In the House of the Lord
This moment in the gospel has about it a great sense of pathos. The situation of this man who comes running to Jesus full of verve and vigour seeking an affirmation for his own lifestyle as being the true way to inherit eternal life, seems to be full of so much expectation. The reply he receives from Jesus to his proud boast that he has dutifully kept the commandments, comes to him as such a shock that he departs the scene with his face downcast. In his misunderstanding of what inheriting eternal life actually involves, his decision to decline Jesus’ invitation to follow him, and thus discover the true path, is all the more sad.
The mention of downcast faces is not an unnatural response to disappointment and set back. As we gather as a parish to discuss and debate our own situation we know of many setbacks to our own hopes that have caused us to ponder about what the future may hold for our community. What Jesus says to this man though, must also be applied to us, and we should never let our own ambition become more important than the gospel we aspire to proclaim. What Jesus is telling this man is something vital to us all. We have many riches amongst our community, many gifts and talents but unless we lose them or give them away in using them to enable us to receive the gospel in all its fulness, then they are of no use. The most important thing for us all, is to be open to God’s promptings, and it is this reality which will offer us the pathway to eternal life. We can of course keep all the commandments and follow every edict of the law, but if we are simply going through the motions for our own benefit (remember this man’s question was: what must I do) rather than for the benefit and service of others, then our pathway will be impossible to tread, and we are just like that camel attempting the impossible in trying to pass through the eye of the needle.
Whenever I hear that phrase faces downcast my mind immediately focuses on the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. One is named and the other isn’t, so it’s providential sometimes to put ourselves in the shoes of the un-named disciple. I suppose the thing is that they too thought they had done the right thing in following Jesus, only to experience disappointment and despair. Unknowingly Jesus joins them and walks with then along the path, a path which they are finding difficult if not impossible to tread, after all hadn’t they given up everything to follow him? And now what? Well they invite their unknown companion to stay with them and to share bread, and it is then that they discover the true path along which they are being called to walk.
Their faces are now aglow and their hearts burn within them and their path is illuminated through the receiving of the sacrament. Is this not a moment for us too to recognise that here in our community each Sunday, the Lord is present among us calling us to lift up our hearts, and to turn our faces to his light and to walk the path he puts before us. Of course we may sometimes feel bit like Peter who questions Jesus with an air of consternation – think of all the sacrifices we’ve made and for what? Well Jesus gives him his answer. The giving up of home, family and land will be rewarded many times over notwithstanding a few setbacks, now in this present time and in the world to come. Thus let us keep working and praying for God to do his bidding in and through us in building up his Church here in Wollaton, for everything is possible for God.