Sunday, 14 October 2018
Riches and Sadness, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Today in the Gospel we heard of a man who had no name. At least, no name that history records. Why not? Why do the Gospel writers not know who he is? Presumably, because he went away and never came back. A tragedy.
If we think about why he left, as we heard, he left “sad”.
If we think about why he was sad, it was because the Lord Jesus said he had to choose between his riches, and, following the Lord. And to not follow Jesus leaves the soul sad –this is point that Pope Francis makes repeatedly to us.
He was a “rich young man”, he had his whole life ahead of him. And that life, it seems, was a life of sadness because he chose riches over the Lord.
Let me remind of you of another rich man in the Gospels: Levi.
The Gospels record that he was sitting at his office, and the Lord passed, said, “follow me”(Lk 5:27), and Levi “left everything, and rose and followed him”(Lk 5:28).
This immediacy surely implies a joy and eagerness.
He had riches. The Lord called him. And he eagerly left them in order to follow.
Let me give a third and final example of a rich man called by the Lord: Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-8).
Zacchaeus, if you remember, was the short tax collector who climbed a tree to get a look at the Lord Jesus as He passed by. The Lord called him, Zacchaeus welcomed the Lord into his home, and declared he would give half of his goods to the poor and restore fourfold from all those he had defrauded (Lk 19:8).
All this he did “joyfully”(Lk 19:5), not like the young man who went away “sad”.
And, let us note, he was one of those who weren’t called to give up all their money, but rather, to have money but in a NEW spirit.
Back to the rich young man. He was rich, but he as sad. Which is notable, because we all think that riches will make us happy.
I saw a 55” TV this week. I want it. There is a voice inside me telling me that my lack of a 55” TV is what is holding me back from happiness. And yet, human experience, and the example of the rich young man, shows us that money doesn't give you happiness.
Real joy comes from love, it is a fruit of love. But love of the right thing: of people, of God, not of money, and of people for THEIR sake, not in a possessive clinging-ness.
Joyful people are noteworthy for their freedom, their LIGHTNESS. This is the very opposite of being held down by possessions.
What is needed is spirit of DETACHMENT from the riches of this world. An inward detachment that means I am free to let them go, and free to have them, but I am not held down by them.
And the rich young man, What was his problem? His lack of detachment.
He is not presented to us as selfish, or as uncaring, or neglecting the poor (as some figures condemned in the Gospels are, e.g. Lk 16:19-31).
Rather, the problem is that he is more ATTACHED to his possessions than to his willingness to follow where the Lord called him. And this leaves him sad, sad without the Lord, sad without love.
What of us?
If we are attached like the rich young man, then we will feel sad when we are prompted to anything that disrupts our attachments.
If we are de-tached like Levi, we will be prompt and eager to leave what must be left to follow.
If we are detached like Zacchaeus, then even though we possess things, we will only hold them lightly, because our joy in the Lord, in finding more joy in possessing Him than we do in possessing things, will leave us free to give, free to love, and free to give in a way that causes us to have joy, not sadness, in our heart