Today's readings can be found here.
In many of the Gospel stories, people who meet Jesus go away giving thanks to God, or proclaiming that he is the messiah. They have been healed, their sins have been forgiven, they are free and so very happy. The man in today's gospel is not. He goes away sad.
From the outside, his life is a testament to following God. He wants to follow God so badly that he even asks Jesus his advice in how to obtain everlasting life. Unfortunately, the answer he hears is not what he wants to hear.
Jesus, first of all, loves us. He sees us as we are. Jesus IS the Word of God. The reading from Hebrews tells us that the Word of God is living and effective, penetrating, able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. The gospel says, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said...” (what he did not want to hear). Jesus looked at him, he penetrated his reflections and thoughts. He saw what was holding the young man back. His wealth was important to him, so much so that it was keeping him from fully entering into the life that God wanted for him. This is why the young man went away sad. If there was one thing he did not want to do, it was give away his possessions. Jesus saw this, and knew that the young man needed to hear this word.
The advice he heard was not what he wanted to hear. Maybe he wanted to hear, “You are doing a great job! Keep it up! Nothing more is needed from you!” Don't we all want to hear that our current level of effort in our faith is enough?
God has a challenge planned for each of us. This challenge is designed to see if we are really willing to make the proper sacrifices to “pick up our cross and follow after Christ” For some people, it is loving a completely unlovable person, for some people it is following a part of the Church's teaching that they do not fully agree with or understand. Almost everyone finds a part of the bible or church's teaching that they may not agree with on the surface. They might even think that their opinion, or society's opinion of the teaching is more important than what God has said.
God loves us, and he wants what is best for us. I pray that each of us could open our hearts to respond to God's desire for us. I pray that the word of God would pierce our hearts so we would be able to “take up the cross” and do the hard thing which we resist, the thing that will bring us closer to God and his kingdom.