- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories: What Am I Doing? What Does My Life Mean?
[A man approached Jesus and asked him] What must I do to inherit eternal life?... Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor,… then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-30)
A standard practice in our lives is to check out the cost of things. Looking at a purchase, we need to know the cost. Before we act, we want to know what we have to do in order to achieve our goal. This is wise human behavior. But perhaps there are sometimes other considerations that may influence our decision-making. For instance, a relationship with another person calls for much more than a consideration of goals and costs. A simple friendship or a decision to marry involves more than an accounting exercise or a campaign plan.
The person who approached Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, is so much like ourselves. He is checking out what it will take to assure eternal life. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The man wants to have a clear sense of what he will have to put into this quest for eternal life. Sometimes, it seems that the aim of our faith is to assure ourselves that we have a place in heaven and what that will cost us. Perhaps we are missing the point. Jesus shows us to a different way.
After the man asks his question, Jesus recalls the commandments to him. In response, the man indicates that he has kept all of them since his youth. Jesus’ response to the man is both interesting and instructive. Mark tells us, “Jesus looking at him, loved him.” Then he goes on to say: “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor.” Here is the core of our Christian faith.
First of all, we need to know that Jesus loves us, always loves us. More than this, the Incarnation is the great sign that God loves us and will always love us, unconditionally. In Jesus, God has come among us and shares our humanity as a sign of this great loving act of God. The Gospel writer John has expressed it: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but haver eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Mark relates that Jesus says more to the man. The love that we receive from God and that we can see in Jesus is not just for ourselves. It is a love that must always be shared. It has to move outward, especially to those who are the most vulnerable and the most in need. The message we have received from Jesus and that we hold in Christian faith, necessarily leads us outward in compassion, caring and service.
So, what is our faith all about? It is in fact about eternal life but not as something solely future. It is about finding God’s love expressed in the here and now. The way Jesus looked at the man in Mark’s Gospel was with a look of love. The man was called to take that same look of love, expressing it in actions of love to the most vulnerable where he was. He was looking for answers and meaning for his life. Isn’t that us. The answer the man received is the response we all receive. God’s love is unconditional for us. Our love in action is called to reflect the same – for all, everywhere, at all times.