1 Peter 1:3-9
The words of today’s Gospel reading may cause us, like the young man in the Gospel, to have fallen faces and walk away sad. But let’s pause a moment and consider what Jesus tells us in this Gospel. Jesus says that to inherit eternal life – we must sell what we have, give to the poor and then we can follow Him. Wow! That’s a pretty harsh condition for salvation.
Much has been said about the disparity of wealth in our country, and we can decry the 1%, but in fact, most of us – with our cars, computers, fresh water, ample food, adequate clothes and a place to sleep – are rich by the standards of the majority of the world. In fact, if your income is $25,000 a year, you are in the top ten percent of the world’s incomes! It’s not pleasant to think about – this admonition from Christ. When Jesus says to us, sell what you have and give to the poor, I, for one, am inclined to walk away or at least quickly turn the page in my bible and try to move on. Sure, we give to the poor – but most often we give from our excess. We have become so comfortable with our lifestyle that material possessions have almost become our religion. I am sorry, Jesus, I love you, but come on, I really can’t imagine giving up my computer or my car or the new outfit I bought for Easter. And in fact, it doesn’t even seem remotely possible that we will give everything we have to the poor, but perhaps all is not lost.
Maybe we can take some small steps toward following Jesus. Perhaps we can give up a meal a week or skip a trip to the movies or limit our shopping and give the difference to the poor. And when Jesus sees us taking our baby steps, trying to embrace Christianity not materialism as our religion, maybe He’ll reach out His hand and say to us "Well, you haven’t got it quite right yet but, come follow me." For indeed, although it is hard for us who are rich- at least rich enough to be in the top 10% of the worlds’ incomes, to enter the Kingdom of God, all things are possible for God!
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.