who went away sad for he cannot let go of his great wealth.
Prayer: Lord God, help us to recognize and realize the most important and basic things in life that we may only see the essentials and not the superficial. May we be able to detach from the luxuries, dependencies, attachments, and addictions around us so we may be able to follow you.
Help us to empty ourselves from whims, caprices and extremes of life. Lead us to the true way so as to follow you rightly. May we be worthy of your invitation and call to follow you, and so take your challenge faithfully. All these Father we ask through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.