As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Are you possessed?
In the gospel reading today a man comes up to Jesus and asks what it will take for him to gain eternal life. Jesus asks him the usual questions about his behavior but when he asks him about his possessions the man falters. He owns a lot of stuff. Jesus tells him to give it all up and the man walks away because he simply is too attached to it.
So, is Jesus telling us the same thing. Should we clean out our bank accounts and sell all of our stuff and give it to the poor. We would then in effect become the poor wouldn't we. I really believe that Jesus is addressing the idea of attachment. The man in this story was very attached to things. He couldn't give them up.
When someone is said to be 'possessed' the first thing that comes to my mind is that some evil spirit has taken control of him or her. I see images of a head spinning around like in some horror movie. Something really scary.
There is another kind of possession that is scary as well. It is when the things we own start to own us. I can imagine that gospel reading to change from, “for he had many possessions” to read, “for he was possessed by many things.”
It would not hurt for us to look at our own lives and do an inventory of the things we possess and reflect on whether they are starting to own us. I remember seeing a television story about a town that had been hit by a tornado. The reporter was interviewing a pastor. They were standing in front of the shattered remains of what had been their church building. She said to the pastor, you must be just devastated that your church has been destroyed. The pastor replied, “the church is as solid as ever. It is just the building that is gone.” This pastor and the people in his church new that it was not about things but it was about people, their lives, and their relationships with each other.
I enjoy many things in my life and it were all gone tomorrow I would probably grieve its passing as did our friend Job. But, I would move on with the knowledge that everything is temporary anyway. Everything will pass including our mortal bodies. What stays with us, what sustains us is our immortal souls. It is our souls we must cherish and nurture. That is our true self.
I read something the other day that I would like to share with you.
'knowing others is intelligence
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength.
Mastering yourself is true power.
I would add 'never let your possessions possess you.