The story of the rich young man in today’s Gospel story is very familiar to us. He asks Jesus what he should do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus says simply, “Just keep the commandments”. He says that he has done just that. He has kept the commandments. Jesus then says, “Well, there is more you can do: “Give away everything you own to the poor and then come and follow me!”. Then the young fellow walked away dejected.
The question to ask is this: Did he walk away because he was too attached to his money? I don’t think so! He made it clear that he had kept all of the commandments of the law (ie The Jewish “Torah”) Hence he would have given to the poor, the widows, the orphans and the beggars because this is what the Torah commanded him to do. The challenge of Jesus to give more to the poor would not have been difficult for him to accept. It seems that the real challenge that caused the man to walk way was the invitation of Jesus to “come and follow me”.
There are many charitable and benevolent people in the world. Generosity to those who are poor is an admirable quality in many people. It is a quality in many non-Christians, agnostic and atheistic people. We Christians do not have a monopoly on kindness, benevolence or charity.
The real challenge for people, the most difficult challenge of all, is not about being a conscientious humanitarian. The most difficult challenge that we have embraced is to “follow Jesus”. When we accepted the invitation to “come and follow me” we made an enormous commitment in faith. In following Jesus we affirm that God became a human being in the person of Jesus. This means for us that every human being has a share in the eternal life of God. It means that every human being shares in the dignity of God. We believe that every human being is a child of God and every human being has equality with us and a right to live with dignity. This belief is the greatest of all challenges and we are proud to embrace it.