In the gospel of Mark, we find the story of the "rich young man." I would guess that most of us know it pretty well. A man comes to Jesus, a good man, and he is searching for more than just being Mr. Nice Guy. He has a burning desire to get beyond the mere following of the rules. He has a thirst for something (or perhaps Someone) that the Law simply cannot fully satisfy, so he turns to this new Master.
People say Jesus is… qodesh, different. And He is different. The Hebrew word also means holy. He travels with the poor, He owns nothing, He asks for nothing (seemingly), and yet thousands follow Him. His very glance, they say, can heal. He speaks with authority, and deep joy streams from Him like rivers. They say "We have never seen anything like this before."
Jesus listens to the rich young man's plea, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Haven't we all asked this question, in some way, shape or form? Today, the question might be phrased "How can I be truly, finally, and fully happy."
Mark's gospel says of Jesus, "looking at him, he loved him…" What a powerful image in itself! The God of the universe, listening and looking at me! And I looking back at Him! St. Theresa of Avila says that's the essence of real prayer. "Watch Him watching you. Look at Him looking at you."
And Jesus said to him…
(OK here it comes! The answer to my heart's deepest longing! Yes, I'm ready. Bring it on!)
"You are lacking in one thing…"
(One thing, that's it? OK, what is it? I can do this!)
"Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."
Sell what I have? Give it away? But I thought these were the blessings You gave me? I thought the land and the crops and the comforts were all Your gifts. If I do good then the blessings come, right?
"Let them go. Don't cling to them. They are not Me. They are only reflections of Me. Only a foretaste of the Kingdom to Come. The first glimmers of a sunrise but not yet the Son."
The gospel continues… "At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions."
We don't know what came of this young man. But his searching for truth and his most moving of questions has afforded the millions of us after him with the teaching of what we must do to be perfect. Let them go. Don't let your possessions possess you.
Listen to the words of Jesus, words that seem tinged with sorrow, whispered as this young man walked away: "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples are stunned 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."
When I was young, I remember a priest telling us that in the Temple in Jerusalem there was a certain gate called the Needle's Eye. For a camel to pass through it, the travellers had to unpack its heavy load, taking away all of the luggage that could hinder it's entrance, and the camel had to stoop to get in. But it could be done. True or not, I like the image.
I think Heaven has a Cross-shaped Door. For us to enter in, we must open wide our arms. We must let go of the things we hold so precious here below. Even the slightest grasping of a gift other than the one before us will hinder our entrance into Love. Why such a narrow way? Because Love wants all of us, and we should want only Love.
Can we let go? Can we unpack from our hearts all of the useless baggage, the clutter, the sins of the past that have been forgiven? Can we move forward in the shape of the Cross, on the radical path, the Way of Total Self-Giving, through the eye of the needle, letting all of the excesses of our lives be knocked away, chipped away by the Sculptor's hammer?
This is the challenge of the Gospel, this is the freedom we are made for. Searching our hearts, so long deceived by the lies of materialism, we know it's true. Possessions can't fill the void, only a person can. We are made for relationship and communion, not consumption. And this communion with persons here below is still not the fullness, for they too are signs and sacraments of the Person of Jesus, the One Who alone can satisfy us!
So let's let go, finally! Let's let God, completely… make us truly rich.