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Today’s text is curiously filled with paradoxes. The man comes to Jesus, falling on his knees in respect and honor for this teacher, but then he won’t heed his teaching. This is the only person that Jesus is explicitly said to “love” in this gospel of Mark, and yet he rejects Jesus’ call. The man is said to have everything but still lacks one thing.
This man comes with an earnest question about salvation: the divine inheritance in the eschatological time to come. He has done what is commanded and wonders what else he must do for the God who is distant from this world to save him. Advanced in age, seemingly sincere in his faith Jesus in reminding him of the 10 Commandments of God insists upon his relationships with others. Jesus talked of defrauding rather than coveting (the 10th commandment) Implying that this wealthy man who owns much land is not consistent in the way he treats the landless peasants who may owe him great debt or work for him. Jesus challenges him to be coherent in his faith and ethical life, in his finances and his relationships, to realize that God is not just in some distant eschatological future, but also here and now in the world.
Moments of peace and human solidarity, even in the middle of trench-warfare in WW 1 such as when Allied and German soldiers stopped fighting to sing “Silent Night” together, recognizing the holy day on Christmas Eve 1914, point to the mystery and miraculous presence of the Kingdom of God here, now, among us. “’It is precisely when we recognize our common humanity – when we recognize our own humanity in the face of the other – it is then that we also recognize the face of God.’ This is salvation, this seeing God in all other faces, the very meaning and purpose of Jesus, whose birth we gathered to celebrate [in 1914]: ‘In him we are forever connected to God and forever connected to one another. We are not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. We share a common life – we share a common journey – and we are forever bound together by God’s divine love.’” (Grounded, p. 266)
The man, whom the text portrays as loved by Jesus as a father loves a child, cannot honor the teaching of Jesus, he cannot trust God in the way that Jesus suggests – with all of his possessions. He cannot see the face of God (the imago dei of Genesis 1:27) in the face of his neighbor, in particular, the one that may work his land or owe him a debt. He sees God in the future, but not here, now, in the world. The disciples however, as Jesus explains later in the passage, are attentive to God’s presence in the world and thus blessed by it.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation