Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
What group of people represent the greatest threat to Catholicism in today’s world? Communists? The New Atheists? Secularists? Radical Muslims? While each category might stake its respective claim to the title, I would propose a group much closer to home. The greatest threat to Catholicism in today’s world are people like the rich young man, people who profess belief with their tongues, and even with part of their lives, yet who nevertheless hold back from the Lord the very portion of their lives which He is seeking.
These people always “go away sad.” Rather live their Christian discipleship with courage and vibrancy, they allow their souls to be weighed down by secondary concerns. Hearing Jesus calling them clearly to let go their grasp upon a cherished aspect of their lives, they clench all the tighter. Thereafter, their souls become weighed down. Though they may profess their allegiance loudly, their witness lacks the joy which draws others closer to Christ; rather, they push people farther away.
All of us have a bit of the rich young man within us. All of us delimit the areas of our lives to which the Lord has access. Allowing the Lord to enter these areas might be one of the fiercest struggles of our lives. We have only to read this passage, however, to gain new strength in the battle. If those who say “no” go away sad, then those who say “yes” must be walking the path of peace and joy. Let us therefore take courage in listening for the Lord’s call and be quick in answering.
—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.
Lord, the story of the rich young man reminds us of the plight of African monkeys. Hunters slice a coconut in two and cut a hole at the face of one of the halves of the shell. It will be just big enough for a monkey’s hand to pass through. Then they place an orange in the other coconut half and then the two halves are fastened together. Finally, the coconut is placed on a tree with a rope.
Sooner or later, an unsuspecting monkey smells the delicious orange and discovers its location inside the coconut. Then it slips its hand through the small hole, grasps the orange, and tries to pull it through the hole. Of course, the orange won’t come out; it is too big for the hole. Even when the monkey sees the hunters approaching, it does not release the orange and run away. Instead, it becomes even more frantic to take the orange with it. The poor, foolish animal is entrapped by its own greed for it cannot have both the orange and its freedom at the same time.
Lord, sometimes we are like the rich, young man and the monkey. On the one hand we, too, might pray, “Save me, O God, please save me. Only do not ask me to let go of the orange.” Lord, help me to confront what is inside of my “coconut” causing me to resist your call and limiting your abundant generosity. Help me to face this question honestly and to begin this day to release my grip.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team