The Rev’d Penny Body
Click here to read the Reflection
Gospel Mark 10 17 to 27
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.’[d]”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is[e] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
I feel so sorry for the rich young man in this story. He wants to enter eternal life, the kingdom of God and to follow Jesus but he can’t. And the sadness is because he could, if he wanted to enough, but he doesn’t. The only thing stopping him is his attachment to his worldly wealth and possessions and even for the most important thing of all – entering into eternal life – he is unable to let that go.
We probably all have experiences of wanting something – but not quite enough to give something else up or to be able to change a behaviour that is stopping us reaching that goal. Perhaps wanting to go on holiday – but needing to give up a daily trip to the coffee shop to save the money to go. Or maybe wanting to reconcile with a friend or family member, but needing to give up a resentment and forgive them first. All sorts of things stop us from doing things we want to. And all sorts of things can stop us being free to answer Jesus’s call to follow him.
Attachment to things and behaviours that we can’t give up ultimately stop us being free. They anchor us to where we are and stop us moving on. But it’s a tricky thing to become detached from things that feel so important.
Being detached instead of attached, does not need to mean we don’t care for something, or love somebody – cherish a flower or cradle a baby. It does mean though that we are leaving ourselves free to follow God’s will in any particular situation, rather than our own, if the two should be at odds. It means we need not be so committed to a particular course of action, project or outcome that we plough on regardless if we should realise in time that it’s not God’s will. In the context of this gospel reading, it means that we can place an equal, if not greater value, on things that cannot be measured in terms of money – things of love, generosity, patience, kindness – even sacrifice – and not be held back by the need for physical wealth and security.
Though he wanted what Jesus was offering – the young man was unable to do good with his possessions and wealth – to give of what he had generously for the benefit of the poor and to follow Jesus.
Perhaps the question to ask ourselves today is – is there anything that we are holding onto so dearly that it is stopping us moving on – in our lives, and in our journey of following Jesus. And if there is – but we think that change might be too much for us to contemplate – we can recall Jesus’s words of encouragement to his disciples.
As Jesus looked upon the young man with love, so he looks upon us with the same love as we hear him say to us “with man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God”.
Instead of walking away, we only need to lay our dilemmas before God. If we trust him, we will find that miraculously whatever is stopping us being free to follow him, will be resolved.
The Collect for the weekdays after Pentecost
O Lord, from whom all good things come:
grant to us your humble servants,
that by your holy inspiration
we may think those things that are good,
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.