Today we hear Saint Matthew’s account of the rich young man who comes to Christ, asking what he must do to possess eternal life. Not content with being told to keep the commandments, he asks what more he must do. But when Jesus tells him: “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and … follow me,” he cannot cope with this. We are told that he had great wealth and Christ warns us that it is very hard for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
This incident does not present us with a universal command that we must all give away all our wealth, but instead, in warning us of the dangers of riches, it challenges us to look deeply into our own hearts. The rich young man was in many respects an exemplary Jew, keeping all the commandments, but he lacked the one thing necessary which was the freedom to respond to the call of Christ.
This man was trapped by his wealth and Jesus warns us that material wealth does indeed have a tendency to entrap us. But there are also other forms of riches, such as beauty, or intelligence, or particular human affections that can also too easily come between us and God. Today’s Gospel encourages us to look at the things that we value and are attached to. Are we sufficiently convinced of the treasure that we have in our life in Christ that we are able to view all our possessions and abilities in their proper light, so that we are able to use them for God’s service, rather than becoming possessed by them.