Daily Reflection – 5/29/2023
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him 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.” At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” ( Mark 10:17-27)
This parable is not about an economic process. And it’s not about Jesus disliking wealth. Instead, it is about Jesus seeing into the heart of a person and identifying our greatest need.
In the end it is not how much money we have, how many people like us, how much work we have finished; but rather how happy we are that matters. Although it might not seem so at first, this question is a profoundly religious question. Because, as all people of faith know, our ability to be happy, our ability to live life deeply is directly connected to our relationship with God. If we seek life and happiness, we cannot find them apart from the One who is the source of all life and happiness. We cannot answer this ultimate question apart from God.
Rabbi Abraham Heschel, one of the great religious thinkers of the last century, has said that only three things are necessary for us to connect with God: God’s willingness to love us, the capacity of the human soul to receive that love, and a moment in which those two realities can meet. Moreover, Rabbi Heschel insists that there is not a time in our lives when any one of those three things is missing. God is always loving us, we are always capable of receiving that love, and there is always a moment in which we and God can connect. Therefore, in this sense, finding joy and connecting with God is easy. It is simple, immediately accessible, like breathing in and breathing out, as present to us as our own consciousness.
Yet at the same time connecting with God is challenging and elusive. That is what today’s gospel is about. For in this gospel, Jesus and a man who runs up to him try to connect. All three things that are necessary are there. Jesus is willing. He loves the man and offers to him joy and discipleship. The man is open. He has kept the commandments his entire life. He seeks Jesus out and asks for his direction and advice. The moment is there, when Jesus and the man meet, where joy is offered and deeply desired. And yet—nothing happens. The man walks away grieving. How is this possible? How is it possible to have life and joy so freely offered and so deeply desired and yet have nothing happen?
The simple answer is: something else got in the way. The gospel says that the man left because he had many possessions. We do not know what those possessions were, but whatever they were, the man put them before what Jesus was offering. Whatever they were, they distracted him from the life and the joy that Jesus was offering and that he so deeply desired. That is the tragedy of today’s gospel. It is a tragedy which you and I can share.
We can be so involved in our work, in our responsibilities, in our problems, in our aches and pains, that we miss the beauty that surrounds us. In missing that beauty, we miss the joy that it can give us and the God who offers it to us. Think of the people in your life who love you, who belong to you, who give you joy. Could you imagine greater blessings? Yet we can become so preoccupied by all we need to do before we go to bed tonight, by the things which make us angry, by the way we want our lives to be different, that we miss the love that surrounds us.
In missing that love, we miss the joy that it can give us and the God who offers it to us. Look at the real opportunities that are present to you in your life right now: the opportunity to grow, the opportunity to understand, to serve, to laugh, to enjoy what you have been given. Yet we can be so deadened by the routine of living, by doing the next thing, by responding only to the next impulse, that all of those opportunities pass us by. When they pass us by, we have lost the joy they can bring and the God who offers them to us.
In this very moment, God is offering you what you desire. In this moment, there is love and joy and beauty. Take it! Do not turn and walk away. Do not place anything between yourself and what God is offering. Step over the obstacles and accept the embrace that God offers you.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, you have captured our hearts and opened to us the treasures of heaven. May you always be my treasure and delight and may nothing else keep me from giving you my all.”
Why does Jesus tell his disciples to “sell all” for the treasure of his kingdom? Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. The Lord himself is the greatest treasure we can have. Giving up everything else to have the Lord as our treasure is not sorrowful, but the greatest joy.