by Father Mike Stubbs
“Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
This song, widely used by children in vacation Bible school and originating from our evangelical brothers and sisters, reminds us of the love that God has for all of us. It repeats the point that this Bible verse makes: “Christ loved us and handed himself over for us” (Eph 5:2).
Jesus loves all of us. So why does this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mk 10:17-30, single out one man in particular as the object of Jesus’ love. It tells us: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”
The man in question has approached Jesus for spiritual guidance. He asks Jesus: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The man is apparently speaking in all sincerity. Unlike the opponents of Jesus who would often pose difficult questions to Jesus in an effort to trip him up, the man is honestly seeking the truth. The statement that Jesus loved him may reflect the favor with which Jesus was looking upon the man’s attitude of heart.
It also might be explained through the words that Jesus immediately addresses to the man: “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.”
These challenging words may not strike us as an expression of love. But, in fact, they embody the love that Jesus felt for the man. The invitation to join Jesus in his life of sacrificial love was spoken out of the love that Jesus bore for this man.
The song tells us: “Jesus loves me! This I know.” We know that the love that Jesus has for us results in a similar challenge to all of us. He invites us to follow him, take up our cross and continue his ministry. That is why we hear this Gospel reading, so that the words spoken by Jesus to the rich man may also be directed to us.
In the Gospel reading, the rich man goes away sad, “for he had many possessions.” But he left with Jesus’ words ringing in his ears. Did he reconsider his decision? We do not know. The story is somewhat open-ended, like many in the Gospels.
And the story of our own lives is also open-ended. There is still hope for us. It all depends upon the decision that we make in response to the Gospel.