If I know anything about human nature, I’d say the rich young man who asks Jesus about eternal life expects a very different answer.
While today’s Communion antiphon is taken from Matthew’s gospel, this encounter is detailed in all three synoptic gospels. In each, the young man poses the same question: What does it take to gain eternal life? When Jesus tells him he must follow the commandments, the young man asserts that he has done so.
Having convinced himself, his follow-up question, “What do I still lack?” smacks of a certain smugness. If he’s acting in good faith, what stands between him and heaven?
But Jesus’ answer is specific: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The young man leaves, grieving, because his love of wealth means he hasn’t been living the commandments at all. He hasn’t really loved his neighbour and he certainly hasn’t placed God first. He’s simply done what suits him.
While not all of us have the financial baggage of the rich young man, we all face challenges in our efforts to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Jesus never said it would be easy. Anything but! Faith often asks that we die to the very things we hold dear — the earthly goods that stand in the way of heavenly treasure.