Our Gospel today tells us about a rich young man who RAN to Jesus...filled with enthusiasm but that his face fell when he found out that he had to give his belongings away to the poor. We need a bit of background to truly understand what is at the heart of this gospel.
In Jesus' time, poverty and sickness were a sign of divine retribution. Meaning that if you were poor, it meant that you were cursed. God had brought his wrath down on you because of your sin. Riches, conversely, meant that God was thinking well of you.
Jesus turns this on its head and says that not poverty but riches is what keeps us from God. That the rich have forgotten about other human beings and that their condescension would be their undoing.
So when the rich young man comes and says that he keeps all the commandments, Jesus sees that he may in fact be someone open enough to hear his message. But he chooses his riches over "those other people."
The rich young man is a microcosm for all of our own boundaries that we set up; the things that keep us from loving God and establishing God's kingdom. What boundaries do I set up each day? Do I pre-judge people like the homeless, the elderly, the unborn, those who think ill of me or who I think I have all figured out?
Do I set myself up in a safe enclave so that I create a separation between those who have less than I do? Am I mindful of those who are much poorer than we in the United States are--or are they just others in far oft lands.
We cannonized Damien, the leper priest yesterday who went to the colony of Molokai and didn't allow himself to be separated from those with Hanson's Disease. In fact he embraced them. Am I willing to tear down these kinds of boundaries in order to really live within God's love?
Your humble blogger is Mike Hayes, a well-known expert in the world of young adult ministry (20s and 30s) in the Catholic Church. Mike is the author of Googling God (Paulist, 2007) where he explores both the chaotic world that young people live in and their religious reactions to that world. He also explores the age of instant gratification and how churches can respond to the needs of the young adult age by using technology alongside more traditional ministry methods.
Mike founded the award winning BustedHalo.com® in 2001 and continues to contribute to it as the editor of their catechetical section appropriately named Googling God.
Recently, he left BustedHalo® to focus on more direct ministry with young people at St Joseph University Parish as a Campus Minister for the South Campus at the University at Buffalo.
He has only two loves: his adorable wife, Marion and a nine pound chihuahua named Haze, who still find him amusing enough to let them live in their home.