Saturday, October 13, 2018
What are you listening for?
One day, two friends were walking along the crowded streets of a big city. The street was full of the noise of people, cars, buses, construction – the hubbub of city life. Suddenly, one of the friends stopped and said, “Can you hear that cricket?” The other friend said, “You can’t possibly hear a cricket with all this noise.” The man was certain and walked over to a planter along the sidewalk. Pushing aside some branches, sure enough, there was the cricket. His friend was bewildered, “How did you ever hear that?” The man simply said, “My ears are no different than yours. It just depends on what you’re listening for. Let me show you what I mean.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change and dropped them on the sidewalk. Immediately, every head within a block turned in his direction. “You see,” he said again, “it just depends on what you are listening for.”
Our Gospel today asks the same question, “What are you listening for?” We heard the rich young man ask Jesus a straight-forward question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells him, “Sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The story ends that “he went away sad, for he had many possessions?” I always feel sorry for this young man. He certainly meant well. He tells us at the outset that he has faithfully observed all of the commandments from his youth. But, what Jesus asks of him is just too much to bear.
Did you know this young man is the only person in the Gospels that we are specifically told refused to follow Jesus once invited. Imagine saying “no” to Jesus invitation in your life. As I said, he meant well, but his trouble was that his possessions meant more to him. What was he listening for? This man was faced with a choice – security with Jesus, or security in the bank; rely on Jesus or rely on wealth. It is a human predicament that we’ve all felt at one time or another, and the sad situation of this passage is that the young man chose to listen to the voice of the world instead of the voice of the Lord.
And of course the passage reaches out to us today too and asks, “What voice are we listening to?” What is holding us back from following Jesus? What is it that’s causing us to drag our feet? Could it also be money? Maybe not the money we need to live, but perhaps a dishonest way of making it, a habit of cheating, or overcharging, or stealing that has found its way into our lives? Could it be our need for the best of possessions in life? More possessions in our lives? The newest gadget? The name brand?
Maybe it isn’t money or possessions for us at all. It could be something else – it could be the grudges we refuse to let go of; the forgiveness we fail to seek out or to offer to others; maybe it’s the indifference to the struggles of others. You see, to follow Jesus is to follow in love. “Love one another, just as I have loved you,” He told us. Perhaps what is keeping us from following Jesus is a spirit of negativity or judgment, an attitude that always finds the worst in others; a tongue that is always quick to cut down. It could be as simple as laziness – being too lazy to care; too lazy to say our prayers; too lazy to make a difference to anyone.
I wonder sometimes what happened to the rich young man. Did he become a rich old miser? Did his money make him happy? Did he lose it all along the way? Jesus visited him and invited him into the wonder of a life lived for Christ – a life that makes a difference; a life that matters. He walked away. He missed the chance to do good; to reach out to people; to serve Jesus in the world as His follower. Imagine if our spiritual heroes and heroines had made the choice. What if St. Paul had said no; or St. Peter or St. Andrew or St. Mary Magdalene or St. Pope John Paul II, St. Mother Teresa, or those holy men and women who Pope Francis declared saints today in St. Peter’s Square – St. Pope Paul VI and St. Oscar Romero. These are women and men whose lives made a real difference in the world because they chose to say yes when Jesus said, “Follow me.”
I recently saw a Mark Twain quote that said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” We are reminded today that Jesus is the answer to the second part. Jesus is the “why” that makes all the difference in our lives. Pope Benedict said, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!”
You know, I like to think that the rich young man eventually came to his senses. I like to imagine that after walking away with a sad heart, he realized his mistake and not only returned, but came back running. I like to believe that he changed his mind and made a choice with all of his mind, his heart, and his being – and followed Jesus all the way to the eternity he first asked about. I like to think that he realized the most valuable possession in his life is his faith and the relationship that Jesus invited him into – and that in the end, he made a difference.
So, what are you listening for? What has the greatest hold on your heart? May we too be possessed by nothing more than our love of God, our desire to serve, our hunger for holiness, and our call to make a difference in our world.
May the Lord give you peace.
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