October 14, 2018
Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi
Two men appear in the verses of Mark’s Gospel we have just proclaimed; one at the beginning another at the end. One of them has no name, and the other is called, Peter. They are both men who have been looked at love.
In the case of the first man, it is the only time in all the Gospels that Jesus is said to have looked with love on an individual. It is the gaze of divine love that should have completely overcome this man and moved him to give up everything at that moment. Yet, it does not happen. The reason why is worth our thought and some reflection. We could learn from him.
In the case of Peter, the Gospel doesn’t ever say that he was looked at with love, but we can only hope that this was what Peter saw as he sat there in the courtyard of the High Priest when a cock crowed the third times. The Gospel tells us that Jesus turned and looked at him. Why would we think that look would have been anything other than the look of love? Unless our lesser selves imagine a look of reproach, like, “I told you so”, or a “how could you?” We know what that looks like don’t we? We also know how to give look, but that is not what he saw.
That man with no name could easily be us. He seems to have been so preoccupied with his own thoughts, that he does not notice how Jesus looks at him, and that’s a shame. The story might have ended up differently had he just looked up into that loving gaze.
But no, he has too many possessions to look after. In reality, they possess him. He can’t imagine his life without them. What Jesus asks of him is not just to help the poor, but to become poor. Judging from his question, that man thinks that there is something he can do to gain eternal life, and here we see the difference between him and Peter.
Having given up everything, Peter and his companions begin to discover that this “eternal life” is a free gift given by the loving Father to those who do not deserve it. At the moment of his greatest shame and sorrow, Peter looks at the face of the friend and master he has just denied and he sees the look of love.
Jesus demands the best of us. That is what he asked of that man and of Peter and the Twelve. The challenge: “If you want to be perfect” is issued to all of us as well.
However, the thing we might be called upon to sacrifice in order to take up that challenge could vary for each of us. We have to look into our own hearts to see what it is that we would have to give up in order to respond. We are reminded like the nameless man and Peter that we are invited to come along with Jesus, that life is a pilgrimage to God’s eternal kingdom.
To accept the invitation of Jesus means we must travel lightly and remember that salvation is always what God accomplishes in spite of us. Eternal life is not something we can earn, buy, or accomplish on our own.
Those who trust in themselves and their possessions have it all wrong. Only those who trust in the saving power and redeeming love of God can enter freely into salvation.
What he asks is sacrifice. It is the sign language of love. What Jesus knows is that there is no point in forcing people to make sacrifices. If you take things from people, they are impoverished; but if you can get them to give them up, they are enriched.
With these 2 men before us today, we have a choice to make and a model to follow. One leads to sadness. The other leads to the joy of forgiveness and eternal life.