José Antonio Pagola
Just before Jesus sets out on a journey, a man runs up to him. It seems he is in a hurry to solve his problem: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He is not worried about the problems of this life. He is rich. He has everything worked out.
Jesus makes him confront the Law of Moses. Oddly, he does not remind him of the ten commandments, but only of those that prohibit acting against their neighbor. He is good, this young man, a faithful practitioner of the Jewish religion: “All of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus is left looking at him with love. Admirable is the life of someone who has not done any harm to anybody. Jesus wants to draw him now, so he may be a partner in the project of creating a more human world. He makes him a surprising proposal: “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor … then come, follow me.”
The rich man owns many things, but lacks the only thing that allows one to follow Jesus truly. He is good, but he lives attached to his money. Jesus asks him to renounce his wealth and put it at the service of the poor. Only by sharing what is his with the needy will he be able to follow Jesus and work with him in his project.
The rich man feels he cannot do it. He needs his well-being. He does not have the strength to live without his wealth. His wealth is above everything else. He refuses to follow Jesus. He had come running to him with enthusiasm. He goes away sad. He will never know the joy of working with Jesus.
The economic crisis invites us all followers of Jesus to take steps toward a more sober life, sharing with the needy what we have and just do not need in order to live with dignity. We must ask ourselves concrete questions if we want to follow Jesus this moment of crisis.
The first thing is to take a careful look at our relationship with money: What to do with our money? Why save? What to invest in? With whom do we share what we do not need? Then we examine our consumption so as to make it more responsible, less compulsive and less superfluous. What do we buy? Where do we buy? Why do we buy? Whom can we help buy what they need?
These are questions we need to ask in the depth of our conscience, also in our families, our Christian communities and church institutions. We will not do heroic deeds, but if we take small steps in this direction, we will know the joy of following Jesus and will contribute to making some people’s crises more human and more bearable. Unless this is so, we will feel ourselves to be good Christians, yet our religion will be lacking in joy.