Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The familiar story of the rich young man which we hear in the Gospel this weekend provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our own lives. Rich or poor, how do we approach Jesus? Is there anything in our lives that stands as an obstacle to a living, vibrant relationship with our Lord?
Jesus makes it clear that it is hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. This is true for several reasons. A person of wealth can easily grow accustomed to having things their way, to obtaining whatever they desire – though money can never buy happiness, it can buy material comfort. It is also possible for people who have a degree of wealth to be given preferential treatment in certain (or even most) situations. In contemporary parlance, we call this privilege, and that word is rarely uttered with a positive connotation. Put another way, it is possible for those who are rich in material things to adopt an attitude of entitlement, which can lead to a lack of humility and an increase of pride.
The rich young man, though, is sincere. He truly wants to go to heaven and have a relationship with God. When Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, the man answers truthfully that he has observed the commandments religiously his entire life. His heart is in the right place. Jesus looks at him with love because He can see the young man’s genuine desire for a life of union with God. But our Lord knows that following the commandments is not the sum total of a relationship with God. Again and again, Jesus calls us not only to fulfill the commandments, but also to go with Him. The young man finds himself unable to follow Jesus, not because the commandments are too hard, but because he is too attached to his material wealth. He does not believe he is capable of living without his stuff. Perhaps more, the rich young man is used to a certain lifestyle and to the deference shown him because of his wealth. Now, he is asked to follow, to associate with the poor, to forsake privilege. This, it seems, is a bridge too far, and he goes away sad, knowing that he has been invited to something great, but is not able to accept the invitation because he is unwilling to humbly change his life.
It is no secret that Fairfield is a fairly wealthy community and that attitudes of entitlement and privilege exist, most often with negative consequences. Do we see these attitudes in ourselves? If so, do we recognize that they are obstacles to a life of discipleship? Are we willing to let go of our privileged attitudes and our tendency toward self-sufficiency in order to listen more carefully to Jesus? Let us today reflect on the obstacles to Jesus that exist in our lives, remembering that Jesus looks at us with love and never withdraws His invitation to be His disciples.