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A noted professor thanked his family for a healthy perspective concerning his possessions: “My parents consistently taught us that everything we had must be held in an open hand,” he wrote. “When we close our fingers tightly over anything placed in our trust, we lose the joy and the blessing they offer. Those things acquired as ends in themselves become idols. We don’t possess them. They possess us.”

Who among us would allow any thing to separate us from what is most important in life? In his exchange with a wealthy young man, it is a
question Jesus addressed. “As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’

He replied and said to him, ‘Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.’ 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 10:17-22).

In the words of the wise, “Riches will buy us luxury but not culture, finery but not beauty, a house but not a home, religion but not salvation, a good life but not eternal life.” Don’t you find that true? Perhaps obviously so. And just as likely clear to the wealthy man St. Matthew described as young, and St. Luke called a ruler, a man of some power and position. “His face fell, and he went away sad.” He wasn’t defiant, like so many Jesus challenged. He didn’t complain.

He didn’t offer a contrary argument. He couldn’t. In his heart, he knew Jesus was right. But, in his heart, he also favored riches over his Redeemer. He preferred treasure on earth to treasure in heaven.