And when Jesus heard it, He said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Today’s verse, like yesterday’s, is a passage, like so many in Scripture, about the relationship between God, us, and our stuff. Yesterday’s verse was about a poor woman who wanted to give herself totally to God and who made her stuff a token of that total self-giving. Today’s verse is about a rich young man who wanted to keep himself from God and who made his stuff a substitute for the real (and highly demanding) God. To be sure, he did correct things. But all his good deeds constituted a sort of huge anteroom around the Holy of Holies in his soul: his attachment to earthly treasure (and, no doubt, to all that this treasure represented: power, self-sufficiency, a certain sense of freedom from fear — in short, the illusion that we are not impoverished). However open the anteroom was to God, the Holy of Holies stayed locked and double-bolted. Jesus breezed through the anteroom of Good Deeds Done to Prove We’re was Good Enough and addressed instantly the idol in the Holy of Holies, banging on the door and demanding that it had to go. Sooner or later, every one of us has to face our poverty too, especially if we’ve covered it up with a lot of wealth. If we do it wrong, we turn away like the rich young man, terrified of discovering how needy he is. If we do it right, we find the joy of St. Francis and the freedom of Lady Poverty.