Today’s Gospel reading is Mark’s account of the rich young man. He has faithfully observed all of the commandments as he understands them and wants to know what more he must do. Jesus tells him, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At this, the young man sadly walks away, “for he had many possessions.”
I don’t read this passage as saying that we can’t call ourselves followers of Jesus if we have nice things in our houses or money in the bank. The problem is not having things, or even enjoying the things we have. The problem arises when we are attached to things and when that attachment that distracts us from our work as Jesus’ disciples.
So I read this passage as an invitation to explore what is it that we are attached to. For some it may be money, but it need not be that. Each of us is invited to ask: What do I need to be detached from to more fully follow Jesus? What is it that keeps me from wholehearted discipleship?
I’m always sad when I get to the part about the rich young man walking away. I want to call out, “Don’t go. Come back.” But I also always imagine that his encounter with Jesus is not his last and that he at some point manages to detach himself from his possessions. For some of us, it takes longer than for others to give up our attachments. But Jesus generously and lovingly invites us over and over. And so if we are not quite ready to let go of our attachments, we do the best we can and keep asking God for the grace to follow him ever more closely.