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Monday, January 19, 2009

I Know Why He Went Away Sad

17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: 'You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.'" 20 He replied and said to him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth." 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 22 At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

I know why the young man went away sad.

His question posed to Christ, asked in desperation while on his knees, is the same one we all ask, throughout our lives. And the answer given is a call to hardship, which we will only hear if we are truly open to hear it.

Notice that first Jesus told him what he already knew, just as we all hear over and over again what we already know; to follow the Commandments. In essence, he told the man to walk in holiness. And He does this so that the man will ask for more; this simple answer isn't enough, and Jesus knows it. He's setting him up to ask the question, "What more can I do?"

But that's a dangerous question, isn't it? If we had been present at that scene, we would have seen a young man desperate to know the next step, to do the next thing, to grow in holiness, even though he didn't yet know what that meant.

Until Christ explained that he, the rich young man, was lacking. Yes. He was lacking. The Commandments weren't enough.

I love the next line: "Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him..."

Profound. Jesus looks at us all in this manner. When we come to Him, desiring more, desiring to know Him, we have already responded to the grace to come and kneel at His feet. He looks at us, and He loves us.

All day long, everywhere I've looked, that message has come home to me. Over and over again. In scripture passages. In articles I read at work while putting a project together. When I said I couldn't find God in something, His action was pointed out by other people.

We all want to know that Our Lord loves us, but when He reveals His love, and we see what that really means, it can be terrifying in its strength, in its purity, and in the necessary sacrifice that reveals it.

Jesus told the young man what he must do; not just obey the commandments, but give up EVERYTHING to follow Him. The man wanted to follow Him, but didn't understand until then that doing so would require everything of him. Nothing in reserve.


He had to be willing to offer his life, fully and without reserve.

Jesus, looked at him, loved him.

Today, Jesus looked at me, and loved me, too.

And the words He speaks terrify me.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

Jesus doesn't mince words; following Him is a life of sacrifice. Entering the kingdom of God means we must surrender our "wealth", even if what we have is pitiful. If we're attached to it, it means we give it value; that makes it wealth. And as long as we hold it in reserve, we can't really follow Christ. We have to be ready to let it go.

Possessions possess us.

26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?"
27 Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." 28 Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you." 29 Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 30 who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.

Today I received an email from the Vocation Director at the Cistercian community I had contacted. She is sending me information and has encouraged me to continue to discern whether God might be calling me in that direction, believing our contact was providential.

This evening in speaking with a friend, I told him that I really do want to visit the Cistercians, and told him how crazy this idea is. It's completely insane. And all he said was, "Don't you realize that's how you know it comes from God?"

I don't think he had any idea how hard that statement hit me. I truly hadn't thought of that.

It was one thing to be considering religious life; many communities really don't live that much differently than I do already. Yes, I have stuff, and I'd be happier without it. The idea of getting rid of my possessions really isn't so bad. There are things that would be difficult, but I know I could do it and ultimately they would not prevent me from following where Our Lord calls.

But there are things I hold in reserve. My own private stash of personal wealth. It's not money. It's not jewelry, or anything else.

It's my life. I'm still guarding it jealously. Jesus wants it, everything, without reserve, and I'm still screaming, "It's mine!"

But no, it's not. It's a gift, and as such, he'll let me do what I want with it. So on one hand I have my perceived definitions of happiness and freedom; I think of the little things in life, and the bigger things, like my friends, the ability to travel to visit them, a so-far unrealized desire to visit the Holy Land. Things I want. Things I'd miss. My family, my small immediate family.

But I'm being drawn towards the Cistercians. Austerity incarnate. Giving up EVERYTHING, even the smallest of pleasures. No more comfy bed. No more cushy job.

Obedience. Penance. Chosen suffering.

After living so long on my own...obedience in small daily matters, my will given for the glory of God, to another. For holiness.

And not just for myself, but to die to myself, and live for others. For their salvation. To be free to carry out sacrifices on their behalf, offering what they cannot.

I have wealth to offer, although I've never seen it as wealth before.

Myself. I can offer myself.

And that's why the young man went away sad; because he knew what Our Lord offered him so generously, and what he had to offer in return.

And he wondered if the price was too great.

And so he went away sad.

We don't know if he ever returned; we assume he did not, so we'll never know the end of that story.

But we do know that Jesus loved him, and the man went away sad.

And therin is what we all need to think about; how can one profoundly realize the love of Jesus, and then choose anything less?

That's what makes us sad.



Hidden One said...


uncle jim said...

i dunno

seems like such a stretch to me

but then again...

who knows?

God knows

MemoriaDei said...

The Holy Spirit is certainly speaking. And you are opening the ears of your heart. Praise God.

The Ironic Catholic said...

"And therin is what we all need to think about; how can one profoundly realize the love of Jesus, and then choose anything less?"

Ignatius of Loyola said that shock a few folks into what was really going in the spiritual warfare that is our lives.

Peace today.

Paul said...

"It's my life. I'm still guarding it jealously. Jesus wants it, everything, without reserve, and I'm still screaming, "It's mine!""

Isn't that the truth. And it's true even for those of us who are called to live in the world, and/or have families. It still must ALL, ALL, ALL belong to Jesus ALL the time. Most (?ALL?) of my frustration, sadnmess, anger and exhaustion is due to the fact that I still try to hold onto some shred of self, self will, want, or comfort instead of humbly surrendering fully to Jesus and accepting happily what he does with me. My post on Charles de Foucauld and the Prayer of Abandonment comes to mind.

God Bless


Anonymous said...

There are some difficult passages in scripture and that one has always tugged at my heartstrings. I'll be praying for you.

Father Schnippel said...

as always, good words.

the response to a vocation requires action, not just sitting. go for the visit, and see what happens.

ck said...

"It's completely insane." And all he said was, "Don't you realize that's how you know it comes from God?"

Good call!

Until last year I had never spoken to a crowd for more than 5 minutes and it was always an exercise in humiliation. Lately I've been agreeing to speak publicly about my faith just to prove it is impossible and all of a sudden I'm getting applause. I'd be less surprised if I walked on water! When it's insane and impossible, it has to be God.

Smiley said...

How worse it is for one who does not practice the commandments to ever reach the kingdom.
Pray for me please

Adoro said...

Smiley ~ We all struggle to follow the Commandments. It's called sin. We all do it, and that's why we have Confession available to us, that's why God designed us in such a way that we can direct our wills towards Him...and repent. That's why Christ died for us, because if we all followed the Commandments, He would not have needed to come.

Praying for you!

Smiley said...

Adoro its those pet sins the ones that we go for again and again and again, and then you wonder will i ever be able to overcome this. and then the doubt creeps in will i go to heaven and then you lose confidence

Adoro said...

Smiley ~ I have those too. I don't know anyone who doesn't, although I don't know what they are for others. My own...yup, part of that "jealous reservation of myself" that I was talking about.

So I'm going to give you the same advice a priest recently gave me for beating myself up for the same thing, and i'm quoting because it was in an email: "Don't give the devil a backdoor. The Lord God, who made you in his image and likeness and formed you in the Divine image, made you from love, for the sake of love, because of love. Whenever you accuse yourself, although you must accuse yourself of sin, make sure you find some way to also be grateful to God for His love and mercy, if only for the grace He has given you to have self-knowledge and to be aware of your shortcomings."

(Ok, I still paraphrased a little). But that's what he said...don't fall into despair. Don't give up just because you keep falling. We all do.

God doesn't want us to Fall, but He doesn't count the number of falls...but the number of times we get back up and reach for Him again.

You must have heard this quote: "Saints are the sinners who kept trying."

I hope that helps!

Maybe there's a Saint as a commenter here, but I'm not one of them, and I'm guessing that they would tell you the same thing. You're not alone, and that's why we can go to God in our repentence, as many times as necessary.

God bless you!

Tausign said...

May the Lord give you peace.

My vocation is as a secular, but I've always found the topic of spiritual pathways interesting. Let me suggest this post, Finding Your Spiritual Family. In it the assertion is made: "The program or system we follow to maintain a steady progress in holiness toward the goal of sanctity is called a spirituality."

Peace and all good.

Adoro said...

Tausign ~ Thanks for the link. I recommend to you, if you are interested in that subject, to thoroughly read Fr. Jordan Aumann, OP's "Spiritual Theology". Excellent book, also addresses what is authentic and inauthentic spirituality.

Excellent, excellent, excellent. I myself trend before and since this post towards the Dominicans, for they are the synthesis of all spiritualities. Practical more than mystical, using everything to preach Christ to a world who doesn't want to hear about Him.

Joyful Catholic said...

"Saints are the sinners who kept trying."

Thanks, Adoro...a much needed quote.