Monday, February 28, 2011

What are we missing

In today's gospel we have the famous story of the rich young man who is told to sell all that he has. What is more fascinating is the unanswered question that the preceding sentence leaves us with.

In the preceding sentence Jesus says, "“You are lacking in one thing." But Jesus never tells us what this one thing is. He leaves us to reflect on the question. We get a hint from the fact that the next verse speak about how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, but again never tells us why. One of the patterns that we can see as we look at the vocations crisis in country after country is that as the economy improves the number of vocations to the priesthood drops.

It strikes me that part of the answer to the question, what is he missing, may be a sense of need. It's the middle class American problem when it comes to birthdays or Christmas. We often don't know what to get someone because "They don't really need anything." When one is rich, one may have a list of things they want but rarely do they have a real sense that there is something they need, not even God.

Ash Wednesday is coming and in churches around the country we will sing the most arrogant song in our repertoire, Ashes, "We rise again from ashes from the good we fail to do, we rise again from ashes to create ourselves anew." We don't need God we can do it ourselves.

Lent has become about the health benefits of fasting, or giving up certain foods. The sense that it is about recognizing our sin, our need to do penance, our need for God's forgiveness has been all but lost.

The reality of today's gospel is that we are spiritual being and no matter what we have or achieve in the material world we still need God. We may not feel that spiritual need in the same way we feel our physical need but it is no less real. Perhaps that is the challenge, to tune into that spiritual hunger within us, so that we may truly acknowledge our need for God.