When I was in elementary school, they used to have these dental professionals come in to teach us about better dental health and hygiene and whatnot. I’m not sure if they still do this or not, but included in our little packets were these red tablets that you would chew before you brushed your teeth, and if there were any red areas on your teeth afterward that meant that you didn’t brush well enough in those spots.
Now, in the Gospel today we come across this guy who’s come to be known as the rich young man. If we look at him, he’s really not doing too bad; he’s got a lot of things put together. First, we see that he runs up to Jesus. He’s uber excited to get to Jesus, to have this great encounter. He kneels down before Him—a sign of respect and reverence and adoration and worship. And what does he ask Jesus? How to inherit eternal life. He gets that this is ultimately what we’re made for, for eternal union with God. Jesus reminds him about the commandments, and he’s like, “Man, I’ve been doing that my whole life.” This guy isn’t some big sinner or anything. He’s doing pretty good. And Jesus looks upon him with love. He looks upon him with love.
Yet this guy ends up being this tragic character. Jesus says, “You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” But as we hear, “At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” The gaze of divine love fell upon this guy and called him to be a full, intentional disciple. To use our earlier image, it’s like this guy was given one of those red tablets and was shown what he was missing in order to truly be all-in. But he couldn’t do it. And he walked away. Sad.
What about us, dear brothers & sisters? After all, here we are today at church/at Mass. I would like to think that we value a lived discipleship; that if any of us were asked if following Jesus and doing what Jesus asks of us was important, none of us would say “no” and walk away. Yet the call today is, in a sense, to take one of those red tablets, and after chewing things over, to see what it is that we are still lacking, or what things that possess us we need to get rid of. For example, in our first Parish IGNITION Night last Sunday, Greg Schlueter talked about “The 5 P’s”—pleasure, popularity, position, power, and prosperity—that we need to empty ourselves of. What is it for me in my life?
Friends, Jesus looks upon each of us with perfect love. It’s not a gaze that any of us have earned by being able to check off commandments that we’ve followed or prayers that we’ve said or anything like that. God looks upon each of us with perfect love because that’s what God does. But this look of love brings with it the call to give up everything and follow Jesus, who is the human face of God [Pope Benedict XVI], to live that radical discipleship that our Church and world need [Bishop Daniel Thomas].
Does our acknowledgment that it’s important to follow Jesus—or even our making the effort to come into His Presence today—lead us to truly commit to having our life wrapped up in Christ’s, to truly being all-in? This is the challenge, brothers & sisters, for you and for me. But it shouldn’t make us sad; it should ignite and enliven the Spirit within us and a desire for more—for the more that God wants to fill us with.
How will we approach the Lord today?
And then the more important question: what will this sacred encounter cause us to do?
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