We know his type. Young, eager and enthusiastic. A bit of an idealist, perhaps. Ready to give anything for the poor. Ready to be put into an important role in service to the kingdom. Ready to make a GREAT sacrifice for God. “Ask me to be a missionary – I’ll do it! Ask me to give up being married – maybe a priest or a deacon – you got it Lord. I am ready to do the heroic thing to follow you. Just tell me what that looks like.” My gut tells me that is the type of person the young man must have been to approach the Lord that way.
And yet, he goes away SAD… How can that be? He was so willing to give anything, to do anything to follow the Lord. He timed his approach of Jesus just right – just as Jesus was setting out on a journey. He would bring so much if he got invited along. He’d make sure they had decent lodging and decent food. The Lord wouldn’t have to be a beggar in his own country, not while HE was around. He knew what he could bring to the table. Yet Mark tells us “he went away SAD, for he had many possessions.” What happened to all that zeal for it to die so quickly?
It is a little frightening to contemplate, especially because he received something which no other person in the New Testament did. Mark reports that the Lord “looking at him, loved him.” I think to myself, “Man, if I had that, then it would have been so easy. I am so with you Lord, whatever, wherever it takes me.” If I just had one physical chance to look the Lord in the eyes and see him loving me, then, it would all be easy, wouldn’t it?
But here is what happens that I don’t always expect. When the Lord does looks into our hearts, he can see the Achilles heel that will trip us up and make us fall. He sees the goodness and willingness and gifts we bring. But He also sees that within us that will slowly poison our hearts and our love, that will slowly betray our best selves and leave us bitter and angry and feeling betrayed. For that young man, so enthusiastic, he knew it would be his wealth that would take him down. By inviting him to ‘sell his belongings’, he is giving him the chance to become the disciple he wanted to be.
I was at a wedding in Quincy Illinois last night, and speaking with an UMSL graduate. “I’m married now, Fr. But the hardest part of the preparation was when I shared that sometimes I felt distrustful because I was insecure. The priest told me: “You have to deal with that now. Otherwise, that seed of distrust will slowly kill the joy in your marriage. Deal with it now, or I won’t marry you… He was a wise man.” He knew her Achilles heel. Perhaps for you it is the harboring of unforgiveness. I name it in myself these days as the part that wants to be ‘well liked and well respected’ – that at times keeps me from being completely free to follow the Lord.
And make no mistake about it. Our Lord’s deepest desire is that we be FREE to follow him unreservedly, nothing holding us back, nothing standing in the way. Free just to love without counting the cost. And He offers us the same grace he offered to the rich young man – the ability to become the disciple that we want to be.
When the Lord looks at US and loves us, he also sees that within us which needs to go, that which keeps US from being free. He sees our Achilles heel and he wants us to be free from it. Perhaps it IS your relationship toward money/possessions that gets in the way for you. Maybe it is that ego that wants to be in control. Perhaps it is your addiction to certain websites that causes you to stumble.
This week, take a look inward, but not just with your own eyes. Invite the Lord to “look at you with love”, and ask for the grace to see the stumbling block in you, your Achilles heel of faith. And then pray – pray for the grace to let go of whatever it is for YOU that keeps you from being free, you from being the disciple that you want to be. Then, simply trust the promise that with God, all things are possible, even the healing of your Achilles heel…