LIFE-BRINGING SADNESS


“And a ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, ‘All these I have observed from my youth.’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. Jesus looking at him said, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But he said, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God.’” (Lk 18: 18-27)


The rich ruler’s understanding of “inheriting eternal life” centers on what “he” should do, or not do. It centers on merely-human effort, and he seeks merely-human, albeit “expert” advice, from Jesus Christ, Whom the rich ruler sees as a merely-human “good teacher.” But God, with Whom “all things are possible,” and without Whom he will always be “lacking,” has slipped out of the rich ruler’s vision. So he no longer sees Him, even when speaking with Him. This is the rich ruler’s real problem, and not the fact that he is very rich. And our Lord is not trying to drive him to despair, by calling him to do that which He knows the rich man will not be able to do, at this point. What Christ gifts the man is a salvific kind of “sadness”; it is a life-giving and joy-bringing sadness, that he and all of us are “lacking,” without God. And this is true, no matter what “we” do, because only He is The Fulness, of Good and Beauty and Power and “all” else. “No one is good but God alone.”


Today let me embrace the salvific fact that I am “still lacking.” My Lord knows that, and forgives me this debt, when I forgive my debtors, including myself. When I let God and His goodness into my life, together with His mercy and forgiveness, then His wholeness makes me “whole” (or “saved”) where I was “lacking.” “Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O God, by Your grace.” Amen!

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