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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

One thing you lack

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said.

(Mark 10:21a NIV)

We are wont to encourage people, when burdened by life's circumstances, when shrouded by the uncertainty of living, to turn their gaze to Jesus. I am afraid that we give little consideration instead to the fact that in our every situation the Lord has His gaze right on us. Mark's gospel bears witness to this to the extent that it has been called "the gospel of gazes". In fact, 27 times it attests to Jesus' seeing, in its various nuances: seeing, fixing one's gaze, looking around, observing. It is above all a gaze for the people he meets or is led to him, a gaze animated by compassion and able to read the hearts of his interlocutors, as in the case precisely of the rich young man.

An unnamed fellow, so that each of us can identify with him, runs and kneels before Jesus so that he can help him in his quest for eternal life. In doing so he calls him "Good Teacher", paying him great tribute. Jesus does not immediately respond to him, however, and asks him for an explanation of the words used. Immediately afterwards he reminds his interlocutor of some commandments, five negative and one positive. Here is an important point, whoever questions Jesus must question himself to understand that God wants a humanity that tends to love, the fullness of the Law. To these words, the "young man," as Matthew defines him (19:20), swaggeringly asserts that he has observed them since childhood. Can we really be so sure?

Jesus, who knows every human being, accepts his conviction and establishes a deeper relationship. Through fixing his gaze, Jesus wants that young man to "feel seen," peered into the heart, and at the same time welcomed. The Master thus reveals Himself to be "good," capable of love and of looking deep into the heart where there is fire under the ashes. His words aim to rekindle that fire long dormant and in danger of dying out, and Jesus does so with a love that does not abuse, but is benevolent and free. And here each one feels investigated to the kidneys. Jesus' gaze is like a caress, a kiss that warms, but at the same time immobilizes. And at the deepest point of the encounter, Jesus goes further and reveals a bitter truth: "One thing you lack".

Words that do not bestow approval, are not praise for what has been done so far, but challenge. Jesus does not exclude him, nor reject him, but calls him to go a step further, leading him by his gaze to recognize that he lacks something. He cannot and must not be satisfied but must understand that that gaze is pushing him out of his certainties, to abandon his certainties related to the "many riches" he possesses. Just as we empathized with him when Jesus' gaze overwhelmed him, so now we must put on his shoes and respond to the Master's challenge, give a new direction to our lives, change our being in order to follow Him. As long as we have reservations, secretly guard escape routes, we will always lack "one thing" to be fully His disciples. It is up to us.

The young man, for his part, at Jesus' directions becomes sad and pulls back. He fails to respond, wrecking the love of that look. He found himself at the decisive crossroads; he could have made that turning point needed to discover the meaning of his existence, but he chose not to choose, preferring his "certainties," that is, those riches that he possesses and that possess him. He thus took the way home, away from the teacher he himself had sought, showing that he formally observed the Law but did not understand its spirit. Perhaps today Jesus' gaze is reaching into your life to free you from the prison of having and usher you into the freedom of being. Is this not what you have been waiting for? Don't give in to sadness, don't turn away. Dare and trust Him.


Weekly Bible Reading

Plan #38

September 12, Proverbs 13-15; 2 Corinthians 5

September 13, Proverbs 16-18; 2 Corinthians 6

September 14, Proverbs 19-21; 2 Corinthians 7

September 15, Proverbs 22-24; 2 Corinthians 8

September 16, Proverbs 25-26; 2 Corinthians 9

September 17, Proverbs 27-29; 2 Corinthians 10

September 18, Proverbs 30-31; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

September 19, Ecclesiastes 1-3; 2 Corintians 11:16-33

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