Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 11 October 2009

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church

There is something enormously moving about the young man who runs up to Jesus (Mk 10.17-30).  In fact, let’s begin with that fact:  he runs to seize this chance of meeting Christ.  This is someone who is genuinely eager to learn.  Second, this is a seeker:  What must I do?  he asks.  You can almost sense the energy in him.  This is a young man yearning for the wisdom we hear about in our first reading (Wis. 7.7-11).  Third, he is already striving to live the spiritual life.  Admittedly, there is the brashness of youth also.  He tells Jesus that he has kept the commandments from his earliest days.  Goodness, what confidence.  He does not know himself as well as he thinks he does.  We get older, we get wiser, and we know that the Lord has to bear patiently with our frailties.  We would no longer say so breezily that we have kept all the commandments.
But then there is that marvellous verse 10.21:  Jesus loves him nonetheless.  Note that Jesus looks steadily at him.  This tells us that Jesus takes in everything.  Jesus sees the enthusiasm, the eagerness to learn, the sincerity – and also the immaturity and overconfidence of the young man.  Yet Jesus loves him.  This often seems to me to be a picture of ourselves in relation to the Lord.  It reminds me of an opinion poll which once asked drivers to rate themselves.  The vast majority thought they were ‘better than average’ drivers.  Hmm.  Just as we think that we are more spiritually above average, more advanced than others.  Yet Jesus looks on us in the same way that he looks on the young man, and loves us just as he loves him.
There are always obstacles to our spiritual growth.  In the gospel Jesus puts his finger on the big one for this self-confident young man.  Despite his outward show, the fellow cannot bring himself to give up his wealth.  This was long before the welfare state, and to give up your wealth would be to give up security and embrace a life where you depended upon God and the generosity and goodwill of others.  An act of great faith and great renunciation.  Few of us could do such a thing even now.  Yet it is important that we remember the other aspects of the young man.  He was enthusiastic about the spiritual life, he was eager to learn, he was prepared to ask questions and to search for ways to grow spiritually.  Where that is true of ourselves, and where like the young man we come to Christ with our seeking and our questioning, then we cannot be lost.  No wonder Jesus looked on him and loved him.

To me, the challenge of the story is not only the challenge to use our resources generously.  It is also the challenge to long for spiritual growth, to take it seriously, to ask questions about the meaning of life and to seek, above all the face of God.  People still come with those questions.  Sometimes we have those questions ourselves.  To be able to give spiritual nourishment, to help people to live with questions, to help them to find answers – that is part of the role of the Church.  That is one of the ways we meet Christ.

Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity RC Church, Brook Green, London W6.

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