Have you ever backed away from an opportunity that could have changed your life? Have you ever turned down an invitation to take part in something because you felt inadequate or afraid?
In today’s gospel story a man kneels at Jesus’ feet and asks “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The man is a good man, a man who has kept all the commandments from his youth. Jesus replies, “You lack one thing, go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor; then come and follow me.” The rich man goes away sadly, because he has many possessions and cannot do what Jesus asks.
The rich man in the story represents all of us. In this country even the poorest of us is rich compared to those in third world countries. We are all more like the rich man in the story than we’d care to admit. Like the rich man we can’t quite get our heads round what Jesus considers rich and what Jesus considers poor. Like the man in the story we have trouble leaving worldly concerns behind and placing complete trust in God. Like the rich man we have trouble stepping out of our comfort zones and taking risks. Like the rich man it is hard, almost impossible, to detach ourselves from material interests. In short, the story is uncomfortable for most of us because in it we hear Jesus asking us to do something that is frankly too difficult. Some of Jesus’ disciples at the time obviously thought so too. “They were greatly astounded and said to one another ‘Then who can be saved?’ ”
In this story we might feel that we are being set up for failure, but this is not the truth. Why would Jesus ask something that was impossible? In actual fact Jesus was inviting the man to be a disciple. He was giving the man a wonderful opportunity. Jesus had faith in the man. He has looked at the man and seen great possibilities. Jesus was giving the man the opportunity to take his faith to another level. How sad that the man’s wealth proved too great a stumbling block. Today’s gospel is an invitation for us all to take our faith up a gear, and to ask what stumbling blocks might be barring us from the opportunity of a lifetime.