Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, with his disciples who have left everything to follow him. Persecution is likely. A rich man comes before Jesus with great enthusiasm: he runs, he kneels. Jesus looks at him with love. Yet he is the only person in the Gospels who refuses Jesus’ call. What went wrong?
Was there a touch of the Pharisee in him? Is he saying: “what will guarantee me eternal life?” This attitude is not good enough! Jesus loved him and looks for love in return. Jesus looks for a personal commitment. Nothing less than letting go of his “great wealth” would suffice.
Are we invited to do the same? Jesus’ context needs some reflection. For 30 years Jesus seems to have led a fairly normal life. But then this hectic, on-the-road life; nowhere to lay his head; every minute focused on preaching the good news; doing as much as he could before the showdown in Jerusalem. The rich man would have known about this itinerant life-style. Perhaps he had no family obligations but in the end his “great wealth” held him back.
What are we invited to do? First of all we must look at the context God has given us. Students must study. Married people must care for one another and for their families. God doesn’t expect me to go off next week to preach the good news in, say Leeds, and the week after in London. My work is here! We are invited in our present context to ask how we put our “great wealth” at the service of God and others. As we do so, I think today we are more aware that our “great wealth” includes all the gifts we have; especially the knowledge and skills we possess or, as students, are in the process of acquiring.
Listening prayerfully to the word of God is fundamental. God’s word is “alive and active”. Let God’s word into your thoughts and emotions and it will help you. Praying for wisdom is essential. “I prayed and understanding was given me; I entreated and Wisdom came to me”. You too with prayer can be as wise as Solomon. Prayer gives you space and time and help to find God’s will.
I would encourage you to take all the steps you can to deepen you relationship with Christ. I would encourage you to get involved with all the helps provided by the chaplaincy. In some way they will all help to open your mind to the word of God.
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Ian Tomlinson SJ