The Rich Ruler (A Man Who Could Not Give)

We read of a wealthy ruler’s encounter with Christ in St. Luke’s gospel.  He begins a conversation with him by his question, “What shall I do that I might inherit eternal like?”  By their dialogue we learn that he kept all the rules. However, Jesus moves deeper: “Yet, there is one thing you still lack.  Sell everything you have, and give to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me” (18:22)

This wealthy man had to give.  But, he had to give from the core of his being.  His whole identity was in his wealth. He was defined by his wealth.  His wealth sheltered him, clothed him well, fed him well. By it he was able to move through life with status, privilege, ease, and comfort.  But the cost was too dear.

We are asked to give — usually not to the same extent — but we are to give.  We can write a check, contribute on-line, or drop some cash in a box. Quite easy, and we don’t break a sweat.  But, as was the wealthy ruler, we are sometimes asked to give from a deeper place, a costlier place. What might this mean?  Let’s look to Jesus for the answer. He gave himself, he emptied himself — all done that he could receive us to himself in relational union with him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

What prevents us from giving in this manner?  Self preservation. I refer to Jesus’ words found earlier in St. Luke’s gospel:  “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it” (St. Luke 9: 24).  It seems then, that ultimately we must give from that place we keep locked up tight and secure for our self preservation. It is from this vault that we need to reach into when called upon from time to time.

Again remember our Lord:  he was self-giving, and other-receiving.  This transaction of self is eucharistic.  In the Eucharist, Christ gives himself anew to us via the bread which becomes his Body and the wine which becomes his Blood.  In the Eucharist we have Christ welcoming us to himself as we move to his Banquet Table. We, by consuming his Body and Blood, have Christ entering into our being, and we are joined more fully to Christ.  Thus, when we give of ourselves to and for others, and we receive others to ourselves, we extend to Eucharist to all and all things. Ultimately by this type of giving we receive Christ more fully into our lives.

I am reminded of the words of St. Francis:  “It is in giving that we receive…” The wealthy man, had he given, would have received far more in return than that which he had to give up.  He would have received Christ in return. Let us give eucharistically that we may gain Christ more fully.

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus



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