The Rich Young Man

(This is Neil.) I’ll be out of the country for two weeks and almost certainly won’t be able to blog. I’m sure, though, that Todd will keep you both entertained and edified. Let me leave you with a few words by the late Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh from the current issue of In Communion, originally delivered as a sermon on August 18, 1991.

 When Metropolitan Anthony died in 2003, Jim Forest wrote a short article for In Communion about him. Here is, I think, an appropriate anecdote:

 His faded and frayed black robe seemed nearly as old and worn as he was. Once, while visiting Russia, he was lectured by another monk who had no idea that this was the famous Metropolitan Anthony and was angry to see him awaiting their special guest from London in such tattered clothing. Metropolitan Anthony accepted the criticism meekly.

 Here, then, is an excerpt from Metropolitan Anthony on Matthew 19:16-24:

 We are offered by God communion with Him to which we have no right. All we are, all we possess, is not our own in the sense that we have not made ourselves, we did not create what is seemingly ours – everything which we are and which we have is love, the love of God and the love of people, and we cannot possess anything because everything is a gift that escapes us that moment we want to have possession of it and say, “It is mine.”

 On the other hand, the Kingdom of God is really the kingdom of those who are aware that they are infinitely rich because we can expect everything from love divine and from human love. We are rich because we possess nothing. We are rich because we are given all things. So it is difficult for one who imagines that he is rich in his own right to belong to that kingdom in which everything is a sign of love, and nothing can be possessed – in which nothing can be taken away from others – because the moment we say that we possess something which is not given us either by God or by human care, we subtract it from the mystery of love. On the other hand, the moment we cling to anything we become slaves of it. 

I recall when I was young, a man telling me: “Don’t you understand that the moment you have taken a copper coin in your hand and are not prepared to open your hand to let it go, you have lost the use of a hand, the use of an arm, the use of your body, because all your attention is concentrated on not losing this coin?” 

Whether we keep a copper coin in our hand, or whether we feel rich in so many other ways – intellectually, emotionally, materially – is irrelevant. We are prisoners. We have lost the use of a limb, the use of our mind, the use of our heart. We can no longer be free – and the Kingdom of God is a kingdom of freedom. 

On the other hand also, how difficult it is to one who has never lacked anything, who has always possessed more than he needs, to be aware of the poverty or the need of another: poverty – material, emotional, intellectual, or any other lack. It requires a great deal of understanding and sympathy. It requires from us that we should learn to be attentive to the movements of other people’s hearts and to their material needs in order to respond to them. 

There is a saying in Russian: “A satisfied person no longer understands a hungry one.”


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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