Oct 11, 2009

The Boundaries of the Rich Man

"For he had many possessions and went away sad."

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?

Or am I just another rich young man?

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