The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis,Book III Chapter XXXIV: “He Who Loves God Relishes Him above all Things and in all Things” (third entry)
Detachment and mortification due to the gift of wisdom least to ultimate truth and a view that changes from baseness to spiritual things. Kempis goes at these themes from different angles but always with similar lessons. Repetitive? Yes. But repetition is the mother of learning. Kempis wants to drive home the importance of an otherworldly outlook whenever possible.
|Today’s Gospel reading: Mt 19:16-22
This story of the Rich Young Man is oft-told by those wishing to point out the dangers inherent in an unhealthy attachment to possessions. This man comes to Jesus asking Him what actions he must take to gain eternal life. Jesus responds with several commandments from the second tablet of the Decalogue (having to do with how one is to treat other persons). When the newcomer says that he is faithful in all of these matters, he asks what more he must do. When the Lord tells him to sell all that he owns and follow Him, he demurs and goes away sad.
Whenever I encounter readings like this one in which we are introduced to a character upon his interaction with Jesus and never hear about him again I wonder what prompted him to approach Jesus in the first place and then I speculate on what happened to the person afterward. Did he give up on Jesus entirely? Or maybe later he hopefully rethought his position and became a practicing and generous Christian. That he went away sad and not mad is a hopeful sign. It shows that the good Lord got him to mull over his situation with the possibility of reconsidering it.
Kempis tells us of the great treasure we find when we shift our focus from the profane to the sacred. The rich man seems to be somewhere in between. There is no reason to believe he is insincere in his questioning Jesus. Maybe he felt somewhat guilty about his wealth and wanted to make sure he was in God’s good graces. Who knows? That Jesus tells him that he must be rid of these goods to become perfect indicates that He knew that these things were standing in the way of this poor rich man completely embracing God. His lack of “contempt of worldly things” prevented him from embracing truth (personified in Jesus) and turning from the material to the spiritual.
Treasure on earth that we can’t take with us vs. treasure in heaven that can never be taken from us. Only our weakened will and darkened intellect make what should be an easy decision a difficult choice for us (see Rom 7:15).
Let us pray for the true wisdom to discern God’s will for us amidst all the noise that deafens our soul thus preventing us from listening to Him.