Days of Preparation: Week Four/Session Two.
Theme: God’s Invitation to Greater Freedom.
Our reading for today: Mark 10: 17-27.
(The rich young man) said, “Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept (the commandments) all!” Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.” The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.
Looking at His disciples, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s Kingdom?” The disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: “You can’t imagine how difficult. I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s Kingdom.” That set the disciples back on their heels. “Then who has any chance at all?” they asked. Jesus was blunt: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.” (Mark 10: 20-27 MsgB)
Eugene Peterson states in his Message Study Bible that verse 21 is the key verse in unlocking the mystery to this very difficult story about the rich young man who missed his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a disciple of Jesus.
Jesus looked him hard in the eye – and loved him!
And let’s be gut-honest here. Loving this guy is one hard assignment. First, he trots up to Jesus as a total stranger, throwing out empty compliments (O Good Teacher) and religious questions (What must I do to inherit eternal life?) like they were $100 dollar bills. Jesus, apparently sees right through this man’s word games and refuses to play. Turning his question back on him, Jesus seems in no mood for religious conversations that have no actions attached to the words.
“I’ve kept all the commandments faithfully from my youth,” the proud young man proclaims. Now, if it were you or me responding to this self-righteous windbag, the next words found in the Bible would be, “BS!” But Jesus is much kinder than us, correct? So the Master takes in all of this guy’s bluster, looks him in his one good eye, and (…wait for it) still loves him!
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saves a wretch like me!
Jesus, in His love for this two-times-of-a-son-of-a-gun, offers this egocentric BS-er, an opportunity of a lifetime. Just think of it. This guy might have ended up becoming one of the twelve apostles. Who knows? With enough time spent with Jesus, this young man might have eventually become the writer of a gospel, or one who traveled with the apostle Paul to the ends of the earth. Gosh, with God and since all things are possible with Him, maybe we’d be singing the praises of this guy like we do Simon Peter or John the Beloved?
But wait. Jesus, in His love, extends to this young man, what I call, an Invitation to Empty.
“Go sell all that you have,” Jesus states. Or in other words, “The trappings of this life are holding you back, son, from being all God sees you can be. In order to be free of all that, so you can become the man I see you becoming, you’ll need to jettison these earthly suitcases you’re carrying, so that we can walk simply and lightly into the new things I have for you.”
I can just imagine the way the man might have looked at Jesus, the One who loved him, heard his words, but then looked down at the heavy suitcases he had in his hands, only to decide that the bird in his hand was better than the offer coming from the burning bush.
Yikes. Jesus’ Invitation to Empty.
How will I respond when the One who loves me more than anyone else on the planet invites me to put down my toys and come follow Him? What will go through my mind when I’m standing there with Jesus? He’s holding the keys to my life’s future, but there I am with my hands full of earthly stuff. How will I decide which way to go? Sadly, the rich young man blew his invitation. I pray that I won’t be such a bonehead!
My prayer: Jesus, I’m sad for this man’s empty response to Your Invitation to Empty. But what about me? Holy Spirit, please empower me to let go of my earthly stuff in order that I’ll be completely free to take Jesus’ offer seriously. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So what’s in my hands today that Jesus is asking me to lay down? What do I need to sell in this life in order to be completely free to follow Jesus wherever He may want to go in the days ahead?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.