|Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor|
What a story in today’s Gospel!
This young man was trying so hard to be good. Following all of the rules, he thought, was what would make him good and acceptable in God's eyes.
Jesus, from the first words of their shared conversation, challenges him. When addressed by the young man as "good teacher," Jesus rejects this title and declares: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."
He doesn’t get it. He persists, because he wanted to be acceptable to God, good in God’s eyes, and he wanted to have eternal life. Again, he thought, following all of the rules and keeping them perfectly is what was pleasing to God.
But not only did Jesus tell him something he could not understand, the young man also could not do it, and he sadly walked away from Jesus.
Jesus asked him for everything. Jesus asked him to let go of all his possessions, his security, and the illusions of life and comfort. He asked him to give it all away, to give all of it to the poor, then to come and follow him.
The young man couldn’t do it. Giving it all up would be losing all control of his life. Giving it all up would mean he would be letting go, letting God — and he could not experience what Jesus said in other places: "If you want to find yourself, you must loose yourself; if you want to live, you must die; if you want to be first, you must be last."
He didn’t get it. It didn’t make sense.
Following the rules, in comparison, was easy and, most of all, it allowed him to be in control. He could never let go of that control. The only final response was to sadly walk away.
Jesus had a response, too.
He looked at him, he loved him, and he offered him the greatest gift as he recognized the one thing, the most important thing that was lacking — "Let go!"
In effect, Jesus was saying: "Understand that God loves you because God is love — not because you follow rules."
This story is important and foundational. Following rules is good for order and usually makes good sense. But it isn’t what makes God love us. God will do that and must do that because it is of God’s nature to love.
Accept it and discover its truth.
Be grateful that God is, that God is love, that God always loves, and that to let go is to find the gift.
Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.