The Rich Young Man - A Spiritual Reflection

I was listening to Mary Healey’s commentary on Matthew 19:29 ff. Her thoughts can be found on the audio reflection from Monday August 18, 2014 via the “Opening The Word” app that St. Monica offered during the “Ask - Seek - Know ” (ASK) Lenten series last year.

In examining this Scripture passage, the default comment is that we are possessed by our possessions. But this might be a bit simplistic and not entirely true to the Jewish roots of the Scripture Passage. The young man was a Jewish believer – devout and sincere. It is evident through his proclamation that he has followed the Commandments since his youth. Note that the Commandments that Jesus mentions have to do with those involving the command, “Love thy neighbor.” (Mark 12:28 ff quoting Leviticus 19:18). The man, like anyone going to a spiritual director, wants to go deeper, however. In effect he’s asking, “What am I missing? What am I not seeing?” It is then than Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4 ff … “Love GOD with ALL your mind, heart, body and soul.”

The young man finds this challenging. But Jesus was not asking the man to become impoverished. Maybe it’s not about the wealth of the young man but the skills to acquire wealth in order to enrich the lives of others. (See the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola and the “Three Pairs of Men and Embracing What is Best“)

The man asks, “What must I do to gain eternal life?” An ultimate question, one of several such as:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • What is my destiny?
  • Where did I come from?
  • How do I live my life in a way that fulfills my destiny?

As Mary Healey’s says, “The young man is not boasting. He’s not speaking as someone who is satisfied of his own accomplishments. He is speaking as a devout Jew.” He is a seeker and he seeks out Christ for answers. “There is a yearning in his heart that has been awakened by his encounter with Jesus.” And Jesus is encouraging the young man to examine what is holding him back in the young man’s relationship with Jesus.

Is there anything holding you back in the relationship with Jesus ?

Is the story tragic? Did the young man go away “holding on to earthly trinkets instead of grasping what was truly valuable?” Healey’s final sentence is key: Whatever is holding me back… “Help me see it and let go of it…Amen.” The life with Christ is a journey; the process takes time. Perhaps the man left - then came back to Christ later (as must we) - returning again, and again, and again. WE can’t do this on our own – no human being has the ability to do so. Only Christ can give us the grace, the strength, the direction, the resources to build up the relationship with Him and to address that which is holding us back in our relationship with Jesus.

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