The Rich Young Man and the Look of Love

Heinrich Hofmann, "Christ and the Rich Young Ruler" public domain via Wikipedia

This story is inspired by Mark 10:17–22, Jesus and the rich man.

I had to walk away. Was he kidding? No way could I give up my comfortable life and spacious home! I love my clothes and collections and my small luxuries.

I love eating food others prepare and walking away from clean-up. I enjoy all sorts of entertainments—and none of these are bad. I am a God-fearing man who keeps every commandment. I just happen to have the ability to buy almost anything I want.

I take for granted going first. Perhaps it’s selfish, but we who are wealthy deserve our blessings, right? That’s what I learned growing up.

Why should I wait in line? I saw nothing wrong with running up to Jesus and interrupting. I had a burning question, and I needed an answer. It made perfect sense to seek an answer from Jesus, since I believe him to be the long-awaited Messiah.

I’ve slowly changed my attitude since I asked Jesus what I must do to achieve eternal life. I am different in a way that unsettles my daily choices.

He asked me why I called him good. Instead of answering that question, I asked another. Which commandments should I keep? In retrospect, I wish I had answered his question. I think our discussion would have ended differently. But I cannot undo my past.

When Jesus listed which commandments I should be following, he didn’t mention all ten. As I reflected later on the ones he did mention, I realized that I am guilty of small infractions against those very commandments. Jesus was gently pointing out areas for my growth.

I have killed—in the way I spoke about my neighbor, I killed his good reputation. I stole his good name. And for what? A chance to appear better before others.

I failed to honor the rabbi—a spiritual father to me. I treated his remarks with disdain and an arrogant pride unworthy of those who love God. I see now that I broke the commandment to honor my father—a person with authority over me.

I digress.

I told Jesus I had kept all the commandments, and he looked at me with love. Knowing my heart inside and out, knowing my failures better than I admit them to myself, he still looked at me with indescribable love.

That look burned itself into my heart. I had never seen or experienced such a love, communicated by a mere facial expression. I was hooked.

I walked away, yes, but his face! His face was indelibly printed on my memory.

In that moment, I had to walk away. I have many, many responsibilities and possessions. I couldn’t accept his offer to follow—not abruptly like that when I have so much under my control.

I wasn’t turning him down, exactly. I was turning down that crazy invitation to just drop it all and follow. No way could I do that.

Am I trying to justify my behavior and make excuses for myself?

Since that day, I have begun letting go, little by little. In small increments I am moving toward a final farewell to my disordered love for all things material. I am progressing towards finding Jesus on the road someday and accepting the invitation to follow. I keep seeing that amazing look of pure love on his face. I want to see that look again.

Wait for me, Jesus! I am coming. I just need a little more time.


Things to ponder:
If I were to meet Jesus face to face, what would my question to him be today?
Am I putting off following Jesus 100% by clinging to something or someone?

Image by Heinrich Hofmann, public domain via Wikipedia.

About Loretta Pehanich 32 Articles
Loretta Pehanich is a spiritual director and author of Fleeting Moments: Praying When You Are Too Busy. She is involved with the Center for Ignatian Spirituality in Sacramento and its program in giving the Spiritual Exercises. She has more than 20 years of experience in ministry, including retreat work and small group leadership. Loretta currently works as a fundraiser in Sacramento. She and her husband have four children and nine grandchildren.

12 Comments on The Rich Young Man and the Look of Love

  1. Thanks for the blog post, nice job! I like your envisioning of the story. I’d wondered in the past sometime, about this story and others. What if the disciples/apostles weren’t around to record the story? I pictured the rich young man as an older man, coming to one of the Christian communities, saying, “I need to tell you a story about the time I met Jesus, and it took me years to get myself here.” And the community rapt with attention as he tells what happened. I really liked your description of the look of Jesus being seared into his mind. Keep up the good work!

    • I love the idea of the rich young man as a wise older man, telling about his faith journey to others who need to learn from his example.

      My meditation on the rich young man reveals some of my own failings; I look forward to being in a place where I can live more simply.

  2. I like the way you expand on what we must leave behind in order to follow Jesus. It’s not just “riches,” which may be defined in different ways, depending on where one falls on the “riches scale.” The way i speak about others, the way I respect those in authority, these are among the other things I have to leave behind. It’s easier for me to think this rich guy should’ve been more generous at the time that to think of what i should do myself.
    I also like to think that this man did have a good heart and eventually responded to Jesus’ call in a gradual way. Nice of you to include that in your account.

    • I agree! I like to think of this man as a saint in heaven now, laughing with Jesus about how long it took him to surrender.

  3. I was caught a bit flat-footed on this one. I have never put myself in these shoes – so directly. Sure, I am continually working on letting go, bit-by-bit. But it has been on MY time and MY schedule. Could I really just walk away from it all? The loving patience of Jesus allowing us to learn and grow….it continually astounds me. Thank you Loretta

  4. I feel it is a very good examination of conscience for our day and age. Compared to the rest of the world even the poorest person in the US is a very rich person and therefore can use an introspection as offered here.

    • And I feel a great sense of comfort in knowing that Jesus allows me to take the time I need, and he is hoping the best for me, and eagerly awaiting the moment when I can say, “Okay, God, I am trusting you completely; take all my attachments.”

  5. Loretta, you are so right on with your Examen. We all go through that process of discerning where God wants us to be in our faith journey. Through baby steps, we’ll come to know that unconditional love God wants us to know and feel until it permeates our entire being.

  6. I found this so helpful as I just finished the Spiritual Exercises associated with disordered attachments. With amazement,I,too find that I am not much different from the rich young man. I also find that the “things” are my facade against trust and trusting. Perhaps, he,too, had some “issues” and the things provided a sense of security. But now I see clearly. I can wrestle with this demon and come closer to where I can follow Jesus-at least his path

    • My personal facade: trusting in God when I actually want to walk away! Trusting God will be there for me gracing me with an ability to accept whatever the present moment calls for.

    • I, too, am on this journey. Some days trusting comes easier than others. And then there’s my attachment to being “comfortable” and having a comfort-filled life. The cross is tougher to pick up some days than others.
      Can I be gentle with myself in the process?

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