28th Sunday in O.T.; October 11, 2015
Wis 7:7-11 Ps 90 Heb 4:12-13 Mk 10:17-30
Deacon Jim McFadden; Folsom Prison
Have you ever been in a room full of people and suddenly your eyes meet the eyes of another person, and you’re a little embarrassed—you want to go over to the person and say, “I really wasn’t staring at you.”
Nearly 50 years ago I was in the same Eastern philosophy class at the University of San Francisco when my eyes came upon a quiet, serene, and utterly captivating young woman. I must have gazed upon her for three weeks before I worked up the courage to ask her out. When she accepted, I was absolutely thrilled. After our first date, I told my roommate that I had just gone out with the woman that I was going to marry. Catherine and I did marry; today, we’re still growing in love. It all started with a gaze.
There’s something about people’s eyes, and looking directly into people’s eyes gives it a profoundly personal character. You know, no doubt, that the eyes are called the windows into the soul. By the way a person looks at you, you can immediately tell whether the person is happy or hurt, loving or angry.
So, a gaze is very important. And, we know that Jesus looked into people’s eyes. I’m sure he did a lot of that. He looked into the eyes of his disciples, of those for whom he performed a miracle, and I’m sure he looked into the eyes of the ones who saw him after he rose from the dead. Even in most of the icons or pictures you see of Jesus today, he’s looking straight at you—into your eyes. Imagine how people felt when he did that. What if he were to look right into your eyes. How would you react?
I believe that Jesus will look into your eyes today and everyday of your life. The questions is not whether he will do it, but how will you respond?
Today’s Gospel is about the Glance of Christ. As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a rich young man ran up, knelt down before him and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk 10:17). And, Jesus told him to follow the laws—not to murder, not to steal, and all those other commandments. While Jesus was listing the laws we need to obey, he was really preparing the young man to go to a deeper level of faith. When the rich young man said that he was already doing all of that, you could almost sense a sigh of relief. Then, Jesus “Looking at him, loved him” (v. 21).
Let’s look at this. Jesus is fully present to the young man, just as he is with you. Being present, he gazes upon him with love. In his presence, we learn that we are loved. This love, brothers, is unconditional and unfailing, gives us the place to love ourselves, to welcome others, an inner freedom to be truly present to others. When we welcome the Glance of Christ, we now have the newness of vision to look lovingly on others, and the patience to listen to them with attentive hearts. At first blush, this may seem all-too-good and unrealistic within the confines of prison, but that is exactly what happens when we are present to Jesus and allow his loving gaze into our hearts.
Brothers, our faith is so much more than following commandments and rules. It was as if Jesus was saying to the Rich Young Man, “You’re trying hard, you’re playing by the rules but you’re just at the beginning of the spiritual journey into love and communion.” To take him and you to the next level of faith, Jesus told him to sell all that he owned and to give the money to the poor. The Rich Young Man was able to keep the laws, but when he asked Jesus for more, he wasn’t quite ready to make the necessary sacrifices that were involved. Mark’s gospel says that he went away sad, because he had many possessions.
People of God at Folsom Prison, the Good News of Jesus is not just about following the Law. Jesus knew the young man would not hear what he had to say unless he first received the look of love. As the energy of Jesus went into the young man’s soul, he could feel enough security, assurance of who he is, that just maybe he could let go of the other stuff.
Similarly to the Rich Young Man, we are “all lacking in one thing.” We can hold onto something that takes the place of Jesus’ love. What is it that you cling to that not of God? Do you seek happiness in the goods of the world as they are on display in C-facility? Why do we do that? We have this gnawing fear that God is not really enough; so, we fill our lives with stuff or validate ourselves by how much respect we have from our peers. It’s like, I am by what I have and what I do. Jesus knows this, so he says, “Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (v. 21).
It’s hard to know what Jesus means by this; what we do know is that he said it. As hard as this saying is, I believe he’s telling us about soul-reality. Brothers, the Good News is not about rules: it’s about ego-stripping, dying to ourselves. Our society tells us that the good life is about ADDITION, whereas Jesus says it’s about SUBTRACTION. When we let go of the lies and the illusions that are fed to us on a daily basis, then we’ll find that place of freedom and power because we’ve put our trust in nothing else than being in relationship with Jesus, who draws us into the mystery of God and reality.
The final line is such a metaphor for most of us. “At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (v. 22). This is one of the saddest accounts in Mark’s gospel: there is so much excitement, anticipation, humanity, warmth in the first 8 verses, then his face falls. It is the only incident where someone is invited into relationship with Jesus and the person refuses.
Brothers, Jesus is inviting you into a journey of intimacy, communion, and surrender. What will you do? Accept the invitation or refuse?