12.05.2007

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother." And he said to him, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth." And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me." Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God."
Mark 10:17-27

In reading this passage, I was struck by the contrast between Peter and the rich young ruler. There's a sense in which they're really in the same position. Both are basically good people, but incapable of self-sacrifice. Oh, to be sure, as Peter quickly brings up in the very next verse, he left everything and followed Jesus. But just how difficult is it for the poor Galilean fisherman to leave everything and follow the one who can multiply loaves and fishes? Peter had nothing to lose.

He was rich in physical vitality, though, and that was a wealth he could not sacrifice. When it came down to it, he could not watch one hour with the Master, let alone risk his life. By the time the cock crowed, he had denied him thrice.

Peter was no more capable of losing what he had than was the rich man. The fundamental difference between them was self-knowledge.

The rich young ruler knew his soul well. He knew exactly what he could and could not do, rightly assessed himself, and sadly walked away.

Peter, on the other hand, simply threw himself recklessly at Jesus, committing himself to things far beyond the limitations of his small soul. Jumping out of the boat to walk on water, only to start sinking, turning to Jesus to save him once again. His faith was less than he believed, but he never stopped throwing himself at Jesus, failing and trying and failing again, with no regard for his capabilities.

And in the end, Peter did have the commitment and devotion that he was always reaching for, but only after Christ had risen from the dead.

With man it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.

And the it was the reckless fisherman who became the rock on which Christ built his Church.

Perhaps the path to holiness lies not in virtue or strength of character, but in the decision to forget completely the state of one's soul, and fling oneself recklessly upon Christ.

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