The Meaning of the “More”
Monday: Eighth week of the Year May 23, 2016
Year I: Sirach 17:19-27; Psalm 32:1-7; Year II: 1Peter 1:3-9; Psalm 111:1-10.
In this reading Jesus gives another example of how his Good News — which transfigures all of human life as Jesus was transfigured on the mountain top (Mark 9:2) — changes completely our view of money and possessions.
Everything starts at ground level. Well, almost. A young man asks Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He is already above ground level: only God’s divine life is “eternal”— without beginning or end. Jesus picks up on that and introduces the divine dimension of absolute Goodness: “Why do you call me Good? No one is Good but God alone.” We are beyond a merely human conversation here.
This is lost on the boy, of course, so Jesus meets him where he is — where all of us are before the Good News — and tells him how to live a good human life: “Keep the Commandments.” The young man answers that he is already familiar with that kind of religion: “been there, done that, got the tee shirt.” He knows there has to be more. Then Jesus “looked at him with love” and said, “There is one thing missing. Go, sell all you own and give to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven.”
The boy asked for “eternal life.” Jesus tells him how to get it. To enjoy the divine life of God in heaven, we have to live on the level of God here on earth. Ordinary human goodness won’t do it. We have to “lose” our human life to find divine life. “Die” to everything on earth to live only for the Kingdom of God (see Matthew 6:33). Jesus has just shown how this transfigures marriage (Mark 9:2-8; 10:2-12). Now he shows how it transfigures ownership.
We don’t literally “sell all.” But John Paul II says that this invitation and promise “are meant for everyone, because they bring out the full meaning of the commandment of love for neighbor….” (The Splendor of Truth, nos. 18-21). As Christians we “own” only to give. We live only to serve God as Christ’s risen body on earth by helping others. Our goal in keeping every Commandment is to help our neighbor come into the fullness of life, because this is what Jesus lived for.
The boy “went away sad, for he had many possessions.” Wrong move. He should have stayed and grown out of them. He thought that impossible. Jesus said, “With God all things are possible.” The Good News is that Jesus accepts us as we are, where we are, and leads us — gradually — to where we need to be. He provides the “new skins” (Mark 2:22) we need to bear prophetic witness to him.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Don’t set limits, and don’t think Jesus does. Let him lead and lift you.