The story of the encounter of the rich young man with Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Mark [Mark 10: 17-31] illustrates the degree to which Jesus wants to connect with us. Please read that scripture through slowly a couple of times and in your imagination put yourself at the scene as the exchange takes place between Jesus and the young man. There are likely others there. Are they surprised by the words of Jesus? Did Jesus turn to you after the exchange and engage you in conversation? If so, what did He say to you and what was your response? Do you think that the decision of the young man was a temporary one and that he might have returned later?
There is a tendency for those reading this scripture to focus on the words “go sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” instead of “You lack one thing—Come follow me”. To me, the invitation of Jesus to engage in a more intimate, more meaningful relationship with Him is the “meat” of this exchange and it may be easily missed. The scripture passage reveals that this young man is good and appears to be earnestly in search of an even deeper connection to his faith than what he already enjoys. Jesus conveys to him with great love the message that he can move deeper but he needs to focus on Jesus rather than on the material things that he has. In last Sunday’s 2nd reading from the letter of Paul to the Philippians [Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11], Paul expresses the confidence that his protégés in Philippi for whom the Holy Spirit has begun a good work will continue to benefit and to grow in knowledge and perception as to what is of value so that they might be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through a relationship with Jesus. The Gospel account [Luke 3: 1-6] introduces us to the preaching of John the Baptist who anticipates Jesus and proclaims a baptism of repentance that we might be predisposed to follow Jesus.
We might reflect on whether the repentance we are called to relates to our failure to move into a deeper relationship with Jesus. It is easy to be satisfied with the status quo. “I have faith, I go to Church: for the most part, I follow the commandments. The words that Jesus shares with the rich young man are meant for each of us who seeks to Encounter Him. We need to strive to put Him first in our life if we are to truly follow Him. Jesus is interested in more than just a casual relationship. He wants each of us to recognize the need to “grow” in our relationship with Him and the pursuit of that growth needs to be a life time mission.