The people of Jesus’ time believed that worldly wealth was a sign of God’s favour. Rich people were admired and envied. The rich man who approaches Jesus in today’s Gospel tells him eagerly that he has kept all the commandments of God’s law from his earliest days. No doubt he believes that his wealth is God’s reward for living a good life. Jesus looks steadily at the man and loves him, and then issues a radical challenge: to give up all of his possessions and follow Jesus. Once again, Jesus turns the wisdom of the world on its head. He discerns that this man’s riches are an obstacle that prevent him from becoming a disciple. He needs to let them go, for the sake of something better: the treasure in heaven that only Jesus can give him.
The challenge is too much for the rich man, and he goes away sad. He doesn’t appear again in the Gospels, and we don’t know what became of him. This Gospel reading prompts us to imagine Jesus looking at us and loving us. What step does the Lord ask us to take, to set ourselves free for discipleship?