“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You are lacking in one thing. Go, and sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then, come, follow me.’ At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions (Mark 10:21-22).”
This story is always a sad one. As far as we know, the man never came to follow Jesus.
But while I heard that Gospel story, I didn’t imagine the man enjoyed his possessions very much after that encounter. Do you think he thought about it for a while and eventually sold them? Do you think he eventually caught up with Jesus before His Passion or with the Apostles after Jesus had resurrected? Maybe he said no at first and yes later.
Jesus says the son who says no to his father and then yes later is a better son than the one who says yes hastily and then doesn’t follow through (Matthew 21:28-32). I seem to be more likely to say no at first.
Just that morning, I had reacted in a way I knew was a sin. I was holding a grudge and trying to keep my wall of self-protection in my heart from keeping me from getting hurt again. Jesus said to me, “Get rid of that wall and then come, and follow me.” But I didn’t want to get rid of it. I spent a lot of time building that wall. It cost a lot. It took up a lot of energy. I went away from Jesus sad.
But I as I figuratively sat down by my wall, I was fully aware that the wall didn’t help me nearly as well as I thought it would – just as I imagine the man didn’t find his possessions that satisfying after encountering Jesus.
The next morning in confession, I explained to the priest about my wall. “I am trying not to get hurt again. But I don’t think God wants me to keep this grudge. It’s threatening all the work I’ve done in getting closer to Jesus.” And as I prayed the Our Father I got as a penance, I was convicted where it has me ask to be forgiven as I forgive others.
In humanity, I can’t tear down my wall. In humanity, that man can’t give up his possessions. But Jesus said, “For nothing is impossible for God.” And I turned it over to Him.
Whatever we can’t give up in humanity, God can give us the courage, strength and perseverance we need. Whatever we thought we were getting from the thing that keeps us from following, God can supply far better. Whatever we say no to at first from Jesus, He keeps inviting, so, hopefully, we can eventually say yes.