Divine Dialogue of God with the Soul
My Dear Good People,
In today’s Gospel we hear the story of a conversation between Jesus and the ‘Rich Young Man’ (Mark 10:17-30). This is not a parable: it really happened, a moment of encounter that did not end well, at least as far as we know. Let me tell you how I see it.
A young man who is identified as being rich, evidently because of the way he was dressed, asks Jesus an interesting question: Good Master, what do I have to do to gain eternal life? Jesus notes that title ‘good,’ and points out to him that only God is good. (Is He acknowledging that the young man knows He is God, after all?) Jesus tells him that he must obey the commandments, and begins to name them. The young man seems to interrupt him and says, I’ve done that all my life. What more must I do?
The operative word here is more. This young man is being called to something greater, and he is wrestling with a response. He obviously has a generous spirit and seeks closer union with God. Jesus knows him, so He says (though not quite in these words), Ah. You are asking the wrong question. You don’t just want to get to heaven; you are asking how to become perfect, to live a life for God and in God. Here is what you must do: Go, sell what you have, give it to the poor, and come follow Me.
This young man is being invited to a conversion. Conversion doesn’t just mean changing from Protestant to Catholic. It also means turning toward God in a deeper way, making Him central in one’s life. He is very pleased when we obey the commandments faithfully, but sometimes He asks more. Maybe He always asks for more. God wants to be everything for us, our Enough, in a way that’s unique for each of us. For this young man, it meant giving up his possessions, and living a radical life of poverty in service to the poor. For another it might mean beginning daily Mass attendance, or making a silent retreat in order to learn to pray more fervently.
How does God speak to me today? What prayer is He placing in my heart: is it How do I get to heaven? or is it What more can I do for You, my Lord? God invites us to learn to ‘live for Him.’ St. Augustine puts it this way in his Confessions: You have made us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You. Haven’t we all felt that restlessness? We seek for more. We seek greater holiness. We seek God. That’s the dialogue of God with the soul. Often as we wrestle with Him, we come face to face with Him. I didn’t mention it, but Mark tells us that when the young man asked what more he should do, Jesus looked at him with love. Let us watch for that look, that Gaze of Love that Jesus bestows on us when we seek to follow Him more closely.
And that young man? Unfortunately, he was unable to respond to this invitation. He went away sad, for he had many possessions, Mark tells us. But I like to think that he had second thoughts. When I get to heaven, I hope I remember to look for him. He may have been the man who carried the cross for Jesus on the way to Calvary, or one of the later disciples who served as missionary to India or Greece. Because that loving gaze is hard to resist. I know.
You probably do, too.
God bless you.