Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “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.” At that statement, his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Mark 10:21-22)
The word “lacking” intrigues me in this passage from the Gospel of Mark. Here is an individual who seemingly had it all: wealth, a good reputation, and devout spiritual practices. Yet Jesus tells him that he is lacking “one thing.” What could the “one thing” be?
John Cassian, whose writings about monastic life influenced St. Benedict as he wrote his Rule, taught that there were three renunciations that we are called to make. Mary Margaret Funk, OSB, lists these in her book Tools Matter for Practicing the Spiritual Life:
- turning from former ways of living;
- detaching from thought patterns and ideas that lead to unhealthy behavioral patterns and choices;
- letting go of all preconceived notions of who God is and how God is acting (pp. 17-20).
In his third Conference, John Cassian notes that renouncing our former way of life – the externals we perceive as providing meaning and value – is insufficient without also changing the thought patterns, vices, and behaviors that keep us forever seeking our human worth in what we own, who we know, and what we do (John Cassian: The Conferences, trans. Boniface Ramsey, OP, p. 130). God treasures who we are; all the rest is just trinkets.
Perhaps what the “Rich Man” in Mark’s Gospel lacks is the ability to see himself as God sees him: God’s precious child. Funk writes of a “fourth renunciation” that everyone must ultimately undergo: valuing ourselves not by what is outside of us, but by who we are in God’s eyes. Jesus challenges us to open ourselves to His knowledge of who the Father is and to who we are to the Father (p. 22). With empty hands, open hearts, and total focus on Christ, we lack nothing.
If this sounds difficult, we have no need of discouragement. Although the “Rich Man” reportedly turns and walks away sad, one can almost see the twinkle in Jesus’ eye as He says, “All things are possible for God” (Mark 10:27b), and then continuing in pursuit of the “Rich Man’s” heart.
Oh, how blessed I am…that God loves a challenge.
Sister Ann Marie Wainright
Sister Ann Marie Wainright is a Benedictine Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she worked as a CPA for many years before earning dual masters degrees in counseling and pastoral studies. Sister Ann Marie is interested how people encounter God in their daily lives and how they use their faith and spirituality in meeting difficult challenges. See all of Sister Ann Marie’s blogs.