You may have heard the legendary story about the one sure way how to trap a monkey is to put a banana in a jar. The monkey sees the banana. The monkey wants the banana. The monkey reaches into the top of the jar and grabs the banana. Now if the monkey wants to free his hand from the jar all he needs to do is to let go of the banana. However, there is no way in the world that the monkey is going to let go of the object of his desire. And so, he stays there. Trapped.
The rich man in the Gospel comes to Jesus seeking more. In one area he is attracted by Christ. He sees Christ and he sees something more. He wants to give his life to something, to someone. All he needs to do to be free to follow Christ is to let go of his possessions. Yet the Gospel tells us he walks away sad because he felt that he could not do this. He allowed himself to be trapped by the material desires of this world.
It can be easy to confine this to a Gospel about money. Attachment to money can certainly be an obstacle. However, we can allow ourselves to be trapped by being overly attached to other things as well. Other examples are prestige, popularity, fame, power, careers to name just a few. The Gospel invites us to reflect upon the question what are the things we hold on tightly to in our lives?
What we find is that when Christ comes calling it is both amazing and exciting, but it is also absolutely terrifying. The call of the Lord is to seek his face, to leave everything behind and remain with him. He looks at us too with love and realises that we have that conflict in our heart, the desire to take that step forward and sometimes wanting to remain the same.
What is true for us personally also holds true for the life of our Church. Currently in this Archdiocese our Church is undergoing the process of ‘Take the Way of the Gospel’ which commenced with the Archbishop’s letter at Pentecost. As I continue to reflect on this process, I cannot help wondering whether this represents an opportunity for us as a Church to review the way
we have been doing things and ask ourselves is there a better way that we can fulfil our mission of loving God and our neighbour? This past week I have been reading Everyone Leads by Chris Lowney. In his book he reminds us that:
‘Jesus did not create an institution that happens to have a mission, he creates a mission that happens to have a Church.’Lowney, Chris Everyone Leads Lanham, Boulder, New York, London: Rowman and Littlefield (2017) page 53
Any structures that are put in place must serve that purpose. Where they no longer serve that purpose then it is time to let go. The commandments that Jesus cites are all about right relationships with other people. In the rich man’s case his wealth was standing in the way of a relationship with Jesus. Our Gospel urges us both individually and as a Church to honestly ask ourselves the question what stands in the way of us putting Jesus at the centre of our lives?