From: Mark 10:17-27
The Rich Young Man
Poverty and Renunciation
17-18. As Matthew 19:16 makes clear, the young man approaches Jesus as an
acknowledged teacher of the spiritual life, in the hope that He will guide him to-
wards eternal life. It is not that Christ rejects the praise He is offered: He wants
to show the depth of the young man’s words: He is good, not because He is a
good man but because He is God, who is Goodness Itself. So, the young man
has spoken the truth, but he has not gone far enough. Hence the enigmatic na-
ture of Jesus’ reply and its profundity. The young man’s approach is upright but
too human; Jesus tries to get him to see things from an entirely supernatural
point of view. If this man is to really attain eternal life he must see in Christ not
just a good master but the divine Savior, the only Master, the only one who, be-
cause He is God, is Goodness Itself. Cf. note on Mt. 19:16-22.
19. Our Lord has not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). The
commandments are the very core of the Law and keeping them is necessary for
attaining eternal life. Christ brings these commandments to fulfillment in a dou-
ble sense. First, because He helps us discover their full implications for our lives.
The light of Revelation makes it easy for us to grasp the correct meaning of the
precepts of the Decalogue—something that human reason, on its own, can only
achieve with difficulty. Second, His grace gives us strength to counter our evil in-
clinations, which stem from Original Sin. The commandments, therefore, still ap-
ply in the Christian life: they are like signposts indicating the way that leads to
21-22. Our Lord knows that this young man has a generous heart. This is why
He treats him so affectionately and invites him to greater intimacy with God. But
He explains that this means renunciation—leaving his wealth behind so as to give
his heart whole and entire to Jesus. God calls everyone to holiness, but holiness
is reached by many different routes. It is up to every individual to take the neces-
sary steps to discover which route God wants him to follow. The Lord sows the
seed of vocation in everyone’s soul, to show him the way to go to reach the goal
of holiness, which is common to all.
In other words, if a person does not put obstacles in the way, if he responds ge-
nerously to God, he feels a desire to be better, to give himself more generously.
As fruit of this desire he seeks to know God’s will; he prays to God to help him,
and asks people to advise him. In responding to this sincere search, God uses
a great variety of instruments. Later, when a person thinks he sees the way God
wants him to follow, he may still not take the decision to go that way: he is afraid
of the renunciation it involves: at this point he should pray and deny himself if the
light—God’s invitation—is to win out against human calculation. For, although God
is calling, man is always free, and therefore, he can respond generously or be a
coward, like the young man we are told about in this passage. Failure to respond
generously to one’s vocation always produces sadness.
21. “In its precise eloquence”, Bl. John Paul II points out, commenting on this
passage, “this deeply penetrating event expresses a great lesson in a few words:
it touches upon substantial problems and basic questions that have in no way
lost their relevance. Everywhere young people are asking important questions —
questions on the meaning of life, on the right way to live, on the scale of values:
‘What must I do...?’ ‘What must I do to share in everlasting life?’...To each of you
I say therefore: heed the call of Christ when you hear him saying to you: ‘Follow
Me!’ Walk in My path! Stand by My side! Remain in My love! There is a choice to
be made: a choice for Christ and His way of life, and His commandment of love.
“The message of love that Christ brought is always important, always relevant. It
is not difficult to see how today’s world, despite its beauty and grandeur, despite
the conquests of science and technology, despite the refined and abundant ma-
terial goods that it offers, is yearning for more truth, for more love, for more joy.
And all of this is found in Christ and in His way of life.... Faced with problems and
disappointments, many people will try to escape from their responsibility: escape
in selfishness, escape in sexual pleasure, escape in drugs, escape in violence,
escape in indifference and cynical attitudes. But today, I propose to you the op-
tion of love, which is the opposite of escape. If you really accept that love from
Christ, it will lead you to God. Perhaps in the priesthood or religious life; perhaps
in some special service to your brothers and sisters: especially to the needy, the
poor, the lonely, the abandoned, those whose rights have been trampled upon, or
those whose basic needs have not been provided for. Whatever you make of
your life, let it be something that reflects the love of Christ” (”Homily on Boston
22. “The sadness of the young man makes us reflect. We could be tempted to
think that many possessions, many of the goods of this world, can bring happi-
ness. We see instead in the case of the young man in the Gospel that his many
possessions had become an obstacle to accepting the call of Jesus to follow
Him. He was not ready to say “yes” to Jesus and “no” to self, to say “yes” to
love and “no” to escape. Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I
did not clearly tell you so. For it was Jesus—Jesus Himself—who said: ‘You are
My friends if you do what I command you’ (John 15:14). Love demands effort and
a personal commitment to the will of God. It means discipline and sacrifice, but
it also means joy and human fulfillment.
“Dear young people: do not be afraid of honest effort and work; do not be afraid
of the truth. With Christ’s help, and through prayer, you can answer His call, re-
sisting temptations and fads, and every form of mass manipulation. Open your
hearts to the Christ of the Gospels—to His love and His truth and His joy. Do not
go away sad!...
“Follow Christ! You who are single or who are preparing for marriage. Follow
Christ! You who are young or old. Follow Christ! You who are sick or aging; who
are suffering or in pain. You who feel the need for healing, the need for love, the
need for a friend—follow Christ!
“To all of you I extend—in the name of Christ—the call, the invitation, the plea:
‘Come and follow Me’” (Bl. John Paul II, “Homily on Boston Common”).
23-27. The reaction of the rich young man gives our Lord another opportunity to
say something about the way to use material things. In themselves they are good:
they are resources God has made available to people for their development in so-
ciety. But excessive attachment to things is what makes them an occasion of sin.
The sin lies in “trusting” in them, as if they solve all life’s problems, and turning
one’s back on God. St. Paul calls covetousness idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Christ
excludes from the Kingdom of God anyone who becomes so attached to riches
that his life is centered around them. Or, more accurately, that person excludes
Possessions can seduce both those who already have them and those who are
bent on acquiring them. Therefore, there are—paradoxically—poor people who are
really rich, and rich people who are really poor. Since absolutely everyone has
an inclination to be attached to material things, the disciples see salvation as
an impossible goal: “Then who can be saved?” No one, if we rely on human re-
sources. But God’s grace makes everything possible. Cf. note on Matthew 6:11.
Also, not putting our trust in riches means that everyone who does have wealth
should use it to help the needy. This “demands great generosity, much sacrifice
and unceasing effort on the part of the rich man. Let each one examine his con-
science, a conscience that conveys a new message for our times. Is he prepared
to support out of his own pocket works and undertakings organized in favor of the
most destitute? Is he ready to pay higher taxes so that the public authorities can
intensify their efforts in favor of development?” (Paul VI, “Populorum Progressio”,
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
|First reading||Ecclesiasticus 17:20-28 ©|
|Psalm||Psalm 31:1-2,5-7 ©|
|Gospel||Mark 10:17-27 ©|