The rich man in the gospel had no idea what was coming, he just wanted to know what more he needed to do to inherit external life. He followed the Commandments in their entirety, not very challenging, since most people follow those 10 Laws anyhow. Jesus is calling the rich man, and each one of us, to a higher purpose and ideal. We are to sell, or let go of, those possessions or attitudes that control how we live our lives.
The man in the gospel had no idea what was coming, when Jesus told him what that extra thing he needed to do to inherit eternal life was: sell all his possessions and give to the poor. He walked away very sad, for his possessions possessed him.
Following the Law is just the beginning of discipleship, not the end result. We are called to living the Beatitudes, a lifestyle of self sacrifice and concern for the other. What is it that each one of us needs to “sell off,” or let go of, to live in the Kingdom? Perhaps I need to let go of my judgements, the need to control, jealous attitudes, pessimism, apathy or self righteousness. For some of us, maybe it is cutting back on spending money and buying things. Selling everything we have is not a ready made answer for most of us to follow, unless you are specifically called by God to a life of volunteer poverty. Let’s face it, the vast majority of us are NOT called to such a life.
But we are called to an INNER poverty that demands letting go of any and all attitudes and values that do not make us utterly dependent on God. Living the Sermon on the Mount, literally, which begins with the beatitudes, is much more painful than selling all of our possessions. A gospel lifestyle is so much more challenging, and rewarding, than just following the Law. Jesus is gazing at YOU in love, just as he gazed at the rich man in love, gently telling you what it is that you , in your own life, must do to inherit everlasting life. His words will not be easy to hear…they rarely are.
I believe the rich man went home and began to sell his possessions, one by one, very slowly, perhaps taking a lifetime. God takes us where we are at.
Peace. Fr. Frank