Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time
The Rich Young Man
“God alone is good!” Mark 10:18
The young man in this gospel story is excited to be a disciple of Jesus. He runs to Jesus and, with great pride, declares himself one of the “good guys.” He recounts how he has kept all the rules and thus declares himself good—or at least good enough. Surely this means he has a ticket to heaven. Jesus responds to this well-meaning young man, “Only God is good.” In other words, following the commandments is not enough to receive eternal life. Jesus calls him to more—to go deeper, to let go of his material riches, to give to the poor. Then the young man will not only become a disciple but also will receive the gift of eternal life. The young man can’t do it and walks away sad. This is the story of the “un-disciple.” Jesus’ message to the young man can be a bit unsettling for us, but it presents us with a challenge.
The rich young man has the simplistic belief that following the external laws equals gaining God’s favor. It’s “either/or” kind of thinking instead of “both/and” thinking. I think many people today share his belief. We go to heaven if we do good things, and we go to hell if we do bad things—well, only very bad things. Eternal life is a reward for what we do on earth—at least that’s what many people believe. This kind of thinking is focused on self and not on God’s saving action. It divides people into the good and the bad; the saved and the damned.
The truth is that we are made in the image of our good and gracious God, but I am also aware that I am broken and fallen. In fact, everything and everyone is broken and fallen, weak and poor, vulnerable and wounded but still the dwelling place of God. That includes you and me, our families, our Church, our country, and our world. We are imperfect and live in an imperfect world, and for me this is freeing. It reminds me that all I am and all I have is a gift from God and not something I have earned. It gives me the freedom to love my imperfect self and all imperfect beings. As Jesus told the rich young man, “God alone is good!”
Sister Terry Rickard, O.P.