Grace to you!
You may have read the story of the man called The Rich Aristocratin the Bible. He approached Jesus wanting to know what to do to have eternal life. I love his honesty, boldness and openness to seek for the truth. We may read his story from Mark 10:17-27 (see also Matthew 19:16-30 and Luke 18:18-30).
The man was rich and by Jewish standards, didn’t need to ask for more from Jesus of Nazareth, the son of a carpenter who was equally a non-aristocratic, itinerant preacher. However, there was something gripping about Jesus; some good and beauty that drew the rich aristocrat in. The rich man wanted to have it also. Or should I say, in the man’s heart, there was the desire to be free indeed, to possess the true life, the good and the beautiful.
He approached Jesus. His first words, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life,” were revealing of someone who, though wealthy, was still searching. From what we know in the Bible about the conversation between Jesus and this man, by the demands of the commandments, the man was impeccable. Yet, he knew within himself, having seen goodness itself in Jesus Christ, that he needed to grow more. In other words, he wanted the fullness of life and true freedom.
The man’s story reminds me of the story of a young priest who was invited to pray for a group of millionaires living in multi-million dollar homes and driving multi-million dollar cars. Dressed in an inexpensive cleric outfit, this poor priest, who could barely pay his taxi bill, brought so much peace to the millionaires that one of them said privately, “How I wish I could be like you. I have money but not peace of soul.”
The question about moral life, happiness and what happens when we die confronts everyone, even those who completely silence it. Like truth, somehow, in unexpected ways, it surges again and again. No liquor can perpetually sober it to oblivion. No political authority can table it for life.
All the various forms of “good” rules don’t satisfy it. The rich aristocrat knew this firsthand for he has kept all the laws from birth; hence he wanted to grow into perfection.
As Pope (Saint) John Paul II wrote concerning Jesus’ dialogue with this man, “The commandments … are the first necessary step on the journey towards freedom, its starting-point” (See The Splendor of Truth, 14). Quoting Saint Augustine, the Pope continued, “The beginning of freedom is to be free from crimes … such as murder, adultery, fornication, theft, fraud, sacrilege and so forth. When once one is without these crimes (and every Christian should be without them), one begins to lift up one’s head towards freedom. But this is only the beginning of freedom, not perfect freedom …” (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, 1993, #14).
What then is finding freedom, living life to the fullest which is the perfection our hearts search? The Pope’s answer is spot-on; it “requires mature human freedom (“If you wish to be perfect”) and God’s gift of grace (“Come, follow me”). Perfection demands that maturity in self-giving to which human freedom is called” (The Splendor of Truth, 17).
This self-giving resides in following Christ, discipleship of Jesus Christ. As the Pope says, it’s in this lies both the way and content of perfection.
So, if you want to live life to the fullest, there is no better option than following the Lord. In following the Lord, we discover fully who we are.
[Monday Week 8 Ordinary Time of the Year: Readings 1 Peter 1: 3-9; Mark 10:17-27]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.