One of the most disconcerting figures of the Gospel is the commonly called “rich young man.” Let us note his principal characteristics just as Saint Mark describes him in chapter 10:17-31.
1. He is not a lazy person who idly allows the time to pass nor is he indifferent to the realities of the world that surround him. He is a young man with doubts; he is a young man full of impetus and courage…a man ran up to Him (v. 17). He is neither apathetic nor listless. He is not dominated by indolence nor is he negligent.
He is an educated youth who acts with rectitude of intention and for superior motives: Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? He correctly judges Jesus considering Him as “teacher” and “good”. He does not ask him about trivial or temporal things, but rather his inquiry refers to the most substantial matter that each man must respond: eternity. For this reason alone, we can see that his head and heart are firmly rooted.
In addition, we must say that for him, Jesus was not merely a man:[he] knelt down before Him… It is a youth filled with faith that recognizes Jesus as God and allowing himself to be taken up by a generous outburst, he prostrates before Him.
He is a good youth; he lives in the grace of God! When Jesus reminds him of the commandments, the young man affirms: all of these I have observed from my youth (v. 20). He was not a hardened sinner nor an obstinate vicious man, nor insensible to moral beauty. He was neither impure nor cold-hearted towards his parents, or a practicing atheist. He lived in grace!
Jesus, the greatest Friend of young people, could not but manifest his love to him…Jesus looking at him, loved him…(v.21). It is impossible for a youth of his caliber to not feel the strength and sweetness of that look. How must his heart have been filled with tender and virile affections towards Jesus! He loved him (as every authentic youth knows)!
Jesus, seeing that the youth possessed good character or “subiectum” as St. Ignatius calls it, invited him to something more: He calls him to perfection, You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me (v. 21). All he lacked was to embark on a closer following of Christ. He needed to renounce all temporal goods. He only had to do this act of courage by which one interiorly chooses-and is ready to take it to its ultimate consequences- the primacy of God over all creation, the preeminence of eternity over time, of the fleeting and contingency of everything that dies.
And behold the unheard of! This good youth, who lived in grace, rejects the loving call of God. He, who had come running to the Lord, quickly leaves now saddened…his face fell, and he went away sad for he had many possessions (v. 22).
He preferred his riches to God. He did not want to detach himself from his temporal goods. He loved them more than the eternal ones.
What compassion and pity this youth excites sadly going away from Jesus who called him to a superior life! It is very painful to verify what P. Castellani would say, “he who was born to be a saber blade, quickly turned into a brass knife…”
Unfortunately, how often this story repeats itself! Some do not want to leave their riches, others their honors, others their personal affections: careers, study, art, sports, entertainment; others love their family, their girlfriend or their friends more than Christ. And for this reason there are more young people that live sadly and insensibly turn away from Christ; they were unfaithful to the call of God to live a life of evangelical perfection. They are unsuccessful by having frustrated in themselves the plans of God.
They were lacking in generosity; they were frightened. They did not want to break from their mediocrity. They were overcome by the meanness of the environment in which they lived in. They were content with advancing at the pace of a midget. They were not capable of the whole adventure. Like the young man in the Gospel, perhaps they had a mind and heart but they were missing courage!