Seeking holiness, with the guidance of love

In the Gospel of St. Mark, we hear the conversation between the rich young man and Jesus. The young man asked Jesus what he had to do to obtain eternal life.

This profound question entails a dialogue with Jesus.

Jesus repeats the commandments to him, to which the young man, with joy and pride – I imagine – answers that he has been fulfilling them from his youth. Jesus congratulates him and says: “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.”  (Mark 10:21)

The young man lowered his head; he was disappointed and left because he was attached to his own expectations from life. Jesus looked at him with sadness. Why?

At the beach, we observe how the constant crashing of the waves slowly transforms the coastline no matter how hard or how strong the materials the waves encounter are. The continuous sway of the waves carves and transforms the beach at the mercy of the sea. The coastline that is “drawn” depends on the encounter between the sea and the coast!

Why do I share this idea? What does this have to do with the young man of a moment ago?

In life, the search for holiness can become an act of pride and self-sufficiency, in a feeling of self-satisfaction when we become teachers of the law: “I've made it!”, “I did it!” and “I was able!” These acts, in and of themselves, do not lead to an encounter – they do not open our heart to follow Jesus. Thus, when Jesus tells the young man, “You only need one thing to follow me, sell everything you have and give it to the poor,” the young man is disappointed, and his joy vanishes.

Pope Francis said that the rich young man renounced his youth (Christus vivit, 18) by saying "no" to Jesus' invitation; the young man became "old" in spirit because of his pride.

Following Jesus requires humility. Seeking holiness only through the fulfillment of the law, without the guidance of love, can become an act of pride.

True conversion requires a personal encounter with Jesus – not with the law! We cannot become beholden to the law to follow Jesus.

Unlike the continuous encounter of the waters with the coast by which the coastline acquires the shape imposed by the sea, Jesus does not impose himself on us in an encounter with him. He expects and respects our freedom.

The encounter with Jesus requires our freedom to choose to detach ourselves from all false assurances, fears, and riches so that we let the waves of his love carve our hearts into the shape of Christ. In this way, we will reflect the one who, by love, created us and, by love, redeemed us.

How can we hope and pray for peace in the world if we dread and fear letting go of our false riches and assurances?

In an encounter, Jesus debunks our preconceived ideas, prejudices, and projects to open us up to his loving plans and uncover immeasurable treasures for us, sending us into the adventure of unexpected projects of life and service.

If we want to become agents of change and transformation, seeking a better world, we can only do so by living that process of transformation through a personal encounter with peace and love that is Jesus.

Peace cannot be imposed! Peace is the fruit of love, the daily and continuous encounter with Jesus.

Each moment of prayer is an encounter with Jesus.

Let each of us seek that dialogue of peace with Jesus – that daily encounter with his love – so that, filled with inner peace, we may learn to see our neighbor with the same loving and peaceful eyes with which he looks at us and, in the dialogue with love, we may foster peace in our families, in our Church, in our communities, in our country and in the world.

If you want peace, "come and follow me," Jesus tells us.  Let us allow his love to irradiate in our hearts until they are “golden brown,” to caress us with the breeze of his peace, embrace us with his waves of joy, and fill us with his wisdom!