Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which ones?’
And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these; what do I still lack?’
Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’
When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Many years ago, I was deeply challenged by a lecture that one of my graduate school professors gave on the theme of idolatry in the Bible. He began with the reminder that we must get beyond the picture of idols as statues or monuments to which superstitious people prostrate themselves in worship.
An idol in its deepest biblical sense, he continued, refers to anything – a person, an object, a religious or political ideology, wealth, fame, financial security – that demands three things: total allegiance, unwavering sacrifice, and victims. Idols demand blood, dividing us against our neighbor.
While we spend enormous resources securing and elevating ourselves against the “other,” the Bible is relentless in its reminder that, “There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” All are humbled when measured against the generosity of God.
Jesus offered the young man the way of life, the way of greater freedom for love, and the young man “went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
We are all humbled in the light of God’s generosity. Who are “the poor” to whom Jesus would have me go to learn? What attachments may be preventing me from hearing Jesus’s invitation?
—Christopher Pramuk is the University Chair of Ignatian Thought and Imagination and an associate professor of theology at Regis University.
My Help, My Hope / Psalm 121
I lift my eyes to you
my help, my hope
the heavens (who could imagine?)
the earth (only our Lord)
the infinite starry spaces
the world’s teeming breadth
All this. I lift my eyes
– upstart, delighted—
and I praise.
—Daniel Berrigan, SJPlease share the Good Word with your friends!