The Penetrating Gaze

Wisdom 7: 7-11; Hebrews 4: 12-13; Mark 10: 17-30

So what is it about wealth? It’s probably one of the most consistent themes in the gospels when it comes to some kind of obstruction to the Kingdom of God. Of course, there is that misconception that somehow there is a correlation between wealth and favor with God, which may have been part of the issue with the rich young man, but not entirely. In our own world and society we have a tendency to demonize money, which in and of itself is neither good nor bad, really, and so then we choose to demonize wealthy people. But that too poses a problem for us doing the demonizing, making us judgmental towards another. So what is it about wealth that poses such a problem to the Kingdom of God that it would reoccur in the gospels?

It provides us the opportunity to look beneath wealth and possessions that we all have and the anxiety that they sometimes create in our life. Possibly another way to look at the rich young man, a man, mindful, who would be considered early on as a disciple, that maybe Jesus is asking him to begin to imagine his life differently. Imagine your life without the possessions and wealth. Just the thought of it for us, as it probably posed for him, creates fear and anxiety in our lives. Rather than looking at that fear in our lives, we have a tendency to buckle down and try to gather more and more money because we buy into the false security that it brings. Rather than putting our trust totally in the hands of God, as the poor often are raised up to model for us, we begin to trust in a false security and comfort.

There is nothing wrong with the young man in today’s gospel. I dare say, he’d be the perfect model for your sons and daughters. He’s done everything right. He’s followed all the rules. He’s been successful, even in his young age. He’d be the shining star that we’d admire in anyone. Yet, it’s not enough for discipleship and the call of Jesus. But again, it’s not our place to now demonize and judge this young man because he doesn’t do as Jesus asks. Again, just like the disciples, they’re all still trying to sort out what all of this means for themselves and what’s being asked of them. He simply walks away sad for he had many possessions, trying to make sense out of what’s missing in his life. It is, as the writer of Hebrews says today in the encounter with Jesus, the double edged sword of this relationship with the Word. Can we, as Jesus seeks of the rich young man, imagine our lives differently, free of our own false sense of security? Not an easy thing to do for even the most dedicated disciples…

And so what about Jesus in all of this? He has a lot to say to the young man and the disciples about wealth and discipleship. You can only begin to imagine a glazed look in their eyes through all of this dialogue, wondering what it all means. However, there is something different about Jesus in these interactions and how he responds to the young man. Mark makes the point to tell us that Jesus looks at him and loves him. He even goes on to look directly at the disciples. There’s something different about the look this time, the gaze of Jesus that, as Hebrews tells us, penetrates the hearts and souls of these would-be followers. It would explain the sad look on the young man because there was something different about the gaze of the Lord that will now go onto torment his heart and soul until he evaluates his own life and this call that has been placed within him. If we’d be honest with ourselves, we’d probably all respond the same way when the gaze fell upon us, walking away sad, because of our many possessions and the things we’ve held onto in our lives, thinking it all impossible, at least until we encounter the Lord and the gaze of love falls upon us. Can we imagine our lives differently or do we walk away sad, for we too have much that we have held onto and not yet willing to let go of?

It’s our turn to finish the story. You see, it’s not about demonizing anyone and their wealth, for again, that becomes our own judgment. We mustn’t be quick to judge the young man, for his story and his call is ours. So maybe at this time the gaze upon the Lord is asking the same of us, to begin to imagine our lives differently, and rather than buckle down and hold on tight, begin to explore those fears and anxieties of letting go in our lives and see our lives in a different way. It may mean walking away sad at times, feeling overwhelmed by what is being asked of us, but the words of Jesus, that nothing is impossible, and that penetrating gaze will never be forgotten, and will eventually lead us to the response the Lord seeks of us, to follow him, with nothing but a radical trust in His will. Then come, follow me.

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