The story is told with special intensity. Jesus sets out on the road to Jerusalem, but before he leaves where he is, here comes «running» someone unknown who «falls down on his knees» before Jesus to stop him. He needs Jesus urgently.
He isn’t a sick person asking for healing. He isn’t a leper who begs compassion from down on the ground. He request is of a different order. What he’s seeking from that good master is light to guide his life: «What must I do to inherit eternal life?». It isn’t a theoretical question, but an existential one. He’s not talking in general; he wants to know what he personally must do.
Before anything else, Jesus reminds him that «no one is good but God alone». Before considering what needs to be «done», we need to know that we live in the presence of a God who is good like no one else: it’s in God’s unfathomable goodness that we must support our life. Later he reminds him about this good God’s «commandments». According to the biblical tradition, that is the path to eternal life.
The man’s answer is admirable. He has fulfilled all that from his childhood, but he feels inside himself a deeper aspiration. He’s seeking something more. «Jesus looked steadily at him and he was filled with love for him». His gaze is already expressing the personal and intense relationship that he wants to establish with him.
Jesus understands very well his dissatisfaction: «You need do one thing more». Following the man’s logic of «doing» what’s commanded in order to «inherit» eternal life, even though he live in a faultless way, he will not be fully satisfied. In human beings there is a more profound aspiration.
That’s why Jesus invites him to direct his life from a new logic. What’s most important isn’t holding onto his possessions: «sell what you own». Next, help the poor: «give the money to the poor». Lastly «come, follow me». The two of them will be able to run together on the path towards God’s reign.
The man stands up and leaves Jesus. He forgets Jesus’ loving gaze and goes away sad. He knows that he never will be able to know the joy and liberty of those who follow Jesus. Mark tells us that «he was a man of great wealth».
- Isn’t that our experience of satisfied Christians in wealthy countries?
- Don’t we live trapped by material well-being?
- Doesn’t our religion lack the practical love for the poor?
- Don’t we lack the joy and liberty of Jesus’ followers?
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf