October 11, 2009


Go, sell what you have, & give to the poor & you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. – Mk. 10: 21

First, we are told that Jesus loved this fellow, then in the next breath He is asking him to give up everything he owns. No pat on the head or thumbs up, so what gives? It’s along the lines of having to tell someone we care about something difficult because we care about them. It’s telling the truth in love. If we didn’t care so much, we wouldn’t bother.

Jesus loves this fellow too much to let him settle for being “a good man,” period. Mediocrity is not good enough. “Hey,” He says, “You can do better than that!” Jesus is speaking to us too, you know, & that is the lesson of the Gospel. We can do better than what we are doing, especially in the way that we imitate the possessiveness & consumerism of our culture. In other words, the Gospel is not about riches per se, but about this truth: no matter where we stand on the economic ladder, what can we let go of for the sake of greater love, greater growth, & greater witness?

The Gospel is about love’s challenge, about the fellow who was willing to do more but was unable to do with less. In short, it is about three things:

1) It’s about escalation, about consumption, competition, about keeping up with the Joneses at the cost of camouflaging our Christianity, at the cost of making us less visible disciples. We’ve all had the experience of acquiring something we regarded as a luxury only to have it turn into a necessity. We fill our houses making it necessary to rent mini-warehouses to contain our excesses. We rationalize, & no one ever suspects that Jesus is looking at us with love saying we can do better, that we are NOT like everybody else.

2) How far are we willing to be different? Put another way, what is standing between us & a more fundamentally gospel-lived life? I know a fellow in England who was a self-made millionaire. After a conversion experience, he established trust funds for his wife & children, he sold his Rolls Royces, his race horses & stables, put the rest of his fortune into a philanthropic trust, & became a $1 a year man while continuing to run his company. He has never regretted his decision to march to a different drumbeat, & people have no trouble indentifying him as a disciple.

3) Are we really willing to share what we have with the poor?

Two college students are riding a subway in New York . A homeless man approaches them, asking for money. One adamantly rejects the man in disgust. The other whips out his wallet, & gladly hands a couple of dollars over with a smile. The first student is outraged by his friend’s act of generosity. “What on earth did you do that for?” he shouts. “You know he’s only going to use it for booze!” The second student replies, “And we weren’t?”

Jesus looks upon us with a tough love that reminds us that, good people that we are, we can & must do better. Don’t walk away sad. Accept the Gospel challenge. AMEN!