October 11, 2015 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
October 11, 2015
Fr. George Smiga
The man has been waiting for some time. Perhaps he heard Jesus’ teaching or saw Jesus perform a miracle, but he has decided that he wants to be Jesus’ disciple. And he can’t wait. So he keeps watching from the sidelines, waiting for an opportunity to meet Jesus and introduce himself. Finally, one day as Jesus is setting out on a journey, he sees his chance. He runs forward and kneels before Jesus and asks for eternal life.
Now he expected that there would be some questions, and he handles them well, telling Jesus that he has followed all of God’s commandments from his youth. Things are going just as he had hoped. He can see that Jesus loves him and wants to accept him. And then it happens. Jesus asks him for more. He asks the man to sell his possessions. The man is not ready for this. Despite his enthusiasm and desire to follow Jesus, he begins to understand that he is not able to take the next step. So his face falls, and he goes away sad, because he realizes that he cannot not do what Jesus asks him to do.
Today’s gospel invites us to reflect: When has Christ asked us to do more than we were able to do? Has Christ asked us to leave an abusive or manipulative relationship? Has Jesus asked us to see the dignity in a person of a different sexual orientation? Has Jesus asked us to forgive someone who has hurt us or hurt the people we love? Jesus’ requests can often be demanding, and at one time or another we can find ourselves realizing that we are not able to do what Jesus wants us to do. And so, like the man in today’s gospel, we walk away sad.
Now if our obedience to Jesus’ commands depended only on us, that would be the end of the story. But our obedience does not depend on us alone. Later in the gospel Jesus tells his disciples that all things are possible with God. This is his way of saying that God has the power to change us, to change us into people who are more able to do what Jesus asks of us. If today we find ourselves unable to do what Jesus wants, it does not mean that it will always be that way. As we grow, as we think, as we learn from our mistakes, God’s grace is at work in us, changing us, making us new. So one day we may be able to do what Jesus asks.
The gospels never tell us whether the man in today’s story returned to Jesus, but I like to think he did. I like to believe that a day came when he again was eagerly watching for an opportunity from the sidelines, ran forward, and asked for eternal life. And this time, when Jesus asked for more, he was ready, and he followed him.
This possibility should give us hope. If we find Jesus asking us for more than we can deliver, it is time to trust. It is time to believe, to believe that God can change us into more courageous, less judgmental, more forgiving people, so that the next time that Jesus asks us for more, we will be ready, ready to walk after him as his disciples.